Chapter Twenty Three




Destiny was already awake and dressed when I got up the next morning. I'm really glad she was there or I might have overslept.
“Are you going to sleep all day? Your breakfast is going to get cold. I'm eating,” she said.
I groaned, rolled out of bed, put on a robe and followed her to the dining room. She'd made coffee and had the robots make French toast, bacon, and tater tots. I didn't feel like tater tots, though. “What time is it?” I asked.
She laughed. “You need a clock right there on the wall! Computer, what time is it?”
The damned talking table said “The time is seven twenty eight.” Good, plenty of time. I finished eating and took a quick shower and started my morning chores about five minutes early. This time two of the computers disagreed with the other two. What the hell, I never saw them disagree before, ever, and here it happened twice on the same run!
Two said “systems were nominal”, one said that engine sixty four was getting three volts too much and the other said number sixty four was two volts short. Oh, well, I was going to have to walk the stairs anyway, so I decided I'd get engine and generator inspections out of the way first, even though two or three volts was almost nothing when you're talking the voltages that go through those giant things. But I wasn't going to chance losing any engines or that last working generator if I could help it, let alone my computers. That's what really had me worried.
As I passed the commons Lek walked up, the one that talked English kind of okay.
“Captain Knolls?” she said, which kind of confused me for a second because the whores usually called me “Joe” even though they know my name is John.
“Lek?” I said, “how can I help?” I read Tammy's book, I didn't want to piss these dropheads off.
“Look, Captain, you surely know what not having drops do to us by now and I no can find dealer.”
I almost said “I ain't got no drops, bitch” out of habit but I didn't. Instead I said “You're short of drops? Look, talk to...” Damn, I almost screwed up and gave Tammy away. Damn it, John!
“Uh,” I continued. “ to me when this comes up, please! Lek, I finally get it. I do inspections and can confiscate...”
“No,” she said, “It not me, It's Sparkle. She going to...” she hung her head. “Sun Dan, I really hate myself. I not human without drops! What has happened to me? But Sparkle need drops or she be dangerous wild animal and I no can find dealer and no have extra drops.”
I really felt sorry for these women. I didn't think of them as whores any more, even though they never wore any clothes and I still called them that sometimes; life had really kicked their asses. Tammy's book had really opened my eyes. These poor women.
I walked down the hall and called Tammy on my fone, but she was already on it.
“Tammy, could you get some...”
“Drops to Sparkle?” she interrupted.
“Yeah. Is she...”
“She's okay. Now, anyway. But John, even though I knew, thanks. Please, if it comes up again call me, don't hesitate!”
“Jesus, Tammy,” I said, “Of course I will, after I read your book I know how dangerous a dropless drophead is.”
I finished walking down the hall to the stairs, then down that five damned flights of them. Most of this boat is engines. Second is generators, the generators take up a whole lot more space than quarters and storage combined, and storage is as big as passenger quarters and cargo pens and the commons and sick bay put together. Maybe bigger. Machine storage is above the generators, one flight down and about two stories high.
I checked number sixty four first, of course. It read normal. I almost logged that, but it suddenly dropped two volts, then immediately to a two and a half volt overvoltage, then normal again, really fast. Bill told me once that that usually meant a bad electrical connection, he's kind of a nerd.
It's good to know nerds like Bill. I was a little relieved, I had been worried that there was something wrong with my computers, and that would have really been some serious trouble. But it explained their disagreeing with each other. I shut sixty four down like the book says, plugged a repair robot into it in “diagnostic mode” then inspected the rest of them. I don't know why I have to check the port generator, since it's broke, but I do so I did.
Yep, still broke, no generator fairies on the boat, and no missing parts magically appeared.
The starboard generator was fine.
The damned alarm went off. Fire in cargo seven. I didn't know whether to cuss the damned dropheads or the damned stupid engineers who design shit that catches fire and have emergency drills in the middle of a real emergency.
