Chapter Forty Three




We both woke up around seven, still cuddled up on the couch. We'd been asleep for fifteen hours on that thing! We cuddled a little while more, then Destiny started coffee while I took care of the ship's air and corrected the course, since I was sleeping when the generator came back online.
We took another shower together after drinking a little coffee and she told the cook to make pancakes and sausage, and we watched the news while breakfast was cooking. That robot makes pretty good pancakes. The sausage is pretty good, too, but my mom could do better.
There was nothing new on the news except Venus and pirates, and pirates sure weren't new to me. More people on the Venus station were dead and the rest weren't expected to live. That must be one nasty disease!
There was some sort of scandal where some politician was caught having financial connections to the pirates, was impeached, charged with violation of banking laws and bribery, fined, and put on probation.
I'd have shot the God damned son of a bitch, or at least put him in prison. Fucking bastard was a God damned traitor. The pirates they'd caught on Earth earlier had all been sentenced to prison, which is what led up to the politician's arrest; his pirate friends had ratted him out in hope of lighter sentences.
At eight I checked the readings, and they all checked out fine because I'd just been in there an hour earlier. Then I did inspections. I had to check the engines and generators but could only check half the engines and only the starboard generator because the hallway halfway from port to starboard was completely clogged with body parts; I couldn't check the port side engines or the busted generator. I couldn't get in port storage upstairs from the generator at all even.
It would take the maids weeks to clean up all the blood. They'd still be working on it when we got to Mars. God, but it was a nasty mess down there, and it was starting to stink really bad. You couldn't smell it upstairs, thank God, but going downstairs made me want to throw up. And it looked as disgusting as it smelled.
I took off my bloody boots at the top of the stairs and put on the shoes I'd worn there. I was going to need another shower.
There was a commotion in the commons on the way back to our quarters; Sparkle was in there and obviously low on drops. Dangerously low. Tammy came walking quickly up.
“So you're going to visit Sparkle?” I asked her.
“Are you fucking crazy, John? Of course I am! I must not have been clear in my book. If one of these women runs completely out of drops, we're all dead. Really. Trust me on this, this is my main field of study.”
“They knocked you on your ass and stole your drops the last time.”
“It was... well, a gamble. It paid off, I got knocked out but how many pirates died?”
My fone rang; it was Sandy, a chubby red haired girl, wanting to know why the maid didn't show up. Of course, they were all in the engine and generator rooms, cleaning up blood and guts and the nasty stuff that's inside guts. It really stunk bad, worse than when Billie blew herself up. Most sickening mess I've ever seen, or smelled.
I told her they were only coming half as often because of the sickening mess downstairs, and hung it up... where did that phrase “hang up” come from? And answered Tammy.
“From what I can tell, thousands.”
“Where are all the bodies?”
“The robots jettisoned them. Lots of them, anyway, there are an awful lot still downstairs. Now they're all little bitty comets, except the ones that haven't been cleaned up yet. But there's still one hell of a mess down there in the engine and generator rooms and it isn't even all the way cleaned up upstairs in the port storage bay.”
My fone rang again; a heavy German accent asking about the maids.
I hung up the fone after telling her and wondered again why we said “hung up”, and why the damned thing was called a fone. But then, why is an apple called an apple? Why are robots called robots? I'm called John because that's the name my parents gave me. I should go to college. Maybe I should read, like Wild Bill and Destiny does.
I got on the PA and informed them that maids would only be there every other day for the duration of the trip because they would all be busy in the engine and generator rooms. I went the rest of the way back home and took another shower.
While a pizza was cooking we watched another Star Wars movie because the first one was so funny, but we only got to see twenty minutes or so before an alarm went off: Injury to passenger.
“Pause it and come on,” I said, hurrying to the door. “Tammy's hurt.” I talked to the fone. “Where is Tamatha Winters?”
It said “Cargo eighty seven.”
“Is she alone?”
“Affirmative.” Damned computers.
“Is a medic on the way?”
“Medic en route.” Why did this thing type “en route”? Why not “in route”? I ain't French.
“Where's Sparkle?”
“Unable to process order or question, please rephrase.” God damned piece of shit computer! Who programs these damned things, anyway?
“Where, is, Sparkle?” I repeated.
“The term ‘sparkle’ does not exist in the database except as a dictionary entry.”
Shit. “Destiny, what's Sparkle's real name?”
“I don't know.”
