“Well, that was a grand failure!” Robert said with a sigh as he looked out from the windows of the starship at the wiped-out moon base.
“At least we're still alive, right?” Sally asked, joining him by the window with a glass of thawed (formerly) concentrated cherry cider. She offered him a bit but he shook his head.
“Yeah. Alive, and fired. And probably blacklisted. For life.”
“Oh, I wouldn't be too sure of that.” Robert laughed without humor.
“And why not? This project was worth countless dollars and took years to set up! Why wouldn't we get fired for it?!”
“Because we weren't supposed to succeed anyway.” Sally replied, taking a sip of her drink. Robert blinked, unsure he'd heard her correctly.
“I'm not supposed to be telling you this, but we've been friends for a long time and I don't want you to just throw away your career prematurely. Just don't spread this around, okay?” Robert nodded. “That space-horse we found on the moon wasn't our first encounter with life in this solar system, and I'm not talking about the primitive creatures that we've been observing. About sixty years ago another of the winged-horned ones came to the second NASA research center without a ship and told them- in perfect English, mind you- she knew of a good place for another observation station, and she gave them the location, and the necessary raw materiel for its construction. When she was asked why, she replied that it was to welcome back a relative in the future and refused to say more other than for how long she'd allow us to observe from the station's construction site. Last week was the end of that time.”
“So then why did HQ send us here?”
“To make it look like it was a natural accident that was not fixable and to make it seem that HQ had made an effort to save it. Don't worry, your job is in no danger.”
“So then, us getting stuck with the two teams of idiots was completely according to plan?” She nodded.
“Huh. Okay, but why did you know about it?”
“Because I was told before the mission began. Remember, me and my team were assigned to keep track of replacement equipment and tools. We would have to know about it in case teams 1 and 3 took this more seriously than they usually do everything else so that we could, if necessary, sabotage or 'lose' a few things ourselves.”
“So what happens now? Just go home?” Sally shrugged.
“If you want. Me, I've been offered the job of overseeing construction of a new observation base on the planet itself. It's supposed to be built in a large cave in a mountain near one of the smaller settlements. I'm going to need a few hard-working assistants to ensure that everything gets built and is maintained the way it's supposed to be. Interested? I seem to recall you saying something earlier about wanting the chance to walk around and breathe in non-recycled air.” Sally extended a hand to him.
Robert grinned and took her hand, and shook it.
“If it's all the same to you two, can I come along too?” came a tired voice from behind them. Sally and Robert turned to see a man with a number of gray hairs near forty holding a cup of coffee. “I've had it with putting up with those idiots, and if my work will be appreciated, then all the better.”
“What's your name?” Sally asked.
“Maruus. Maruus Clay. You know me better as White-bot 1.”
“You were the man who came up with the idea to use the AC in the station as a cooling unit, right?” He nodded and took a sip of his coffee. She smiled. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Clay.”
And that's it! Thank you all for reading; please leave a thumb up or down, a comment or suggestion, and I hope you enjoyed!