Space Janitor (061-070) couldn’t make out any signs of life. While Shep had not been in here long, there were already signs of the freeze on him.
Space Janitor gave Shep a nudge. The dog was an icicle. Space Janitor shook harder, nothing happened.
Space Janitor became impatient and frustrated. He shook him harder. A light dusting of frost was shaken loose.
“Shep, Shep, wake up!” said Space Janitor. Space Janitor grabbed him by the scruff and was shaking him violently now. Shep flopped in Space Janitor’s grip. There was a belief in him there was a way for him to shake off the death grip.
As he shook, he wondered was it possible for him to even get out of here alone, alive. Would it be better for him to curl up beside him and let the cold take him?
Space Janitor laughed at the thought that if it weren’t going to be the gunk, then it would be the cold. No matter how you looked at it existence seemed to be more of choosing what will come and kill you in the end. That which does not kill me will eventually kill me, Space Janitor thought to himself.
The cold was giving Space Janitor a headache. The Speglactic was becoming heavier on his back.
“Spenglactic are you still working?” Space Janitor asked faintly. As he spoke, Space Janitor could see his breath sublime from hot ait into solid ice against the shelves. A shiver emanated from deep inside Space Janitor. A tremor felt like an earthquake he was so weak.
“I’m working, although not for long at this temp. Where are we anyway? Your kind doesn’t hibernate.”
“I’m standing over Shep, we’re in a nook within a larger food storage vault. How do we wake him up?”
Space Janitor waited for Spenglactic to respond.
“You gotta heat him up using me,” Spenglactic said. “You can’t hit him directly, or else you’ll boil his insides or something. I don’t know I’m not a doctor. I’m an inanimate object with a baseline of intelligence. Like your mother.”
Space Janitor didn’t get the insult so didn’t respond.
“Tough crowd. Look, you gotta heat the area around Shep but be careful when you do. Why, because there’s a chance he might melt or something. Again, it’s not an exact science, what do I know?” The Spenglactic let the question hang in the air. “If you want to help him, I’d get started.”
Space Janitor adjusted the settings on the nozzle of the Spenglactic. He made sure to aim to the side of Shep. Space Janitor’s hands were seizing up. He also noticed that his vision was narrowing. He would need to speed up as much for his own sake as for Shep.
Space Janitor thumbed the nozzles and pulled the lever. Spenglactic sputtered before unleashing a beam of pure heat.
The beam heated the shelf that Shep was perched on. Space Janitor could see it was going to take a while before it heated up in any significant way.
Space Janitor wondered if he should risk moving the beam closer to Shep to hasten the process. What was the worst that could happen? Shep might get his fur frazzled slightly.
Space Janitor wondered could he risk it. If he did it might end badly for all involved most of all Shep who he had grown accustomed. It would be the worst way to end their relationship. Space Janitor melting his skin off, but these are the risks that you take when you are in the working world.
Space Janitor asked himself, what should I do?
Space Janitor realised that he would have to act fast. He knew that he shouldn’t take unnecessary risky steps. It was either something awful or something terrible. The cold of death hugged him ever tighter. Space Janitor moved the nozzle and waved the beam of hearing over Shep’s body. Space Janitor instinctively gulped. Even Spenglactic knew there was some wrong. Could Spenglactic smell the burnt hair?
“What’s going on mutt? I picked up a bit of a wobble on your part. Tell me what’s going on. Keep me updated. There’s something up isn’t there?” Spenglactic said. There was an insistence in its tone.
“There’s nothing wrong. Nothing at all.” Space Janitor said his voice cracked. He laughed nervously and slumped forward.
“Who taught you how to lie. My goodness at least that’s one thing about you. The only person more trustworthy than an honest John is a bad liar.” said the Spenglactic. It was true.
An advantage was that the embarrassment Space Janitor felt was causing him to heat up. Space Janitor liked the feeling and hold onto it for as long as possible.
