“I’ve just arrived,” said the space janitor. (Space Janitor: Late arrivals)
“Obviously,” said the being the podium. The being behind the counter had some British Bulldog predominating in genealogy. The classic line, late 20th century. Deliberately designed to have respiratory problems. Here standing before the space janitor, this one. A quick check of the photographic ID revealed his name to be Hinkel. Seemed to be nearing the end of his life. His face had drooped showing the blood-red bed of his eyes.
“What’s my purpose?” the space janitor said, not thinking. He looked around, while many ships had come in this did not look like the main spaceport area. Space Janitor: Late arrivals
“You having a laugh?” Hinkel asked from behind his podium, “Look at your badge.”
The space janitor looked at the ID badge.
“Opult? Who is that” asked the space janitor. Space Janitor: Late arrivals
“Turn it the other way round you mangy mutt. You’re looking at it upside down” said Hinkel. The podium wobbled under the weight he exerted. Buttons heaved on the stained blue shirt. Space Janitor: Late arrivals
The space janitor craned his head to get a better perspective. As in to say, he looked at it the right way round. There he was. At least, he would have to assume it was. There was something in the space janitor, a voice that told him what he read was authentic. No one would give out false information. What would they have to gain? The space janitor made eye contact with a still image of what he assumed was him unless told otherwise. Brown and white fur. Eyes, big and bulging. More than he would like them too. How did they remain seated in the skull? Tongue hanging lopsided to the left. The space janitor was glad that he was on the inside looking out rather than having to look at himself.
“Are you finished admiring yourself?” Hinkel leaned in.
Space Janitor: Late arrivals
Space Janitor looked up from the badge at the crescent moon pupils staring him down.
“I wasn’t admiring myself” Space Janitor corrected.
“You sure were looking long enough, you sure your vanity levels aren’t too high?” Hinkel asked.
“To be honest, I’m not sure what my vanity levels are. If anything is high, it is my curiosity. I’ve never seen my appearance.” said Space Janitor.
“You don’t have any cat DNA in your system. Unless there has been an error in which case I can recommend you for disintegration.” Hinkel said. Space Janitor: Late arrivals
Hinkel drummed his paws on the podium, expecting an answer.
Somewhere in the distance, a turbine turned.
It kicked to life. Slow at first before building to an appropriate operational speed.
It took a moment for Findo, Space Janitor to understand that he was being addressed directly.
“What, oh, no. Please don’t recommend disintegration yet. I’ve only just arrived, and it has been so much fun for the length of time I’ve been here, alive. Speaking of how long have I been. It’s clear my memory is blank, yet I can speak and respond to authority. Am I brand new or my mind has been blanked?” Space Janitor said.
Hinkel looked physically pained by the question. Pupils disappeared behind folds of fur. When they reemerged, they were accompanied a few inches below by prominent canines. Canines as in teeth. Hinkel didn’t have smaller dogs in his mouth or have dogs for teeth. I know this is sci-fi but c’ mon.
“You, brand new? If I hadn’t had my laughter nodules removed I would laugh” said Hinkel.
Hinkel added “What are you? Be you a brand spanking new species or the reanimated bones of the wolf who dared to approach a fire. Let me tell you. It doesn’t matter.” Drool dripped and dropped from Hinkel’s mouth.
“Oh, just wondering.” Space Janitor said. Space Janitor: Late arrivals
Hinkel flipped a glass guard covering a red button. Paw hovered over the button.
“Maybe there was an error. Come to think of it you do look a little like a cat”.
Space Janitor watched the finger, molecules from the button. His eyes widened further as if that were possible, it was. Space Janitor gulped deep. Space Janitor: Late arrivals
Then he spoke.
“No, no, no. I’m a dog. No error here.” Space Janitor said.
“Very well then in that case. You’ll have to get to work then.” Said Hinkel.
“Ok then,” said Space Janitor, he hugged himself. The turbine had created a draft. The clothing the Space Janitor wore was thin, and he could feel the cold cut through him. Space Janitor did not know if he should say something. He decided against it as Hinkel looked as if he had fallen asleep on his feet. Some snoring would have been a welcome indicator.
