Chapter Forty Five




I got up about seven thirty or so, and Destiny was still asleep. I started coffee and told the robot to make breakfast, and then I shit, shaved, and got dressed in the clothes I'd worn the day before; I'd be nasty after engine inspections.
Destiny was still asleep and I had to be in the pilot room in fifteen minutes, so I started eating by myself. At five 'til I filled my coffee and took the rest of my breakfast to the pilot room. Huh? Eggs and bacon. What? Of course it was turkey bacon. Now knock it off before I walk out of here.
At a minute to eight I put it down, of course, and when readings were done I finished eating, and went back to my quarters to fill my coffee. If I told the stupid robots to get me a cup they'd pour the pot of good coffee down the drain and give me a cup of that nasty robot coffee. Stupid robots. Stupid robot programmers. What the hell is wrong with them? Ain't they never been on a boat? Don't they drink coffee?
I had another full inspection today since it had been too dangerous to inspect cargo the day before. I'd talked to Ramos, the fleet commander, about parts for the busted generator but he told me it would have to be fixed on Mars because nobody had the parts out here and it was going to have to be rebuilt in any case. At least the robots got the other one fixed with a part from another one of his boats. He said he could spare a few maids, which was a relief, it really stank downstairs. Maybe they'd have it cleaned up before we got to Mars.
Tammy came walking down the hallway, with her face still badly bruised and with her arm in a sling, looking like she was in pain. “The medic released you?” I asked.
“Yeah. It gave me a bottle of some kind of synthetic opiate but I'm not taking them, I need a clear mind. I'm taking Ibotrin.”
“That better than naproxin?” I asked.
“Not much,” she said. “Maybe a little. Look, I need to control the medics, I need readings on all the droppers and the computer says I don't have clearance for what I need to do. Can you fix that for me?”
“Yeah,” I said, pulling out my fone. “Computer, give Doctor Winters complete access and command control to all medical robots for the, uh, duration of the trip.”
“Acknowledged,” It said.
“Thanks,” she said.
“No,” I said, “No need to thank me, you're trying to keep me and everybody else alive and you're researching how to cure monsters. Look, Tammy, I have to finish my inspec...” an alarm went off, it was Ramos. “Captain Knolls, it's Commander Ramos. There is pirate activity, what are your orders, sir?”
Sir? What the hell, I work for a living!
“Have you done this kind of thing before, Commander?”
“Yes, sir, we're very experienced. I studied at Annapolis and was a commander in the Marine Space Corps, and my men are all ex-military as well. And we've been seriously kicking some pirate ass lately, too, sir.” There's that damned “sir” again.
“Good,” I said, “your orders are to protect our people and property. Wait to transfer the robots until things quiet down.”
“Yes sir.”
“Don't call me sir, God damn it, I work for a living!”
“Yes si..., uh, yes, Captain Knolls.
“Call me John. What's your name?”
“Joe.” I wondered what the whores would call him?
“Just do your job and we'll be okay, Joe. Okay?”
“Yes, Captain.” Shit. Oh, well, these ate-up military guys never change. I know, I spent a hitch in the Army and all the lifers were ate up like that. I hear the Marines are the most ate up of all the military branches. Assholes...
I let Ramos worry about the pirates, that was his job now. I had a bunch of drug addicts that were all worse than vampires and werewolves to deal with. Lots more dangerous than stupid damned pirates, especially with a fleet and an experienced commander protecting us from the pirates and nobody but ourselves to protect us from the monsters. And I still had inspection. And I didn't know if Tammy had gotten them under control yet. Or even if she could all busted up like that.
Nope, not gonna inspect cargo today again, still way too damned dangerous, I don't care what the damned book says. I called Tammy and asked her to call me when the cargo pens were relatively safe.
Nothing caught fire when I inspected the empty passengers quarters that the company is stupid enough to power and have maids clean.
The starboard generator was fine, engine seventeen... damn it, the one that shorted out earlier and a robot was working on it. I unplugged it, sealed the plug hole with epoxy and told the computer to keep the damned robots away from it. I was done with everything before noon, except the damned cargo inspection. I wanted to hear from the doctor first.
Destiny was sitting on the couch watching the news with a cup of coffee when I got out of the shower. “You're a little early today,” she remarked.
“I didn't inspect cargo,” I said. “I want to make sure Tammy gets the monsters under control first. I'd inspect the Frankenstein monster's house before I'd inspect a dropless drophead's house. Damned addicts. Is there any good coffee left?”
“I just made another pot. Are you hungry?”
“I could eat. What are you having?”
“I don't know, maybe a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of potato soup.”
I told the robot to make lunch and poured a cup of coffee and a glass of water.
We watched the news as we ate lunch. The news was talking about the Martian terraforming project. They had the hole halfway drilled and something went wrong and the machinery caught fire. It must have been built by the same morons that designed our old robots. Three people were in the hospital, one in critical condition.
The hole they were drilling was for a big magnet. The lady on the news said that without a magnetic field, a planet can't hold much of an atmosphere and there's no shield against solar and cosmic radiation.
The whole terraforming project was expected to take a few hundred more years to complete. Moving landfill from the asteroid belt and ice from Saturn's rings wasn't slated to start for another fifty years, but when it was done Mars would have Earth gravity or close, a similar atmosphere, lakes, rivers, and oceans, and they wouldn’t need the domes any more.
Everyone on the Venus station was dead. They were debating what to do with it.
Commander Ramos called with news that the pirate boats had all been eradicated, fifteen had been captured and the crews put in detention. Damn, but he's good. Four of them were our company’s boats, and eleven were from two other companies who would be paying us recovery fees. Hell, they did have some of our boats! I hadn't thought they could do that. Of course, they would have had mine if it wasn't for Tammy's monster blockade and then the fleet showing up.
Then Tammy called and said it was safe to inspect cargo pens, so I did. The German woman was in the commons eating and the rest were all sleeping, except Lek, who was apparently reading although I wouldn't be able to read it. It was obviously in Thai and they must have a completely different alphabet than us, because it was just squiggles to me.
I complimented her on her dress. She smiled weakly despite her bloodshot eyes; Tammy's book said she was in pretty much pain right now and no other drug would ease it. She would have to put a drop in soon, even though she didn't want to.
We would be docking at the repair facility the day after tomorrow, and the landing boats would already be docked there. Destiny and me would fly down in my houseboat.
It was finally safe to drink a beer or two. I went back to my quarters and opened one, and Destiny had the robot bring her one, too, and asked me what I wanted for dinner.
“I don't know, pork chops, caviar, and Champagne maybe?”
She laughed. “Yeah, on gold plates and silver cutlery! Fried chicken and mashed potatoes and broccoli sounds good to me, what are you having?”
“Chicken sounds good.”
The robot fried the chicken and cooked the vegetables and wheeled over with the food. Robots make pretty damned good fried chicken, lots better than I can.
Then we watched some really weird movie from the end of the twenty first century, and went to bed. No, I don't know the name of the stupid movie.


Chapter 44
Chapter 46

mcgrew publishing