“Mutt, you need to engage your brain. I don’t know if you know what happened, but you’re kind of keeping me in suspense. That’s OK and all. It’s just the thing is if you turned this guy into sheesh-kebab then lemme know and maybe I can calculate a way out of this. It might not be doable, but there you go.” Spenglactic continued. Space Janitor was glad it was able to second guess him.
“I may have dragged the beam over him,” said Space Janitor.
“And?” Spenglactic asked.
“And what?” Space Janitor retorted, confused.
“Did he melt?” Spenglactic asked.
“No, he still seems to be in one piece. He hasn’t woken up.”
“Then, why not hit him again?” Spenglactic asked.
Space Janitor considered the implications of what Spenglactic was asking. His mouth tightened, and he clenched his teeth. It was a combination of involuntary reaction and nervousness. If he was going to do it, then now may as well be the time. There was no response coming from Shep. Space Janitor decided that it would be best for everyone if he would follow it through. See where it would lead.
Space Janitor decided to do a quick pass on Shep with the heat ray. It was not on full power. Space Janitor knew that on some level there was a chance that Shep was getting microwaved on the inside. With doom breathing down their necks, why the hell not? Try something, he thought to himself.
Space Janitor made another pass over Shep. There was still no movement from the dog that lay on the shelf.
Space Janitor passed Shep over with the heat beam. Did it a few more times. Still no movement. There was also no evidence of physical change on his part. Space Janitor decided that he would hold the heat beam over Shep for a little longer this time. After all, at this point Space Janitor was more curious to see if he was making any kind of difference.
The beam was now pointed directly at Shep. Space Janitor struggled to see over the beam of light emanating from the end of the nozzle. Nothing, so Space Janitor squeezed tighter on the lever, increasing the power. Space Janitor could smell something now. There was a burning in the air. Panic, blind panic. Space Janitor pointed the nozzle back to the shelf.
He could feel it now thick in the air, burning.
Space Janitor stood and looked at Shep. Something was moving somewhere. Was Shep alive?
Space Janitor saw Shep’s eyes shoot open, alive after all. Shep yelped, rolled off the shelves. Space Janitor released the grip from the lever. The freezing cold of their surroundings pounced on both of them. Space Janitor felt like tiny ice mites were scrambling to penetrate his jumpsuit. He wriggled and jiggled to cast off the imaginary beings.
Space Janitor crouch walked to Shep’s side.
“You’re alive,” said Space Janitor with a combination of surprise and joy. Shep’s eyes flickered to find focus. They widened when they registered Space Janitor.
“I’m alive? More like you’re alive. You were gunk drunk last I saw of you.” said Shep. His voice was soft and low, but somewhere inside him, there was a fire growing larger.
“No, I managed to get my Spenglactic working. It was working the whole time. It just didn’t want to.” said Space Janitor.
“If, if we get out of here, you might need to short its personality,” Shep said.
“Watch it there, Bub,” said Spenglactic. “It was me what got you wokened up an all.”
“Well, we’ll have to see about that,” said Shep.
“Oh, we will,” said Spenglactic. “We’re not out of this yet, and you know what, maybe when it comes down to it my batteries are running low. Might need to store power if you get what I’m saying. You got to ask yourself, how’s your battery life.”
“Let’s not argue,” Space Janitor interrupted. “We all, still exist, and for the most part, are conscious. Let’s figure out how to get out of here. Shep, can you walk?” asked Space Janitor.
“I’m a little stiff,” said Shep.
“In this temperature, a little is a lot,” said Spenglactic. Neither of the mutts responded. To be fair to them, his delivery was off.
“Can I help you up?” Space Janitor asked.
Space Janitor stood over Shep, looking down at him.
“You could give me a hand if you wanted,” Shep said, extending a hand.
Space Janitor leaned over to help him up. In the cold of the walk-in freezer Space Janitor’s limbs felt numb. His arms could be wrenched out without his awareness. Shep took Space Janitor’s arm. He rocked himself forward to give the appropriate amount of momentum.
