Chapter Seventeen




All of my muscles were on fire when I woke up. We would have had to turn the ship around today, and in fact that's what was scheduled, except for the meteors and the drama that followed added a week to the time to turn around. Damned whores!
Destiny was sleeping peacefully. I got up, thankful that we weren't at Earth gravity but wishing we had turned around for deceleration then, because they have it plotted so that you start the journey close to the planet you're leaving's gravity, and reach your destination close to that planet's gravity; we'd started the trip at point seven five gravities. We were at half Earth gravity now and it would gradually be lowering to Mars' gravity as we got closer. If we were closer, gravity would be less and walking wouldn't hurt so much.
The droppers didn't like half Earth gravity, they were going to hate Mars. I guess these girls were being well paid or something, they sure were paying me good. Except that from what I'd learned about these women they probably just promised free drops. Drops were the addicts' only motivation, only goal, only thing that mattered to them. I needed to finish reading that damned book.
God but my muscles were all on fire, I was in real pain. I headed to the kitchen to make coffee but sat down on the couch on the way there and had the robot make a cup of shitty coffee; my legs hurt and I didn't feel like standing up yet. I had it bring me water and Naproxen and drank the lousy coffee. Yech. Nasty. Why can't they program those damned things to make drinkable coffee? I should have went to college and learned programming.
I only drank half of the nasty brew and hauled myself painfully to the shower after telling the robots to cook my breakfast. A hot shower would do wonders for my aching muscles.
The hot water felt as good as the coffee had tasted bad. I took a really long, extra hot shower. It helped ease the pain, and the pill I had taken started working some, too.
I took one sip of the remaining cold, nasty coffee and started a pot. Damned stupid robots.
I was just pouring a cup when Destiny came in the kitchen. “John!” she said. “You really look like hell!”
“I imagine I do. I sure feel like hell,” I said, sitting down to eat my breakfast. Huh? Over easy, toast, steak, and hash browns. Anyway, I added “All that damned climbing in high gravity yesterday nearly killed me. And I still have to check the instruments and inspect the boat.”
“You did inspections all day yesterday. Can't you take a sick day?”
“Nope, I just have to tough it out. And yesterday wasn't the least bit normal and I have tons of work to do today. I have to inspect that busted generator since it would have cooled enough by now, and the other one, too, since it's working harder now that there's only one. Besides, engine and generator inspections are every day.”
“Poor baby!”
“Well, at least I don't have to inspect upstairs today. Want to watch a movie later?”
“Sure. Isn't it almost time to check your instrumentation?”
“Yeah, it is.” I used a napkin and then kissed her. “See you in a while.”
I filled my coffee and went towards the pilot room, which was really just outside my quarters. Yesterday I'd been wishing for a bicycle, today I was wishing for a pair of crutches, or at least a cane. My arms and legs ached and my back was killing me, I must have pulled it dragging Destiny back in the ship.
All the readouts were normal except one – air pressure in the port generator was twenty kilopascal low. That wasn't a good sign at all, I was going to need a suit and tether in case a bulkhead blew while I was in there. Damn. I did not want to wear a suit today! Or climb five flights of stairs both ways but I'd have to do that anyway, leak or no leak.
I noted the log and stopped by our cabin... heh, “our cabin,” how about that? Anyway I stopped to fill a big mug with more coffee – real coffee, not that robot crap, and summoned a medic.
I laid down on the medic and ordered it to the port generator and got the computer on the fone and had it have a robot put air in the suit from the starboard hold where Destiny had gone out the airlock, change out the carbon dioxide scrubbers and bring it to me. I should have rode a robot yesterday, especially up that damned five flights of stairs from the engine deck.
I don't know how the robots go up and down stairs, because they move on wheels, but the medic kept me level and didn't even lurch. Maybe that's what that rail under the handrail is for.
After I'd suited up and tethered, the difference in pressure between the two rooms made it hard to get the hatch open. I tried a crowbar and couldn't even make it hiss. So I lowered the pressure where I was and the door popped open by itself. I took a floater with me to hunt for the leak.
What? You guys don't know what a floater is? What the hell, you guys work for a shipping and transportation company and never been in a boat? A floater is just a small balloon filled with helium with a little counterweight to make it gravity neutral. It follows the air and goes where the air goes. We get plenty of helium from the generators, the company should sell the stuff. Maybe they already do, I don't know.
I found where the air was escaping and patched it. Why can't they program robots to do that? Stupid robots, they could act as maids and cooks and medical doctors and mechanics and all sorts of other things but the damned stupid robots can't patch a hole or make a decent cup of coffee. At least they're cheap to manufacture. Maybe that's why, maybe programs are expensive. My robots sure were expensive, even though they were cheap to build.
The pressure was slowly rising, so I sat on the medic and waited until it matched the rest of the ship so I could get out of the room. Thankfully I hadn't needed the suit, but left it on just to keep my ears from popping.
The gauge said pressure was normal so I tried the hatch. It opened easy, so I took off the suit and gave it to a robot and continued the inspection. I was glad that except for the leak, the engines and generators gave me no problems. I rode the medic back to my rooms.
