Chapter Sixteen




I started the long walk back to the pilot room after trudging up the five God damned flights of stairs, wishing again for a bicycle or something. Hell, a lift would be even better. I was worn out from climbing and walking. And really hungry, it was past lunch time and I'd had breakfast really early and hadn't eaten anything since.
A robot wheeled past. Hell, I should just flag down one of the robots. But, of course there was a reason for not having transportation; I remembered the climb up the boat earlier in the morning when the mutinous whores kept me out of the pilot room and how tiring it was. My muscles were still on fire and I'd be worse the next day. A body needs exercise and the most I was going to get on a boat with two thirds gravity or usually not anywhere close to that was walking and climbing stairs.
Destiny and Tammy were in the commons with a few other women; I say “women” because these were acting halfway civilized, despite their lack of clothing, but they certainly wasn't ladies.
“Done already?” Destiny asked.
“No,” I sighed. “Trouble. One of the generators blew out and we're off course again. I just saw you and thought I'd say ‘hi’, I can't stay. Too much damned work.”
“What do you have to do? How long will it take?”
“I don't know. When I get us back on course I have to see what the robots are doing with that damned generator and if they can fix it.”
“How bad is it?” Tammy asked. “How many generators are there?”
“Only two. I wish this was an old tub, they originally had just one fission generator and got retrofitted with fusions in addition later, when the cost of building fusion generators had dropped enough to be affordable. If our other generator dies it's batteries.
“What then?”
“Then we're late, and Mars will be more dangerous because of the damned pirates. But there isn't much chance of losing both generators, we'll be okay. But speaking of generators, I gotta go.” I kissed Destiny and headed to the pilot room. It was only a minor correction, it's in the log. Then I went to check out the generator back down all those damned stairs, wishing I had time to eat.
It had cooled enough for the robots to go in to work, but was a bulkhead removed from where a human could stand it. I had two more engines I hadn't checked off as well, so I inspected them, too. Of course, if there was anything wrong I'd have been clueless. But all the readouts were what the tablet said they should be.
The repair robots said the generator was shot. Well, not exactly like that, of course. The readout just listed stuff, but basically what it listed was melted parts that we don't carry replacements on-board for, and parts that the whole damned thing has to be rebuilt to replace, like those lasers that are inside them. They have to completely rebuild the generator if the lasers went kerflooey, anyway, and I'm pretty sure the robots couldn't do that even if they had the parts. Wild Bill could have probably hacked something together to make it work, he’s pretty much a nerd... but then, he couldn’t get his own generators working and was now riding on batteries he had to charge from my generators. Of course, there had been paperwork to charge his boat's batteries. Damned bureaucrats.
After climbing all those damned stairs again I walked past the commons to my quarters. Destiny and Tammy weren't in there although there were a few unclothed whores. Damn it, women, at least put some underwear on!
Destiny and Tammy were in my living room drinking coffee. As I walked in, Destiny said “John, you're damned lucky Tammy's here.”
As I'd suspected. “You're supplying the drops,” I said, sitting down.
“The whores would have killed us without them.”
“How much you got?”
“Enough to get us all to Mars alive?”
“Don't worry. I know my chemistry and psychology and physiology, I know how much they need.”
I said “Don't give any to the bitches in confinement.”
“You never finished that book, did you? You don't know what you're talking about. With drops they're harmless. Take them away, and well, it isn't pretty.”
I was confused. “What can they do locked up?”
“They might rip the doors off and kill us all, or if they can't they're liable to suicide. A mindless withdrawing dropper can die even in a straitjacket. Most droppers are dead before they're thirty. Finish reading that book!”
Crap. Losing cargo is a pretty bad thing. Especially since they were human beings this time, instead of cattle or something.
I always hated shipping cows. They stink. Hogs are even worse, but it isn't often anybody ships pigs anywhere. Nobody can afford pork, thank God.
“I will. Crap! Damn but I'm glad you're here. I'm going to suggest to the company that they send someone like you on all these runs.”
She laughed. “The company wouldn't want to spend the money necessary. The bean counters know how much loss is acceptable.”
Destiny said “I made coffee.”
“Thanks,” I said, “but after the day I've had I want a beer and some lunch.”
“I'm still trying to wake up,” she said.
“Yeah, you napped for an hour or so after you went for a stroll outside. I would have thought the oxygen would have made you wake up. Computer, sausage pizza and a beer.”
“Actually, the oxygen put me to sleep,” she said.
I had to ask. “Why in the hell did you pull that stunt, sweetheart? My God, I almost lost you!”
She turned as red as a beet. “I don't know, John, I just panicked. I thought you were going to die out there.”
“Why didn't you call?”
“I don't know. Because I'm an idiot, I guess. I just didn't think of it. God, John, I'm really sorry.”
“Well...” I said.
Pizza takes a while to cook, but where in the hell was that robot with my beer? “Robot! Beer, damn it, are you deaf?” A robot rolled over with my beer. I'm glad this boat has the older robots, because the newer ones talk, and it's annoying as hell. If I want output from the computer I'll use my fone or a tablet and just read what it has to say.
Tammy said she had drug addicts to study and excused herself. I figured she had whores to supply drops to. I was starved, I hadn't had time to shower and hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast. I finished my beer and took a shower while the robots made lunch... What? Prime rib, baked potato and salad with a glass of wine; you know, poor people food.
The damned robot must not have heard me asking for pizza earlier, those things should beep or something. Anyway, lunch was done cooking when I got out of the shower and I had the robot open a bottle of wine. After lunch we watched some really dumb old movie from a couple hundred years ago, laughing all the way through it, although they say when it was made, it was meant to be serious.
Lunch had been really late, so dinner was late, too. We had turkey and dumplings, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans.
Then we cuddled a while to some old classical music, a band with Page and Clapton. It was early but we went to bed anyway, I was really beat. I hoped tomorrow would be less stressful. My muscles all ached from the walking and climbing, and I was going to be in hurting like hell the next day.


Chapter 15
Chapter 17

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