“I must have put on weight,” said Shep. He smiled and heaved himself harder.
“If it’s possible” Space Janitor began. “There’s a chance that I’ve become weaker, not that you would notice, I was pretty weak, to begin with.” Space Janitor leaned back where he stood hoping Shep would pull himself up. He wobbled in his place. Space Janitor’s blinking slowed down. There was a chance he was asleep on his feet.
“Something’s not right,” said Shep. Shep heaved himself harder, he was building up the momentum. Space Janitor pulled back too. He may have become frozen to the spot. Had he become one with the floor. He hoped not.
Shep was brought upright and slipped off to one side.
“What the what?” Shep blurted out. He looked down. Space Janitor’s focus was not great, Shep’s balance was worse. “Mutt, did you stop to think where you pointed that nozzle of yours? You’ve melted my foot off!”
Space Janitor’s focus came rushing back to him and directed his gaze down towards Shep’s foot. Well, sort of foot. It was now a stump. Had Space Janitor done that? Could it have frozen off and snapped? Space Janitor was reluctant to own up to the melted foot. Not before he was sure it was him. After all, it was pretty cold in the walk-in freezer.
“Are you sure it was me?” Space Janitor asked.
“What?” Shep asked.
“Are you sure it was me?” Space Janitor asked.
“It’s just you and me in here,” said Shep.
“I’m here too,” Spenglactic said.
“Alright, then who did it?” Shep barked.
“I don’t have visual sensors.” Spenglactic chirped back.
“You’re useless in that case. Stay out of this, alright? No more from you.” Shep said. “Do you have any idea how much this is going to hurt whenever feeling returns. When I thaw out, I’m going to bleed and feel. I’m going to make sure you’re with me every step of the way. I should have known better than to trust a new mutt.”
“Hold on,” said Spenglactic.
“What did I tell you about staying out of it?” Shep said to Spenglactic. Shep kept his eyes fixed on the empty space where a right foot used to stay.
“You told me to stay out of it. I’ve been working with this mutt for a while now. I can tell you, would not do something as careless as melt a foot. Maybe a wrist or two but not a foot. Now from what I understand, bio-organisms such as yourself depend heavily on feet. I know this, this guy knows this. He was trying to help you. It probably snapped off in the cold. You dumb mutt.”
“Don’t call me mutt,” said Shep.
“Don’t call him mutt then in that case. He has a name too, you know,” said Spenglactic.
“What is it then?” said Shep.
“Look, my primary function is not to debate details. I wasn’t created to debate.” Said Spenglactic. “I’m here to clean, so are you, so is” there was a silence, “Rex?”
“That’s not it either,” said Space Janitor. To be honest, I’m getting curious about his name too.
“Then what do we do?” Shep asked.
Space Janitor stood and wondered if it was his turn to speak.
Thankfully for him, Spenglactic took the lead.
“We need to get out of here and take that gunk head-on. I’m aware gunk don’t have bodies let alone heads, but you catch my drift right? I can take the cold. You guys get a little chilly, and you start napping. A walk in this big, there has to some kind of entree transport. Look around, also keep an eye out for your foot.” Spenglactic sounded official yet authoritative.
Shep’s shoulders slumped down, and he hobbled along, looking to see if there was a spare foot lying around.
“Thanks for defending me there. I appreciate it.” Space Janitor whispered to Spenglactic.
“Eh, don’t worry about it. Look there’s several modules worth of upgrades I want to experience. It’s not going to happen if I get mistaken for some kind of metallic noodle in this freezer. Let’s find some kind of transport. It’ll have wheels and some kind of flat back. Grav-thrusts don’t work this cold.”
“I don’t know if I did melt his foot, thanks for knowing,” said Space Janitor thinking back. There was nothing in his memory that stuck out to him.