I was dying of thirst, even after downing that big glass of water when I took the naproxin. I said something to Destiny about it when I got back, taking another pill and drinking more water.
She laughed. “You're dehydrated, dummy. You told me yesterday you thought you were going to drown in your suit from sweating. You probably need electrolytes, too.”
“And I'm hungry, I only ate part of my breakfast. Ran out of time,” I said. “You hungry?”
“I didn't even eat breakfast today, I could eat. Robot eggs okay or do you want me to cook?”
“No, robots cook okay as long as it doesn't involve coffee or barbecue sauce. They never use enough salt but there’s saltshakers. How do you want your eggs?”
“Ham and cheese omelette is okay, maybe with some hash browns,” she said, grinning.
I laughed. “With caviar?”
She giggled. I said “Okay, funny girl, what do you really want?”
She laughed again. “Steak and cheese omelette, I guess. And hash browns.”
“Okay,” I said. “Robot, a steak and cheese omelet, a Denver chicken omelette, two hash browns and white toast. No coffee!
Them damn robots suck at coffee, and they can't patch a hole at all. I'm glad they can cook. Well, except for barbecue, they suck at that, too. But who has barbecue in space?
We started a movie after brunch. The alarm went off when we were watching it; a real movie this time, a modern holo rather than the ancient two dimensional ones we'd been watching. I don't know what it was called, it was set in the eighteenth century and was about spies. So of course when the alarm went off I thought “damned whores.” But it might not have been droppers, the computer was reporting another fire.
“Sorry, hon, we have a fire in the commons. I'll be back when I can.”
When the red light is lit over most doors, they can only be opened from the inside unless you're the captain. When it flashes red outside it won't let you in, when it flashes red on the inside you'd better get the hell out of there right now.
There were a few exceptions, like my quarters. It would only keep me in if there was a vacuum or a fire outside the door. It only flashed yellow as a warning.
Another alarm went off when I was on my way to the commons. What the hell? This one was in the passenger section, apartment twelve. Nobody should be in there. Addicts? More electric problems?
The commons was closer and I had to make sure the cargo had evacuated, anyway.
There wasn't no whores in the commons, not even the blonde, and there wasn't no fire, either. The whores must have all been asleep; droppers sleep a lot and it was late afternoon, at least according to ship's clocks, which would reset themselves when we got to Mars.
My tablet reported it was a scheduled drill. That explained number twelve, sometimes they simulated more than one fire at a time. Stupid simulations.
It went off again. “Fire in cargo section, pen number six.” I laughed, the computer was posing a conundrum for me. And for the cargo, too. If your quarters caught fire you were supposed to go to the commons, but what if the commons was on fire, too? Didn’t they ever think of stuff like that?
Number six... that was one of the Thai girls, wasn't it?
There was screaming from the other side of the door. “Computer, open the door” I ordered.
“Unable to comply. Danger to ship, passenger, other cargo, and crew.”
God DAMN that fucking computer. “Report.”
“Fire in cargo hold six. Fire suppression technologies deployed.”
The damned thing talks like it's went to college.
“Let those girls out, God damn it!!”
“Unable to com...”
And then another damned alarm went off. Son of a bitch! “Computer, source of new alarm.”
“Meteor shower ahead.” Holy shit but that was bad. Thankfully, the door opened right then and two of the three Thai girls stumbled out, along with the fat German, coughing. Smoke billowed from the door before it closed as a medic rolled up.
“Meet me in the commons, I have an emergency,” I said. I ran to the pilot room on my sore legs, my back aching something terrible.
This time, like most times, meteors meant slow down and I was glad of it. I reduced gravity to ten percent, and my back didn't seem to hurt as much. This time I wasn't going to face the whores until it was over, we were already behind schedule and I was starting to see that they really hated low gravity a lot.
After the rocks all passed in front of us I sped back up and adjusted course to make up for the damned rocks.
I checked the passenger quarters and sure enough it was a drill. What morons program this shit, anyway? Having emergency drills when there's a real emergency? And worse, two real emergencies! That's dangerous as all hell. Stupid dangerous. Those bozos might have went to college but they were stupid morons. God damned idiots, no common sense at all!
What? Yeah, yeah, just shut up and let me talk, I want to get this over with. Anyway, the three girls were still sitting on the medic outside the apartment sucking oxygen when I got back. The door light was red but no longer flashing.
“So what happened?” I asked them.
“Don't know,” the obese German blonde wheezed in her heavily accented English. I can never remember her name, she's “the one with the German accent.” Anyway, after coughing for a minute she says, with her heavy German accent of course, “we were just talking when that damned noisy maid burst into flames and the room locked us in! We were scared shitless!”
It happened sometimes, but they usually smoked for a while before they started burning, and then only when they were old and worn out. I hoped this ship had a robot that made robots, or at least a robot that could fix burned up robots. Sometimes some of these boats are missing some of their equipment.
The light went out, the door opened, the Thai women went in and the blonde went home. So did I.
Destiny had fallen asleep on the couch, so I had the robot make me a hamburger and get me a beer and I put the movie back to where it was when I left.


Chapter 16
Chapter 18

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