I fucking hate it when there's an emergency upstairs when I'm downstairs. I have to run up those five damned flights of stairs. Yeah, we're at half gravity now but it goes down slow, after the first day you don't really notice it dropping. The droppers hadn't complained, except when it had sudden changes like when we sped up to beat the rocks. I'm just glad I didn't have to run up the stairs that day I was climbing around outside. Oh, wait, I did, didn't I?
Anyway, I wished we were at zero G, I could have made it to the top in seconds. But then, of course, the women would kill me.
The red light was flashing on cargo seven. “Computer, is there anybody in there?”
“Parse error, please rephrase the question.”
God damned stupid computer. “Is cargo seven, uh, occupied?”
“Negative.” That was a relief; not only does the company get pissed off when cargo was damaged, these weren't just cargo, they were people. Human beings.
At least, they were human when they had their drops. What Lek said was spooky, like one of those old horror movies Destiny likes, the really old two dimensional ones with werewolves and vampires and no colors. It put Tammy's book in a whole new light. I kind of shivered a little.
The flashing light stopped flashing and I went in. There was a burned up maid in the room. Hell, was it noon already?
Another burned up... wait, what was the number on that thing? R2? That's the same maid that burned up before. Whoever programs the robots that repair the other robots needs an ass kicking, or at least an ass chewing.
I pulled out my fone. “Computer, take R2 out of service until the maintenance when we get to Mars.”
“Acknowledged,” it replied. Another robot dragged it off to storage, and a third started noisily cleaning up the mess the fire had caused.
I went to the commons, which right now was a restaurant with robot waiters and robot cooks and bussbots and about a hundred naked women. I thought “I'm going to have to start inspecting cargo at lunch time so I don’t have to talk to them.” Not that these girls eat much, except the fat blonde with the thick German accent. They slept more than anything, never ate breakfast and not many ate supper. Except the blond German, who was always in there eating, it seemed like.
“Attention,” I yelled. They ignored me, and the din continued. I stood on a table, pulled out my fone and addressed the PA, they can't ignore that.
“Attention, ladies, who lives in number seven?”
“That's Crystal,” one of them said.
“Where is she?”
“I don't know. Oh, there she is,” she said as a skinny red haired woman walked in.
“Where have you been?” I demanded, jumping off the table. “You're supposed to go to straight to the commons when your quarters catch fire.”
“What?” she said, startled. “My quarters caught fire? I was in Leslie's cabin and got hungry. Is my stuff okay?”
What stuff? All these girls came with was the clothes on their backs, except Destiny and Tammy. Apparently they didn't have any use for them since they never wore them. “Yeah,” I said, “the only thing that burned was the maid.”
“Good, I hate that noisy damned thing! Robot, I want a ham and cheese sandwich and a chocolate shake.”
The computer said “Ham is not on the menu.”
“Okay, how about a pork chop sandwich?”
“There are no pork products on the menu.”
“Why not?”
“The only meat listed in the database is beef, mutton, venison, rabbit, squirrel, chicken, turkey, and duck.”
“Yuck, I hate duck.”
“There is no chef named Yuckeye Hade or recipe for a dish by that name listed in the database.”
“Stupid computer. Give me a Reuben and a chocolate shake.”
“Fuck off, you stupid computer,” she said. “Waiting for input,” it said. She kept arguing with the computer. I went to continue inspecting the ship.
I finished inspection by one thirty and was starved by then. Destiny called. “Where are you? I'm starved,” she said. “I'm about ready to eat without you.”
“Walking back to our apartment,” I said. Oh, shut up you two, that's what I said. I told you I don't want to hear any of that “professional” shit, I ain't no God damned professional, I ain't went to college. Anyway, I said “Go ahead and have the robot start cooking, I don't care what.”
We had pizza and beer and watched an ancient comedy, a western called “Blazing Saddles”, and I didn't understand a lot of it, but some parts were really funny. Destiny thought the whole movie was hilarious, and told me to read some history.
We had steak and deep fried onion rings and baked potato for dinner and watched some new holo and I didn't understand a bit of it, it didn't make any sense at all.
I fell asleep on the couch. Destiny woke me up and I went to bed.


Chapter 22
Chapter 24

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