“Man I hate those pesky greenskins.” I said almost to myself and I hung up. It had been a long call, and I was fed up of being stuck here with them. Control contacted me occasionally just to find out how their experiments were doing. They weren’t quite ready to lead their own societies. That much was clear. Another year and I was due for rotation off this space station. Until then I had to put up with them. Great…
They were unusual, the greenskins – at least they weren’t like us. Manufactured people designed to live on planets where growing food and sustaining life was complicated. There were lots of rumours about them, some probably true, but the only thing I knew for sure is I didn’t trust them.
Greenskins are genetically modified human beings, grown in vats underground, out of sight and mind of most of us normal people. Their unusual skin colour comes from the chlorophyll implanted in their skin, which allows them to photosynthesise. They are on average about the same height, if a little taller than normal people. Their internal organs have been reduced, so all of them are extremely thin, and their muscles have been enhanced making them efficient and durable workers. They are incapable of breeding, instead, they are manufactured. Their species definition is Human+. Human+, what a joke. They were created to help explore the stars, as a convenience, and nothing more. There were additional new features – but, to me, most of their humanity had been taken away.
A colony of greenskins was easy to sustain as they didn’t lose fluid in the way we normally do. We humans sweat, urinate and have normal bodily functions, whereas the greenskins retain their water in a new genetically modified organ which pumps water through their body and helps keep them hydrated. A complicated network of tendrils inside. I think this adaption came from some kind of sea slug… But I can’t be sure. The greenskins are fed a nutrient paste which is simple and cheap to manufacture, they are the lowest class citizens and they do not have the right to vote. Imagine that! It’s a horrible thought.
I can’t stand greenskins. I think the creepiest thing about them is that they can breathe both oxygen and carbon dioxide, converting the latter into oxygen. One of science’s little miracles. Whilst it’s useful for people like me which need oxygen to breathe, relying on people I cannot stand freaks me out.
By now I bet you are probably wondering why I can’t stand them… I haven’t seen a normal person in about a year now. I’m stuck on a space station with nine of them. Males and females. I don’t even understand why they make them different genders… I suppose it’s some way to make them fit in better, as if these creatures could ever truly fit into normal society.
It is our job to make sure that trade ships can safely land on the planet below, and whilst I am not fond of them, the greenskins generally do a good job. They know their place and they work hard. They don’t need to sleep as much as me, which means that I can work them pretty hard and they don’t really mind. They were built to endure, so endure they shall. Your average greenskins could live up to a thousand years theoretically, so I had to give them credit. They were efficiently made.
Every morning I got up and did a two mile lap around the station. They never wanted to run with me but we all had to keep fit. I guess they hated me as much as I hated them, but we all had our jobs and it was best to work together, an uneasy alliance against the tedium.
One day, I was approached by one of them, her name was Sarah and she had a complaint about one of the male greenskins. Andrew had apparently been watching her photosynthesise in the photosynthesis booth. As much as I didn’t have time for their nonsense, it was the important role of a man in my position to sort this kind of thing out.
I called him into my office. Andrew was an older greenskin, he had a slow nervous air about him. Clearly guilty.
“Good evening Andrew. Do you know why I’ve called you in here?” I asked.
“No boss.” He said sullenly. It was obvious he was lying.
I went straight to the point. “Sarah says you’ve been watching her photosynthesise.”
“So what? We all do it. Photosynthesise, I mean.”
“I don’t care, but she does. Knock it off or I will shoot you.”
“You can’t do that!” He protested.
“Actually I can, and I will. I don’t care what you freaks do in your spare time but you are bothering her, and now she is bothering me, and insubordination from your type pisses me off. You are lucky you are getting a warning.”
He left my office angry. Maybe I had been a little heavy handed. I didn’t understand what his problem was, but damn it all, they can’t even breed. What’s the point of staring at some naked girl whilst she drinks sunlight. I couldn’t think of a bigger waste of time. I decided to keep my gun on me in case he caused trouble. I didn’t see Sarah for the rest of the day. So much for lending a helping hand.