“Get going then! Get out of my sight you mangy mutt.” barked Hinkel, his dog tones a low rumble below his voice. Space Janitor jumped to attention and looked beyond Hinkel. There was no apparent exit from the area. Space Janitor walked on past Hinkel.
“Where do you think you’re going. The personal pipe, over there by the mesh.” said Hinkel “You know failure to move forward is a sign of defection.”
Space Janitor nodded his head and made his way over to the transparent tube. Now he was closer he could see the entrance. A small handle. Space Janitor took it, twisted and opened. There was a strong wind force that almost ripped his arm off. He closed the door and looked about for a less violent way to ascend out of the area.
Space Janitor looked round to Hinkel who stood looking at him, or at least, so he thought. He could feel his eyes burning from behind his heavy lids eclipsing the iris.
Space Janitor gulped deep and opened the door to the tube. He closed his eyes and jumped in. The force of acceleration caused Space Janitor to breathe rapidly. His breathing slowed down after a moment, his body became still.
After a few seconds, the darkness of metal surroundings gave way.
A curtain pulled back before the Space Janitor revealing a landscape before him. Stretching as far as the eye could see and in the distance a twist. He looked over his shoulder and saw a similar sight.
Above there was a brightness that his eye could not focus on causing his great big eyes to water. He looked away, he looked down. Blinking, through the tears, he could not make out clearly what he saw. All he knew was he saw movement. So much action. Different speeds, distances and directions. There was movement of distinct sizes. Even then, the flurry of activity drew attention to the few instances of stillness.
The wind of the tube gave way to a new sound. Something Space Janitor had not heard before, but he knew instinctively what he heard. It was music. Repetitive, upbeat and dull. It became loud. Space janitor tried to cover his ears. The tube was so narrow when he did there was such a brief spark of pain he decided to endure.
Space Janitor took in as much of the sights and then he could feel himself slow down. He was approaching, and area and the tube went down. The movement became less decisive. There was a moment where he thought he could make out individual faces.
As he travelled head first in a downward direction, it got darker.
Darker and darker it got until the twinkling of lights made themselves visible. Space Janitor could see the ground become visible before him. Other shapes were disembarking different tubes. Where they dogs like him? Where they future friends as of yet unmade. He got excited and then panicked. He was arriving upside down.
Space Janitor wormed and squirmed in his tube to make sure he was the right way round. To no avail, he landed on his noggin.
The door opened, and a hand outstretched.
“Get up,” said a voice. Space Janitor took the outstretched hand and struggled to his feet. The hand and voice belonged to an old human. His face weathered, eyes bloodshot.
“Thank you,” said the Space Janitor, dusting himself off. Noticed his thin green jumpsuit had a tear in it now.
“Outta my way. Don’t be going thinking that I did it for you” said the old human. From the tube the music ended, a female voice spoke to Space Janitor.
“Thank you for listening, you now owe 10 credits for your listening pleasure and 10 for your travel. If you want to get there in a jiffy use Jiffy Tube ™. “ The female voice ceased. The old human swung himself upside down using the bar and shot up the tube.
Space Janitor looked around to see where he was supposed to go. It wasn’t entirely clear. He was awash in a sea of faces. He was knocked side to side and realised there was no way for him to see above the throng.
Decided to navigate towards the sides as there might be some respite. Found an alcove and gathered thoughts. It didn’t take long as there weren’t many to collect. Space Janitor was thirsty. Wondered what the smell was and if he could piggyback off one of the more massive creatures.
Those were the smaller thoughts flitting around his skull. There was a more immense thought, not so much a thought as a burning desire. The desire to clean. All around him, mess, trash, refuse. He could not deny his own want to clean. He could feel his tongue grow heavy with salivation.
A can glinted at him through the throng.
He would tidy it away and then work out where he was supposed to go next.
