Please Exit the Vehicle .1 A first time for everyone
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*Not quite yet, though it will seem like a good idea at the time*

Iain grabbed the thick stick and turned it slightly, feeling significant resistance in the effort. The stream of light twisted and swirled. How the hell was he supposed to find the star cluster they were looking for in the swirling glare? Oddly enough, he didn’t get dizzy or lose his lunch. But that was mostly because by the time he was considering that he realized he’s closed his eyes as tight as possible.

I think we are in a spin, the autopilot offered in helpful tone. Is that what you want?

“No!” Iain shouted. “I want us going in a straight line towards the Lesser Xemorian Bubble.”

I think you’re going about it the wrong way, the voice offered in a tentative tone.

“What should I do then?” Iain demanded.

Be gentle, was the response. Once you’ve stabilized our trajectory you can point the shuttle anywhere you would like to

“I thought you were the autopilot,” he complained. “Shouldn’t you be controlling things after takeoff?”

I believe ‘was the audiopilot’ is the correct terminology, the voice replied. I don’t appear to be able to control much of anything, I am afraid. I’m sorry if you are finding that inconvenient. My last round of maintenance was seventy-four thousand years ago.

Iain swore, then followed the autopilots advice, eased a bit off on the force he was putting into the stick. The brightness trying to burn a hole through his eyelids faded a bit, to more of a bright green. He peaked out through his right eye, though just a crack. There was a rainbow shooting at him through the screen in front of him.

“Is that better?” he wondered aloud.

That’s much better, the voice said. You done this before, haven’t you?

*About 22,000 years after you read you last tweet*

Iain wasn’t conscious, he couldn’t be. After all, he felt significantly softer than he usually did. Add to that was the physical sensation he was being squeezed like a plush teddy bear in the arms of a needy five-year-old clinched it. The squeezing was uncomfortable at times, but not so unpleasant he was going to force the issue and actually wake himself up. Maybe he’d just mixed some tequila with Mrs. Vukovitch’s medical marijuana again. That would explain a lot.

When consciousness finally forced the issue, Iain’s mind was clear enough to know he wasn’t where he last remembered he was, and neither was his body. It was chilly, enough to make him shiver, but not damp, like the wet foggy mid-October evening he recalled. He was also lying on something hard and cold, and didn’t seem to be wearing any clothes.

Oh, shitNot againNot on a work night.

And… his nose twitched. What was that smell?

The inside of his eyelids glowed blue. Not likely a good sign. He opened them tentatively.

About a hand’s breadth from his face, two faces were peering at him. Both had bleary, bloodshot looking eyes, large noses, and their collective breaths stank like a brewery.

Fuck, yesAgain. Fuck me.

Iain let out a disgusted sigh. He didn’t seem to have the motivation to move, but that wasn’t a big surprise either.

And you wonder why you can’t crack four grand a month.

The two faces looking over him rose to look at each other.

“I think we should have selected the other one,” said the one on the left. “Defrosted, he looks even more like a Mime.”

The other, eerily similar face glanced back at Iain. It worked its mouth like it was trying to come up with a response, or was maybe sucking on something rather sour.

“I don’t think so,” it finally replied, glancing past Iain’s head for a moment before turning back to meet his blinking gaze. “Besides, his brain’s already active and is responding to the ‘Zos. We’d already be dead if he was a Mime. Or he would be. At best, it’s 50-50. Or 40-60. Maybe 30-70.”

“I’m not a Mime,” Iain forced out in a harsh whisper, becoming acutely aware of a monster hangover, like the king of all brain-freezes. Clearly, he’d drunk too much at the gig. A record probably. He’d never had a blackout this bad before. And, to be honest, he still wasn’t convinced he was awake.

“See,” the guy on the left said. These were guys, he decided. “Not a Mime. You know they don’t communicate like normal people.”

“And not screaming either, not like the last three,” his partner replied adding a goofy smile to his odd features. “Good sign.”

“Got to be a first time for everyone,” lefty said.

Iain tried to get up. Managed to pull himself a touch vertical by reaching out to grab the rail of whatever they’d put him in. The figures backed away. The lights streaming down were too bright, forcing him to squint. Evidence was beginning to ramp up he was indeed awake, and this was no longer remotely funny.

“Where the fuck are my clothes?!” he wanted to know. “Who the hell are you guys?!”

The one on the left turned to the one on the right. He could make out that they were big, overweight guys with big pointy noses, tufts of white hair on the tops of their heads. They looked like identical twins, or almost identical. And they were wearing orange coveralls.

“Oh, the stuff,” Righty nodded. “Could you go and get it.”

“Why do I have to get the stuff,” Lefty complained. “Every single time!”

“Just do it,” his partner said. “I’ll digest your lunch later, ‘kay?”

“Oh all right,” the other agreed, still sounding indignant. “But it better be well digested!”


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