Shit. “What are you going to do?” she asked.
“I don't know,” I said. I could find Sparkle's picture in the computer but it would take too long to go through two hundred pictures.
“Is doctor Winters in sick bay?”
Damned computers. “Condition?” I asked.
“Critical,” it said, and Destiny got pale. I probably got pale, too. There was no way Destiny and me could handle those dropheads without Tammy.
I had an idea; I'd done this before but decided to look for Sparkle before knocking all of the droppers out; I don't want to damage cargo, let alone hurt people.
“We need to find Sparkle,” I said. She went looking down one hallway and I looked down another. “Computer,” I said, “when I say so I want you to replace all air except here and the sick bay with nitrogen and inform me when everyone in, uh,” damned computers, “the affected areas are asl... uh, unconscious.”
“Affirmative,” it said. Stupid computer.
It only took a few minutes to find her; she was in the commons noisily attacking the two Thai girls who had the same names. I thought it looked like she wanted to eat them, as in take them apart and swallow their flesh like a cannibal or a lion or a wolf or something, and her eyes weren't even all the way red yet. Her eyes were still really bloodshot and scary, though. The gruesome picture of the generators and all along the halls by the engines haunted me; it looked like some of the remaining flesh had been partially eaten. There were even bones with teeth marks on them. Nasty. But the two Thai girls were holding their own; I didn't know it but both were professional martial arts instructors. Lek told me later they practiced Thai kickboxing. I have no idea how they got hooked on drops. They were easy to tell apart, now that one of them had started wearing clothes.
I had the computer shut the door and flood it with nitrogen and hoped Sparkle passed out before the Thai girls did. When they did I had two medics bring the Thai girls out and I cuffed Sparkle, wrists and ankles. Then I went to Tammy's quarters in search of drops; angel tears were all that was going to save all of our lives now.
I looked everywhere. She'd hid them real good, because I couldn't find them after looking for an hour and a half, so I called Destiny. She didn't know where she kept them, either.
Shit. We were all dead.
Maybe not. I'd had Lek, the Thai girl who talked kind of all right and knocked me out (I think, I'm not sure) but was acting human these days who I'd had took to sick bay. The other Thai girl hadn't been injured but the one that talks good was still unconscious and sporting a black eye.
If Sparkle didn't get her drug she was going to die horribly and if she wasn't chained down we were all going to die horribly, and maybe even if she was chained down we'd still all die horribly.
I went to the sick bay to see Tammy and Lek, hoping Tammy was going to live. Her medic said she was stable, but she still wasn't awake. I guess stable is better than critical, which is what she was before, but I ain't no doctor. The whole side of her face was purple.
Destiny was there. “John,” she said, “Shit, what are we going to do?”
“I don't know,” I said. “If Lek wakes up maybe we can save Sparkle and if Tammy wakes up maybe we can save everybody, but without those drops we're all dead.”
Lek stirred a little. “Give her time,” Destiny said. “Let her wake up.”
But she was already sitting up on the medic, ripping off the oxygen mask. “Sparkle need drops! She be animal! She no have drops she die! We all die!”
“I know,” I said. “But we don't have any. Do you have some?”
“I no want be animal and dealer hurt real bad,” she said, glancing at Tammy. “All I got is all I got!”
“You're lucid,” Destiny said. What the hell does lucid mean? “If Tammy dies we're all dead, you can see that. Now we're trying to save Sparkle. We don't want anyone going through withdrawal. How much would it take to save Sparkle and how much do you have?”
“I no have enough,” she said. “I be animal before I get to Mars.”
I got mean; this was one of those God damned times I really hate, when I had to be an asshole just to keep people from dying.
“Lek, what you got is what you got unless you're willing to share. And you know what you got won't get you all the way to Mars, we'll all be dead first. I'll tie you up and let you die from withdrawal if you won't help Sparkle.”
“You would not do that!”
“Watch me, bitch. My job is getting all of us to Mars alive, or at least as many of us as possible. Now where are your God damned drops and how much does Sparkle need?”
She pulled out a bottle, one of the kinds with a dropper for a cap. “She only need one drop now, only in one eye, give rest back, okay? I no want be animal.”
“Thank you,” I said, “I'll give you your bottle back. I know that's why you want to go to Mars. You don't want to be a dropper.”
“I want be human again,” she said. “I not dropper, I drophead. I no want be animal. I hope Tammy wake up or we all dead.”
Yeah, me too.
We would be okay if Tammy woke up in time, but she was still in a coma when it was time for bed. At least the medic's readout had said her “condition was upgraded to fair”.


Chapter 42
Chapter 44

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