Tarwhal D’Hriver sat back in his chair and stared at the message screen. He was tired of his job as a Sub-Message Filter. He longed for his first promotion in the orbiting planet station. Why should Akral Mas’Hrhal have a better job than him? Tarwhal had worked just as hard as he had, and still, his only occupation was gophering for HomeBase Headquarters.
“Down.” He said to the computer, indicating that the current message could not be passed up the chain to the Arch-Message Filter. The screen flashed, and the message was deleted. After a second flash, the next message was on the screen.
Tarwhal suddenly sat up, and took his feet off the highly polished chrome panels of the control board. A message from HomeBase! This could be big! Everything looked official and in order, so with the word “Up,” he sent the message on to Akral.
Within 10 minutes a bell rang, and a window flashed on the screen, indicating that he had a call waiting. “Teleview up.” He said, giving permission for the caller to speak with him. Suddenly Akral Mas’Hrhal’s pudgy face filled the screen. The Arch-Message Filter was, as usual, wearing his irritatingly benevolent smile. “What do you want, Akral?” Tarwhal sighed, carelessly disrespectful.
“Tarwhal, I have a job for you to do.”
“What now? Is the Excremental Waste Energy machine malfunctioning again?”
“No, nothing like that...”
“The Big L is coming tonight.”
Tarwhal stopped and leaned forward. “Do you know why?”
“He’s coming because he’s decided it’s time to review for promotions, and even a couple of transfers to HomeBase!”
“What’s that got to do with me?’ Tarwhal said. “I never even get considered.”
“Come on, Tarwhal! You know the Big L isn’t like that! Everyone in the station is going to be considered.”
“Okay, so what do you want me to do?”
“Stay up and wait for his arrival at the Picar Bay.”
“When is he coming?”
“The message just says it’s tonight...”
“And why do I have to greet Him?”
“Because I need someone responsible.”
“Why can’t you do it?”
“Well,” The fat man’s face grew sober. “I’m afraid I haven’t really given you a chance lately. The message said that the person who was given the job of greeting His arrival would receive special attention when being reviewed for promotion. I figure this is a way to pay you back for your hard work.”
“So, then, I just have to wait for His arrival and be prepared to give Him a formal greeting?”
“Yes, but be sure you don’t fall asleep - we don’t know what time He’s coming.”
“No problem. Thanks.”
The screen flashed and Akral was gone. “Shut down.” Tarwhal commanded, and the computer screen dimmed to a dark gray, then blacked out. Tarwhal walked down the hall to the Core, which connected all the sections of the station. Once inside, he spoke to the Core computer. “Picar Bay.” The core rotated to the proper hole that led to the Picar Bay.
When he finally exited the Core, he followed the brightly lit tunnel that quickly opened to the giant metallic cavern with great plastic windows and immense- but light- aluminum doors -- the landing bay for Picars. He looked around him at the large number of Picar spacecraft that lined the floors on either side of the landing strip. He heard the loud hum of power equipment that he knew to be Dis’Rhal Benraeli, the station mechanic and electrician. Dis’Rhal was the only man in the station of lower position of authority than Tarwhal himself. Dis’Rhal was a faithful, hardworking man, with years of experience and expertise. He was happy to be a mere mechanic.
Tarwhal went over to where Dis’Rhal was working. “How’s it going?’ Dis’Rhal greeted him with his big gap-toothed grin. He didn’t earn enough pay to have dental work done regularly, but his smile was pleasant and always fresh beneath his scruffy black mustache. “What brings you down here today, Tarwbal?”
Tarwhal explained that the Big L was coming, and why he was here. Dis’Rhal smiled cheerfully, and shook his balding head. “I don’t mind if I don’t get a promotion. I’ve been doing this job for nearly 40 years, and I’m content to keep on. It will be exciting enough just to be able to see the Big L again. He’s about the best person I’ve ever known. He doesn’t get wrapped up in himself: He’s always thinking about those who work for Him.”
Tarwhal walked a ways off to a seat and sat in it. He watched Dis’Rhal working cheerfully on the Picar, whistling, and occasionally wiping his hands on his greasy uniform. He thought to himself after a while, “I really am a bit tired. I can chance just a little nap. I’m sure Dis’Rhal will wake me if the Big L comes in his Picar spacecraft.”
In only a few moments he was asleep. He woke a little later, and he rubbed his eyes. Looking around, he saw that Dis’Rhal had left. He must have finished his work and gone to bed. Tarwhal saw that the tools were lying on the floor, and made a note to himself to reprimand Dis’Rhal about his messiness.
Looking at his watch, Tarwhal saw he had slept for 15 minutes. He decided he would not go back to sleep because there was no one to wake him should the Big L come. He gazed at the stars for a while, then got up and wandered about, cleaning up Dis’RIiaI’s tools and putting them away. He stayed there until the sun peeped around the edge of the planet below. Where was the Big L? Had he decided to delay his visit? Probably.
Tarwhal returned to the Core and commanded the computer to direct him to the Arch-Message Filter’s cubicle. He burst angrily through the door and shouted, “What kind of joke was that? The Big L never came...” Tarwhal stopped suddenly, and stared at the man behind the desk. It was not the rotund Akral Mas’Hrhal, but Dis’Rhal Benraeli who sat behind the desk. No longer did he wear his greasy class Delta uniform, but a crisp, clean uniform bearing the insignia of Arch-Message Filter. “Where is Akral?” Tarwhal demanded. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry, Tarwhal,” Dis’Rhal said appeasingly, “But you missed the arrival of the Big L. He came while you were sleeping and parked the Picar among the others. I didn’t want to disturb you, so I greeted him myself:”
“But what about Akral?”
“When the Big L heard of Akral’s generosity, He gave Mr. Mas’Hrhal a transfer to HomeBase Headquarters. He gave me Akral’s position.”
“He gave it to YOU?” Tarwhal shouted. “Why not ME?”
“I asked Him that myself.” Dis’Rhal said, pulling at his black mustache. “He said you would be given MY position, because you were given a small task, and failed to accomplish it. You only disobeyed a little bit, but that was all it took. You were to await the coming of the Big L, and you fell asleep. You weren’t ready. I was ready.”