Alien Opportunities Ch.1 : New Opportunities Part 2
Chris decided to take his friend’s advice. It was time to leave the accountancy job. The main effect of the ‘brain drain’ seemed to be to make his manager and the partners work him and everyone else harder. There had been a gradual loss of some staff over a long period, and few suitable replacements could be found. The firm had taken on one or two employees lower than the normal standard of candidate for those positions, and it showed as productivity dropped. Chris was secretly pleased that the firm’s productivity was collapsing. It should have happened years before. Then the expectations upon him would have been kinder. Instead of making the firm value its employees more they responded by trying to maintain the old productivity levels, and by trying to oblige the remaining employees to take on the responsibilities of those who had left. Chris found his workload increased, and although he was offered overtime pay to enable him to complete his workload, he valued his life too much to accept it. Doggedly he continued to leave work at the standard time, as his backlog rose relentlessly. He came under more pressure to ‘pull together for the firm’s sake.’ The time had come to leave. Any job, however temporary, would be better than this, and at least it would be a change.
He bought a local newspaper and looked through the job adverts displayed. He selected an office job which was a temporary position doing routine clerical work. The hours of work were 35 per week, which was rare enough these days, and the holidays generous. He sent his CV in and was invited for interview only a couple of days later. The firm were ‘Wholesale Traders’ located on the north side of town.
He located the premises in an old business area amongst warehouses and offices. The buildings were old redbrick, from early in the previous century or maybe even the one before that. He thought this was not a very exciting place, and had second thoughts about this. However he had come this far. It was not his way to avoid interviews or let people down. He was far too polite for that. As he announced himself to the receptionist he was able to see into the offices through the glass screens. The first thing he noticed was that the place did not look very crowded, which he had expected in his imagination. The second was that there were a few aliens in this office along with some humans. As he waited he observed that the managers who walked about tended to be aliens, male and female. The few humans were at their desks working, clerks, salespeople, and the receptionists. A manager, a tall powerful looking male alien came to the door of the room and waved him in, in that officious way the aliens had. Even a human manager might have come into the waiting room in person and shaken his hand, but these aliens seemed to view themselves as superior to humans. Chris felt the praise his friend had heaped upon the alien race dissipate, as earlier suspicions and prejudices reasserted themselves. He followed nervously through the office into a room at the other side. The alien closed the door firmly and sat stiffly in a large armchair behind the desk, having uttered nothing at all so far. Chris realised he was actually quite frightened of these strange creatures, and this huge creature in particular. He had seen plenty of the aliens passing on the streets, and more on TV, and although they had been here for a few years now in growing numbers, he was reminded that he had never actually talked to one before. He realised that he really knew little about these creatures, and yet here he was applying for a job from them. There had been no indication in the job advert or on the interview invitation letter that this was an alien owned firm. He saw now that it must be one of those alien trading companies which collected and shipped items of human culture to the alien planets, and selling alien goods and services to the humans in exchange. He did not fully appreciate the economics of this trading. Well it was only temporary; it might actually be quite enlightening. He had nothing to lose.
“You would like a job with us?” the alien asked in a deep ‘unnatural’ voice, devoid of the full human courtesy. The alien stare bored into Chris, and he found himself wanting to disengage and look down at the desk.
“Yes sir.” Chris found himself being ultra polite and quite tongue tied. Who was the stranger in this town anyway. “Do you mind if I sit down sir?” he added.
“Of course,” the alien waved him to sit. It seemed to Chris that the creature did not wish to be distracted by such inessentials.
Chris’s CV was on the desk. The alien glanced at it for a few moments, then back up. “We trade between Earth and the planets, and between my people and yours on the planet. Did you know that before today?”
Was this a trick question, Chris wondered. If he admitted his ignorance he might give the impression of not being well prepared, of not having researched the background of the company. He was not at all sure he wanted to work for these scary creatures anyway. So he gave the honest answer. The alien seemed to be measuring him by his stare, and there was no indication either way of the effect of his answer.
“Do you know our people?” the creature asked. A simple question, but what exactly did the question mean?
“Like everyone I know of your people. I have seen many of you in the streets, but I have never had close dealings with you before.”
“Do you want to have close dealings with us?” the alien asked.
This question could probably affect whether he passed the test or not. Chris decided that it was best to give the answer he thought the alien would want to hear. He was conscious of the alien’s powerful gaze boring into him. He felt a fear that perhaps the alien could read his mind, or at least tell whether he was telling the truth or not. He had heard the wild rumours to that effect, but there was no real evidence for this as far as he was aware. “Yes, I think it would be very interesting. Plenty of other humans are finding and appreciating employment with you aliens, so I think it is about time I have a go.” Chris’s words sounded very contrived to his own ears, so he doubted their effect on the alien. He hardly knew the correct term to give to the alien race. He knew it was difficult to pronounce, and most people just called them the aliens. However it seemed rude to call them this when they had a real name.
“Do you like music?” the alien asked. Strange question to ask at a job interview, perhaps later would have been less surprising. As one of the first it was very strange.
“Yes, of course.”
“What is your favourite kind?”