“Look I may have tuned out myself. Fact is, what was Shep doing coming back here. You saved him. We get him out, he saves up and gets a new foot. He could get one grown for him if he’s feeling fancy. If he wants to chase after you, you’re one step ahead of him.” Said Spenglactic, his joke falling flat with Space Janitor and to be honest, you the reader.
“I’m coming to the main corridor. There’s a small vehicle with tracks against a wall. It’s flat at the back.” said Space Janitor.
“Sounds good. Much room?” asked Spenglactic.
Space Janitor looked and made an estimated guess.
“There’s some, we won’t know until we try” Space Janitor replied.
“Let’s get back to Hopalong Cassidy,” said Spenglactic.
Space Janitor returned to find Shep was leant over a shelf. If he was moving, it was imperceptible to most eyes that could see in the infrared spectrum.
Space Janitor approached Shep. Reaching out a hand to touch him. Space Janitor hesitated.
“What’s the matter now?” asked Spenglactic. “His ears freeze off?”
“Huh, what, yeah,” said Shep. He moved away. Turning around to face the direction of Space Janitor’s voice. “I’m blind too, did you melt my eyes too?”
“Your lids are frozen shut.” said Space janitor. Subtle spiky spears coated Shep’s lashes. “Further reason to get you out of here now.”
“If I get out of here in on piece. You know what too late. If I somehow manage to escape without further loss of appendage I think it’ll be a miracle.” said Shep.
His voice was hoarse.
Hoarse as in the sound not as in Seabiscuit. Do you know what I mean? I guess I haven’t established what other kinds of domesticated animals are sentient. There’s a chance that it has not been confirmed yet. At the moment, in the meantime, it doesn’t matter. What I’m cack handedly trying to get across to you is that Shep’s condition was worsening. Is that a word in your time? Leave it a few years.
“Hold on, he’s blind?” Spenglactic asked.
“No, his eyelids have frosted over,” said Space Janitor.
“You’re going to need him seeing,” said Spenglactic. “Can you defrost them?”.
Space Janitor reached out, it was solid, and it was stuck. He tugged a little on the lashes.
“Ouch, is that you?” asked Shep.
“No, it’s the wind,” said Space Janitor to Shep. “Now, what do we do?” Space Janitor whispered to the Spenglactic.
“Well?” Space Janitor whispered louder.
“We still got this it’s all good,” said Spenglactic. “You got to get him moving though.”
“Shep, it’s time to move,” said Space Janitor.
“Just let me rest awhile,” Shep said. His body stooped over.
“No, no, we have a job to do. Let’s get your pack. Where is it? ” Space Janitor asked.
“It just got so heavy. I took it off only for a little while. Only a little”. Shep his voice trailing off. The wind rushed through the freezer. The doors had been left open too long, and now the motors were kicking in. Spenglactic’s sensor picked it up.
“Kid, you gotta get that old dog moving. This place is going to drop even harder if we don’t vamoose.” Spenglactic informed. Space Janitor nodded to himself and grabbed onto Shep. There were scattered parts of the pack near the shelf Shep had been sleeping on.
“Your pack Shep. It’s smashed to bits. What happened?” Space Janitor said looking at the parts on the ground.
“It wouldn’t work for me,” Shep said pleading. “It wouldn’t work. So I got an.” There he was trailing off again.
“That’s going to be a problem,” said Spenglactic. “Before you ask, lemme explain. Coded the packs. To each of you, personally. He can’t use yours. I was hoping we coulda propped him up. He coulda propelled us out of here. Looks like that’s not going to be the case. He’s going to have to drive. You’re going to have to be the propulsion and trust in him.”
“He’ll crash,” said Space Janitor. His voice flat monotone.
A cold blast hit Space Janitor, shrinking his posture down to a huddle. He gripped Shep tight. If he let him go, he might not ever get him back.
“Shep, Shep, can you hear me?” Space Janitor shouted, competing with the roar of the wind.
“What is it?” Shep asked.
Would you mind reading from the beginning because it’s a fantastic place to start. You can find the first instalment of Space Janitor by clicking here.
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