Chapter Eleven




I woke up with the worst hangover I had in years. Damn that wine! I usually drank beer and I hadn't drank any of that at all in a week or so, and not more than two or three at a time even then.
I was miserable. I didn't want to get out of the spinning bed, but I really had to pee bad, real bad. I staggered into the head and peed like forever. I wanted coffee. Damn, I was going to have to make coffee, the robots suck at making coffee. I hate robot coffee. Fuck it, I'll put up with robot coffee.
I put on a robe and stumbled into the kitchen – and smelled coffee. Good coffee, not that robot crap. It took a few seconds for my hungover eyes that I hadn't really used since I woke up, and in fact maybe I was still asleep, to see Destiny and two cups of coffee at the table.
What a woman!
“You're not hung over?” I asked.
“Hung over? I'm still drunk,” she said.
I sipped my coffee. “What time is it?”
The table, one of those damned new ones that talk, said “The present time is...”
“I wasn't talking to you, computer.” I hate that table.
Destiny laughed. “I don't know what time it is. Tuesday, maybe?”
“Waiting for input.”
Who programs these stupid things, anyway? “What damned time is it?”
“Please name the dam you want the present time for.”
“Damn it, what time is it here and now?
“The present time on ship is seven fifty seven.”
Shit, who programs... SHIT, I got three minutes to get to the pilot room.
“Shit!” I said. “I'm sorry, honey, I have to run.”
“Shouldn't you put some pants on first?”
“I'm wearing a robe, I gotta go.” I kissed her. “Bye.” I ran to the pilot room, coffee mug in hand.
I got there with two minutes to spare. All the readouts said systems were nominal, which is egghead space talk for “everything is working right like it's supposed to be and it don't look like there's anything broke.” At least, I think that's what it means.
I went back to my quarters, kissed Destiny, put on the clothes I wore the day before, filled my mug back up, and went on the morning inspection while little men with jackhammers were busy inside my head making my brain hurt.
The reduced gravity didn't make my head less light or my stomach less queasy.
I inspected the passengers' quarters first, since they were up front. Except Tammy's, of course. Passengers deserved privacy.
After the little incident with the explosion and fire I checked the cargo pens a little closer than I had been. Yeah, the doors to the store rooms, engines, and places they shouldn't be in stay locked but who knows what these drug addled whores know? For all I knew, one could be a locksmith. I couldn't even tell a whore from a real woman, look at Destiny, I thought she was a whore at first, just because she was cargo.
I'd billeted Destiny in the closest cargo quarters to my quarters, but it hadn't mattered since she'd only went there once after the takeoff. She's been in my quarters ever since.
This was the part I hated. I knocked on the door. Hell, I didn't have to since they were cargo but I don't want to be any more of an asshole than I have to be. In some situations you have no choice, you got to be an asshole, but you don't have to like it.
I'm a boat captain, I'm used to being an asshole. I don't like it, but it's a shitty part of a great job. Usually a great job, this trip wasn’t.
The voice on the other side of the door said “Who is it and what do you want? I ain't got no drops, bitch.”
“It's Captain Knolls. I'm doing ship inspection. May I come in?”
“No. Fuck off, asshole.”
“Door, open.” The door opened and I went in. She was naked. The only one I'd seen wearing clothes for the last week was Tammy. “I don't have to be polite, dumbass. I just am. I'll skip it from now on if you prefer assholes.”
“I ain't got no drops, bitch.”
Gee, I've been hearing that a lot lately, and usually from one whore to another. “I ain't looking for drops. Just routine, damage or danger of damage.”
“I ain't got no drops, bitch!”
As I left for the next apartment... what? Yes, “apartment”, these were civilian quarters, even though cargo pens were single room apartments. Anyway, as I was going out, two naked whores passed me, laughing. It was the two Thai chicks laughing about the fat blonde German hooker whose name I can never remember. Hell, there's two hundred of 'em and I ain't went to college or nothing and I ain't good with names in the first place. It sounded like they were making fun of the blonde, anyway. They were “talking” in fake German and saying “Nine! Nine! Nine!”
Like I said, lately it had got to where the only people on the boat who wore clothes were me, Destiny, and that Tammy girl. Must be the drops, I guessed.
Nobody else was home, except Kathy and Dawn, who just yelled “come in” when I rang the doorbell and kept on playing with each other's pussies while I did my inspection.
I'd skipped the sick bay and commons, I'd check them when I got back. They were between cargo and passenger quarters.