The next day, I woke up and everything was hot in my quarters, it was muggy and hard to breathe. A quick interface with my computer found my door locked and the room full of carbon dioxide. Andrew’s little gift for me. I tried to open the door, but my pass code had been overwritten, and I was unable to contact anyone for help. It was an assassination attempt.
For the first time since I had met them, I felt respect for the greenskins. One of them, sadly a creepy little pervert, actually had some backbone. I logged into a guest account and typed in an emergency override for the door. If Andrew had been smarter, he would have known this was possible, but then again if I had been stupider, I’d be dead. I pulled out my gun, and made sure it was loaded, slapping in a fresh charge pack just in case mine was slightly depleted. I didn’t trust batteries if I had to use the damn thing.
I made my way down the corridor cautiously. I saw Nicole talking with Brian. Both of them were wasting company time. I waved at them and put my finger to my lips when, alarmed, they noticed my gun. Brian stood in front of her. It must have been some sort of vestigial male action, and maybe it was the mood I was in, but I kind of liked him for it. “Don’t worry, I ain’t after either of you guys.” I said, running off.
Then I saw Andrew in the hallway. The green drained from his face and he ran. He knew I was after him and he damn well knew why. I chased him through the cargo bay cursing his speed and stamina. The greenskins were built too well. I nearly lost him just before we got to hydroponics. I rounded a corner and entered the jungle.
It wasn’t a fair place to fight and it gave him the opportunity to ambush me. His olive clothing and green skin gave him an advantage, and he managed to sneak up on me. Smacking me in the side of the head with a spade, I went down. I couldn’t help it. He was strong and he pinned me into the dirt, shoving the handle into my neck. I gasped for air. He was so strong, and angry too.
Suddenly he was lifted off me. Brian and Nicole had pulled him off and were pinning him to the ground. I tried to speak and croaked out a few words of thanks. If they hadn’t followed, I’d probably have been killed.
Two hours later, I had the whole crew gathered. Andrew was guilty of two counts of attempted murder as far as I could see, on top of insubordination, hacking the computers and perversion. He looked sheepish and pathetic in the only pair of handcuffs we had onboard.
I stood in front of him and glared into his eyes. He looked away. Speech time.
“I know you don’t like me. None of you do. Heck I don’t really like you much either. This past year has been a trying time for all of us. You’ve had to put up with me, and I’ve had to put up with you. Now I learned something today. Something I didn’t ever want to learn because maybe I just don’t like admitting I’m wrong. Hell we are all wrong sometimes. I owe my life to two of you and you both have my respect. Brian, Nicole, thank you for saving my life. You could have just let things happen, but you didn’t, and I appreciate it. Thank you both so much.” Nicole’s cheeks flushed brown. I’d never seen one blush before. It looked weird.
Now it was Andrew’s turn. “Right. You. You are guilty of two attempts on my life, creepy stalking, hacking computers, generally disobeying orders and wasting company time. I want to shoot you dead. But that isn’t going to fly. I don’t see why you should get off so easy. I’ve arranged a transport shuttle to take you to a prison, far away from here, where none of us have to put up with you.” It was done. I didn’t have to kill him. Sarah looked relieved, as did the whole crew. I had made the right choice, even though it would have been within my rights to execute him. He would be going away for a long time, I would see to that, and his extended life wouldn’t be an advantage…
I looked at the rest of the human+s’. Maybe it was just the light but they suddenly didn’t seem so different. They were relieved. They knew me. They knew how much I wanted to pull the trigger and eject his lifeless body into space. I almost wanted to invite them for a drink, but they couldn’t even drink alcohol. What kind of person can’t drink alcohol? God only knows. I gave them the rest of the day off.
Later, I had a call, it was my brother.
“How’re you doing with those pesky greenskins?” He leered. He always took a distinct pleasure in my discomfort.
With recent events fresh on the mind, I thought I’d try and look at things a little differently, maybe I hadn’t always been fair…
“Hey, some of those greenskins ain’t half bad!” I said.