It wasn't the best job, but it was interesting. Offworld jobs were always more interesting. It was one of the few jobs that survived the wave of automation, thanks to the need to put a human face out there. Our automation was just too klunky for the 'clients' to tolerate. Alien guests looked down on our primative robots with disdain from thousands of years of technological advancement.
Here I was orbiting the Sun in the largest hotel, as the old timers used to call it, ever constructed by the inhabitants of Earth. Part Universal embassy, part galactic waystation. It orbited halfway between Mars and Jupiter, a relatively safe distance from Earth, in case of any mishaps.
My job was low tech. Clean the rooms. Bring food or other 'necessities' upon request. Each work shift was a fascinating primer in alien culture at the most basic level. Although on my first day, my fellow workers had other things in mind.
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My first room to clean was a large habitat. The alien guests varied greatly in size and bodily needs for their comfort. In my training I was informed that some guests required specific atmospheric combos to live and breathe. This particular habitat had a low oxygen content, but I had my breathing apparatus I could take a bump off of if I started to get light headed. I entered the immense empty room and was immediately met by a foul smell. It was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. As I advanced into the room I was blocked from going any further. Not only by the smell, but a physical object. Something was there, soft and yielding, but invisible. I pushed on it. It pushed back. I was knocked to the floor. A low lackadaisical sigh filled the room.
I got up and backed up towards the door. As I looked more closely, I could see that the other side of the room looked distorted, as if I was looking through something, like water. The smell intensified, causing me to wince with repulsion.
I covered my mouth and nose with my hand to block the stench. My eyes widened as I noticed my hand -- it was translucent. I could see through it. There was a mild numbness, but I still had a sense of touch. The door was within reach now. My nearly invisible fingers stretched out for the handle, my eyes riveted on this strange hand of mine. I activated the doors interface. The door slid open and I stepped out, it closed behind me.
A burst of laughter filled the corridor. To my right were my coworkers, doubled over, unable to catch their breath. They informed me, between stifled giggles, that the room was inhabited by a pair from a distant galaxy. In their sleeping state they become invisible, an effective evolutionary development. One they credit for their incredible longevity. Another not so pleasant evolutionary development was how, also in their sleeping state, they balanced their internal gases. In other words, unbridled flatulence. If it gets on you, you fade. I had been initiated.
In this one 'lesson' I had learned all the basics in alien interaction: your reality is the sum of your experiences -- expand your reality; even if you can't see it -- it might be real; you're not so big; and finally, knock.