I paced nervously. In three minutes I was going to walk onto a platform and meet all three hundred and twenty one crew members. Mahe… Twitchy was looking as nervous as I was, and she didn’t even have to say anything. I had to make a speech. Batnter and Carter were hunched over something electronic, arguing quietly. Rimana was talking with the sheep.
All right, I would be meeting three hundred and twenty crew members.
“Bhe’ek,” the sheep said.
“Granted, but I’d like to know anyways,” she said.
Rimana frowned. “I see the problem. But there are worse names in the galaxy, they didn’t have to give you such a demeaning one.”
“Really? How dare they,” she said firmly. I sat down next to Twitchy.
“Can she really understand that sheep?” I whispered.
“I don’t know, she’s blocked her mind,” the telepath whispered back.
Blocked? I wondered.
I can’t read her mind. She’s closed it off, she explained.
You do it. Everyone does it. Unconsciously. When you don’t want something to show you look away and turn your thoughts into a kind of white noise. Rimana has changed all her thoughts to white noise. We call it blocking.
“It’s time,” Carter said suddenly, looking at me.
“Goody,” I said, standing. I walked through the open door to the temporary platform. Rimana, Twitchy, Carter and Batnter followed me.
“Attention everyone,” I announced, “my name is Mary-Ann Velose. I am the captain of this ship.”
“Yes, and we’re the crew,” someone shouted. There was some general snickering.
“Thank you for clarifying that,” I said. “This is the ship you will be on for at least the next twelve months of your life. I hope we can all get along. Some of you have been on ships before, and some of you haven’t. But that doesn’t make any difference to me, as long as you do your job and do it well.
“Our mission for the next year is to get all the space creatures off the intergalactic freeways. I realize that isn’t exactly what you thought you’d be doing when you signed up for the academy, but it is still important. And we will do our job well, right?”
There was a chorus of “yes”.
“Good. I’m sure you all have something to do before we take off in an hour,” I said. “So I’ll let you go.”
Everyone started moving and talking.
“You’re a great motivational speaker,” Rimana said sarcastically.
“I hate these speeches,” I said.
“Well, we have things to do,” I said, turning around. “Let’s go.”