“I like most kinds of music. I suppose my favourites tend to be Rock, but I like Jazz and Classical, and Soul too.” Sensing that it might be alright to develop a conversation since he had asked such a question Chris fired it back at him, “Do you like Rock music?”
The alien did not react in any readable way. Chris thought that he had made a mistake in being so presumptious. Then a reply came. “My favourites are Jimi Hendrix, Tears for Fears, Radiohead, Hawkwind, The Beatles and the Stranglers.” Chris nearly jumped out of his chair in surprise. Then he had to repress a strong desire to laugh or at least to smile. The thought of an alien Stranglers fan was almost too much to take. Did these creatures from distant systems really appreciate our Rock bands? Was this the kind of interest they had in humankind?
“I like all of those bands,” Chris remarked, partly to avoid having to smile or laugh. The alien was so deadpan. “My favourites are, let me see ….” He listed a few of his favourite bands. “Do you know these?”
The creature was again silent for some time, betraying nothing of his thoughts in his facial expression. Chris waited, then the alien replied, “I too like the Rolling Stones – that singer Mick Jagger is very good. Blur and Jefferson Starship are known to me, but not well. But the other two? These are new to me. Do you have recordings? I would be most pleased if you would bring them in so I may sample them.” Chris had to give the alien his due, he certainly seemed to have some taste, and he appeared to know more about quality Rock music than the average teenager or twentysomething of today. The interview seemed to be going well. Who knows perhaps a knowledge of Rock music was required in the job. Maybe the aliens were interested in selling Rock music, as well as other products, he assumed, back to their homeworld.
“Do you live with others?” asked the alien, in his bland way.
“No I live on my own,” said Chris.
“Have you done this for a long period? Have you been married, as many humans are?”
“Since I left my parents home and went to university I have lived on my own. I have never been married,” said Chris.
“Are you one of those who prefers to have girlfriends to marriage? Do you have one of these?” The alien’s questions were very unusual for a job interview, Chris thought. So far he had asked nothing related to the tasks he would be expected to perform, or his background employment history. These questions underlined the alien’s alienness.
“I have no girlfriend, although I would like to have one. Maybe one day I will get married, but I need to find a girlfriend first, and see what happens then.”
The questions came out dryly without the empathy that perhaps a friend or a counsellor would use. “Does this make you lonely?”
“I suppose it does, a little,” agreed Chris.
“Do you wish for children, or would a girlfriend be to satisfy your erotic desires?” persisted the alien.
“I am still quite young,” said Chris, “although one day I think it would be good to have a family. I am not ready to have one yet. I don’t seem to be able to get any girlfriends anyway, so it’s not looking very likely so far. I don’t think having a family is my primary reason for wanting a girlfriend.”
“We would like you to take this job,” said the imposing alien. Chris wondered why he used the word ‘we’ when it was clear, as he had not left the room, that he had consulted with no one else in making this decision. Chris wondered at how easy it was to get this job. “We think you are highly suitable for us.” He did not think he had any especially deserving skills which made him suitable. He satisfied the job description, office worker, but then so did thousands of other people. He supposed the advice of his friend was correct, the aliens were keen to employ humans in their businesses, and they were not rigorous in their selection processes. The questions this Urilt had asked had hardly been relevant to work, although they had certainly found out a few deeper things than most job interviews, and more interesting.
“That is good to hear. Thank you. It sounds like a good job, but I still have some questions. Your job description is a bit vague. It says this is ‘office work for a wholesale trading business, involves basic computing and record keeping skills, ability to communicate effectively with business representatives and public; an interest in artistic and cultural matters; ideal for someone who does not wish to feel stressed and pressured; reasonable working hours, maximum 35 hours per week, and negotiable’. I know you’ve explained that the products are the purchase of Earth products for sale to your home planet Starmanena, but what products are they exactly, and what specific duties will I be expected to perform.”
“Yes that is the job description,” said the formidable alien, giving nothing more away, and not seeming to realise that he had added nothing to satisfy the question. Chris naturally had misgivings. He had not intended to work for aliens, although it may prove interesting. He could hardly imagine his employment being for a long period, but it would be a change from the last job, and hopefully less stressful or unfulfilling. It might be a good adventure, and there was surely no harm in trying something different for a while. Despite the strange appearance and speech of the alien employer Chris had quite enjoyed the interview. The unusual, if not weird, questions had been rather more interesting than those usually asked in interviews with human employers which always treated work as if its skills and experience were the most important matters in life. At least the alien had shown some interest in him and what really made him tick. To say that this strange and taciturn alien figure had managed to do that encouraged him.
The alien reiterated that the job was temporary but would probably soon be permanent if he wished, and that he could have it. “Our literature manager will show you around the office, and explain some things to you. You can make your mind up after or over the next two days. If you start the job you may leave at any time.” This seemed a curious attitude towards a work contract, but it helped to persuade him to take it.
“Okay, on that understanding I’ll take the job.” He realised that he would only come to understand what this job was really about by having a go at it. He did not relish going to lots of other interviews with other firms before making up his mind, so this would pay the bills for a while, and allow him to investigate at the same time.