Then I walked down the five damned flights of stairs. It always smelled like ozone down there; those generators make a hell of a lot of electricity and the engines use what the generators feed them. Next was them and the engines, at the bottom of the stairs, and they never had anything wrong with them. Well, almost never, they all went out on me on my way back from that Titan run. They should keep them in a vacuum, I thought, because I never once found a problem during an inspection and it didn't keep the engines on that run from crapping out on me. Every damned one of 'em. All in a row, two at a time after the first one blew.
That Saturn run... that's why I stopped doing cargo. Lot of good my inspections did there. Jesus, that's a long time to be alone, I almost went crazy. I almost quit, but the company said I'd have passenger runs after that.
It isn't like the boat stops moving when the engines stop. It's worse. You keep going but have no way to maneuver, you just keep going at the speed you were when the engines stopped and you don't have any gravity at all and they have to come to you to tow you to port. It's a good thing the life support system isn't hooked in with the rest of the systems and has its own batteries.
I checked out all of the shit my tablet told me to check out and walked back to the sick bay. Next time I'm on Earth I'm getting a bicycle or something, this is a big damned boat. I’ll still have five stories of stairs to climb, though. Maybe I’ll get two bikes...
I walked into sick bay. “Hi, Billie,” I said.
“Um, yeah, I am” she said, looking at the IV tube.
“Don't get too used to it, you won't be in here long.”
“Well, I guess if I want to get high I'll hurt myself!”
“Nope, that's up to me. Next time it's naproxin.”
While I was there I got some naproxin myself; my head was still throbbing but my stomach had stopped doing gymnastics. Now to inspect the commons.
The commons area was huge, an eighth the size of the entire passengers and cargo decks with a fully automated kitchen, with robotic cooks and servers.
It was full of naked whores.
Half of them were practically begging me to have sex with them. Man, if it wasn't for Destiny I'd be having a hell of an orgy right now. I hurried my ass back to my quarters when the inspection was over as fast as I could.
Destiny was sleeping when I got out of the shower, so I figured I'd go over the inventory list. The maid would be noisy in about thirty minutes or so.
A while before the noisy damned machine showed up an alarm went off. Damn. DAMN! Fucking whores!
But this time it wasn't the whores, it was a distress call from another one of our company's ships. “Knolls, here,” I said to the tablet. “How can I help?”
I didn't know how far away the other boat was but it would probably take at least a minute and probably longer for the signal to get to it unless it was really close. I laid the tablet down and opened a beer. Hair of the dog, you know. Halfway through the beer I decided to return the favor for Destiny; she was going to need coffee when she woke up, so I made a pot.
The rackety machine came in and started noisily cleaning. Destiny woke up. “Damn, that thing's noisy,” she said. “Do I smell coffee?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I started a pot for you. It’s almost done.”
When it finished perking I poured a cup and handed it to her, and sat down next to her. “Thanks,” she said “What do you want to do today...”
The tablet interrupted her. “Captain Knolls? Is that you, John? Kelly here. Thank God somebody's in range. I'm about a minute and thirty light seconds behind you and one of my engines shorted out and blew both of my generators and drained all my batteries except life support. It didn't leave enough energy for me to make the Mars landing. I'm just coasting, so I'm going to be weeks late. Can you charge my batteries so I don't have to call for a tow, old buddy?”
Hey, it was Bill Kelly, an old friend driving one of our company boats. I'd known Kelly for years, went to high school with him when we were kids. “Wild Bill” they'd called him, even though he wasn't very wild at all. Actually, Bill's kind of a nerd, loves reading and tinkering. It caused him a few problems with the jocks in high school, who seemed to hate smart people in general and nerds in particular. But me and him were always real good friends.
“Hey, Bill, sorry about your luck,” I answered. “Yeah, of course I can give you a jump, you might even have enough charge that you won't be too late. I'll slow this thing down for a while and change course so we can dock.”
“Boat captains sure are busy,” Destiny said.
“Sorry, hon.”
I spoke into the tablet again. “Attention passenger and cargo. We will be enduring a short period of weightlessness, so be prepared. Captain Knolls out.”
“I don't think I've ever been weightless before,” Destiny said.
“We were weightless for a couple of minutes when the tube docked with the ship,” I said.
“Yeah, but I was strapped in. What’s it like?”
I grinned. “Get a barf bag, it upsets some folks' stomachs. I have to go to the pilot room, I'll be back shortly.” I kissed her, threw the beer can at the noisy maid and walked to the pilot room.


Chapter 10
Chapter 12

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