Getting down on bended knee he crawled towards it, gingerly reaching out to grab the item. The kicks and bumps of people mattered not someone even tripped over him.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Space Janitor looked up to see a mouth snarling at him.
“Speak now, are you a vagrant? Vagrants can beg outside. You’re on bended knee because of this? I don’t know if you are an imbecile or not. Look at my uniform, you recognise it, don’t you?” said the snarler.
Space Janitor said nothing. The snarler was in a dark blue outfit. He also wore black boots, and there was a belt going around the waist. It was adorned with various devices. A long metallic cylinder with a grip. It was mainly a baton, but you know, futuristic. Space janitor shrugged.
“I’m only just arrived,” said Space Janitor. The snarler rolled beady eyes.
“If you have only arrived, then why are you fannying about on the ground. Would you not be better getting to a servo station and find out where you are supposed to go?” said the snarler.
“I don’t know, would that be your recommendation?” said Space Janitor.
“My recommendation to you? Report to the nearest euthaniser and be done with the whole sorry affair. My ForSec training has conditioned me to believe suicide is the cureall to most problems. However, I don’t think it’s the case for you, yet.”
Space Janitor nodded and got to his feet. Talking to the snarler had given the two a more inches of room. It felt like there was some respite from the constant barrage.
Space Janitor wanted the conversation to go on for much longer so he could breathe a little steadier.
“Where am I to go?” asked Space Janitor. The snarler turned and thrust his arm out, pointing to a large computer terminal. In doing so, he struck a pedestrian in the face. The walker went down. Nose exploding a purple goo onto the pedestrian’s face.
“You bust my ink sack!” a muffled voice from under tentacles shouted.
The snarler stood over the injured pedestrian. Space Janitor looked on.
“Get up, you have six sacks, plenty more. Don’t get so upset.” said snarler.
“I can help clean it up,” said Space Janitor. The snarler turned round to Space Janitor, eyes wide bulging, reminded him of his own.
“You are supposed to be finding out where you are to go,” said the snarler. Emphatically, snarler gesticulated to the terminal through the crowd. Space Janitor looked over to it and then back to the two.
“This is going to be taken further,” said the be-tentacled pedestrian still holding his face.
“You’re right it is,” said the snarler, “You’re going to have a dead ForSec officer on your hands so you will. How would you like that? Don’t believe me, I’ll kill myself right now and name you in the documents. Then what will happen? Could you live with that? You won’t have to because it would be instant death. There’s no committing suicide for you when you’re dead. Come on, let’s go, I’ll kill myself right now, ready?”
The crowd drew a curtain around the two. Space janitor did not want to see anymore and would have to make his way towards the terminal.
It was a fight against a strong current of faces. All splitting and dividing in different directions.
Space Janitor stuck close to the more giant beings as he was able to slip between the legs of them. The more legs they had, the better as it gave him more opportunities to map out a course to his destination.
The creature providing shelter for him was altering course. Space Janitor would have to throw himself out into the fray. Taking a deep breath, he did so. There was a part of him that was fearful and another part enjoying the game of traversal.
Getting to the terminal, he managed to sequester himself a place.
On pressing a button, it asked him a question.
“Where do you want to go?”
“Where do I want to go?” Space Janitor asked himself aloud.
“Where do you want to go?” the terminal parroted back to him.
“I don’t know where I am supposed to be,” said Space Janitor.
“You are beyond my help. I can get you there, but I do require you to tell me where there is in the first place.” said the terminal.
“Can you help give me an idea?” asked Space Janitor looking at the layout of the map. No, where looked familiar. Why would it look familiar, Space Janitor thought to himself. This was his first time being here.
Space Janitor felt himself being shoved violently to one side.
“Out of the way short stuff.” said a giant being. It looked mildly irritated. “Bloomin’ gravity settings here. Too heavy. Oi, I need to get a suspensor suit. Actually, wait, is there a place where the gravity is a little less oppressive for someone of my weight. I want to feel like I weigh attractive.”
“There is a suspensorium several crabits from this location. If you relocate yourself to B-level, you may find an atmospheric pressure more to your liking.” said the terminal. The massive beast grunted and then slithered away. It left a trail of mucous membrane in its wake. Some fellow travellers avoided the slime. Most trudged on through only slightly slowing before adapting and picking up speed.
Space Janitor looked back around at the terminal.
A large area of flat against a wall.
Multiple users using it for the most brief of moments before going along on their way.
Space Janitor found a free point. If he wanted a better response, he would have to ask a more direct question. He would have to phrase his question carefully. Space Janitor thought for a moment.
“Terminal, can you help me get to the nearest. Janitorial office. On this level. Thank you.”
The terminal took a moment before coming to life.
“Yes, certainly. You are looking for the Edgerion Point. It is one quarbleck from this point.” said the terminal.
“Is that far from here?” asked Space Janitor.
“What is your mode of transport?” asked the terminal.
“None,” said Space Janitor.
“Scanning,” said the terminal. Space Janitor felt the terminal glint at him. “Complete,” the terminal said. “It will take seven of your kinds of life cycles to traverse that distance on foot.”
“Not local then?” said Space Janitor.
“It’s the nearest” responded the terminal then went quiet.
“Terminal,” said Space Janitor.
“My name is Orthrox. I may not have feelings, but I still experience emotions due to a programming error.”
“OK, Orthrox?” asked Space Janitor. He turned around and saw there was a queue forming behind him. He made eye contact with the patriarch of a large family of mice creatures.
“Please hurry up.” said the mouse. Space Janitor nodded and turned around to the terminal.
“Orthrox, I need to get to Edgerion Point as soon as possible please.” Space Janitor said.
“You’re entitled to a free trial of our internal galaxi service. It is the fastest mode of transport.”
“I’ll take it.”
“You will need to read terms and service.”
“Please, just let me get there. I only have one life cycle, and I feel like I’m running late already.”
“I can beam all the information into your head,” said Orthrox the terminal.
“KOK. Will it take long?” asked Space Janitor.
“It was transferred after you said OK.”
“Is that it, is it safe?”
“Here’s an old computer saying we have in these instances: 404.”
“I see,” said Space Janitor.
“Right. You are all set. A galaxi is on its way. Please stand by.”
Space Janitor felt a shadow grow large above him.
A claw fell on top of him, clenched and lifted.
Suddenly it became very dark and wet for Space Janitor.
Space Janitor panicked and felt he was drowning. He couldn’t see. Thrashing in the darkness, he felt adrift. He went to scream, but his mouth was being held shut. Somehow he was still able to breathe. Taking a moment, he slowed his breath right down.
Feeling out in front of him, there was a spongy service. There was a tremoring deep below him, and he decided to relax into the darkness. Space Janitor gathered his thoughts. It didn’t take long.
He was hungry. There was something else. Another feeling he hadn’t yet encountered.
Was it gassiness? No, Space Janitor would wait and see.
The tremoring stopped.
A blast of bright light to his face. Whatever held his mouth shut released. Space Janitor felt hoisted high into the air and then rushed to the ground. Firm, solid ground.
It took a moment for him to asianate himself. He was laid on his back. Covered in a transparent jelly-like viscous material. He rolled over onto his front. Wiped as much as he could off.
There was a loud thud nearby, and he watched the galaxi stomp off into the distance.
Space Janitor coughed and stood up.
Before him, there was a large building. He could see that this was the place where he was supposed to go. He pursed his lips and proceeded forwards.
The building was a hub of activity. There was a multitude of bipedal canines like himself. None where the same breed as Space Janitor but he could find his own kind further in he wagered.
Space Janitor smiled for the first time since he had come into existence. He bounded towards the entrance of the building. Space Janitor: Late arrivals
While he may have been among his own, his fellow travellers paid him no mind. They pushed him jostled him, on the rare occasion he was addressed he was told to watch his step.
Space Janitor approached the desk.
“What time do you call this?” asked a canine sat behind.