Space Janitor (091-100) looked up and saw the window of opportunity closing. Shep was getting further away, and the sound behind him was becoming louder.
“This might work,” Space Janitor said pulling out the cleaning nozzle as far as it would go. Space Janitor checked the back of the pack. The bar showed the power was gone almost completely. “You have a bit of juice left,” said Space Janitor. “Can I use it?”
“Wow, you gotta promise me that you’ll recharge me at some point,” Spenglactic sounded worried.
“I will,” said Space Janitor. He raised his voice to compete with the rising volume of the purging wave. It was almost on them.
“You’ll not exchange me for a better model?” Spenglactic said in a voice, pleading.
“Promise, I promise, I promise,” said Space Janitor. He heard the tidal flow crashing behind him.
“Recorded,” Spenglactic responded. “Tell him to catch. You stay here and hang onto the nozzle otherwise surfs up”.
Space Janitor looked up to Shep.
“Shep catch Spenglactic,” Shep didn’t look like he could hear what was being said. “OK Speng, go for it,”
Spenglactic powered up and boosted launching up into the air. It was a short hop, but it went past Shep who missed.
Shep grasped frantically for the pack on its way down. It sailed past him, but Shep managed to get his paws on a loop. The weight wrenched Shep down. Shep was sandwiched between a rung. His body wrapped around a rung must have hurt, but he would have to hold on.
Space Janitor held onto the nozzle and hoped it would be enough. The cleansing rush of liquid swallowed the light and darkness prevailed. The sheer force of the water had him lifted until he was parallel to the floor.
How much force was there?
Space Janitor found there was a considerable amount of force flushed through. Space Janitor felt himself being battered along by the massive outpouring of liquid.
It took all his strength to hang on. He tried to look up to Shep during this only it was to no avail. All he could see was was a dark foam, and all he could hear was a thunderous cacophony of roaring waters.
Shep was doing well to hold on. Space Janitor could feel himself being dragged back. He gripped tighter to the nozzle and ever so slightly slid his hand forward. Space Janitor made inconsequential progress. He had to persist. This would be a good chance for him to get it done. When the flood died off, he would be hanging. A victim to the laws of gravity.
Space Janitor recognised that he needed to stay gripped to the nozzle pipe. If he were to go big, then he would lose the grip of one hand and then the other, and he would be carried along to who knows where.
With his other hand, Space Janitor had it follow the dominant paw. He was working his way up closer to the pack. It was undoubtedly thorough if nothing else. Space Janitor hoped it would end.
His wish was granted.
The water flow was subsiding. Space Janitor felt himself fall a further. Now was the chance to get further along. He could afford to take a leap. It would mean that he ran the risk of falling off and being carried by the current. The alternative was to hope that Shep did not slip and would be able to hold his body weight a little longer.
Space Janitor did not want to risk it. Would he be able to catch hold?
Space Janitor forced his whole body forward. The last remnants of the water washed pash him. The cavernous tunnel was empty. Devoid of movement. Space Janitor could hear Shep catching his breath. He was wheezing hard.
Space Janitor reached out for the ladder and grabbed on.
“Shep are you still with me?” Space Janitor asked. He was concerned for the older dog. He had been put through it today. Space Janitor didn’t want to annoy him too much more. This had been his fault.
“I’m still here. What else do you think could happen today? Do you think the whole station will self destruct? This hasn’t been a great day,” Shep confided in Space Janitor.
“I’m sorry. We’ll have to get out of here. All we need to do is climb the ladder. Do you think you can do it?” Space Janitor asked, looking up at Shep. Space Janitor reached and took the Spenglactic from Shep.
Shep shrugged and then put a hand in front of the other and ascended as best he could. It was a slow climb, but Space Janitor was glad that it was almost over.
Space Janitor had managed to get Spenglactic onto his back. It had not made a sound in a while, and for now, Space Janitor didn’t concern himself.
“I hope you’re alright Spenglactic,” Space Janitor said to himself quietly. He didn’t want Shep to hear him talking to the pack. In fact, he did want Shep hearing much of anything. Space Janitor knew that he should value the silence. What more could he do, what more could he ask?
At the same time, Space Janitor didn’t want Shep to feel neglected. There was a chance that Shep was hurting more than he could fathom but would asking about it help anyone?
Space Janitor decided that it would not be in anyone’s interest to start asking questions. His constant need to pry could grate on some people, and he understood their irritation.
Space Janitor decided to hold back on speaking for now. All that mattered is that they climb the ladders and hope that their ordeal was at an end.
Shep climbed up and was out. When Space Janitor emerged from the hole in the ground, Shep was on his back. His hands were gripped, and Space Janitor could see that the older dog was trying to unclench his fists. Shep’s eyes were open, but they did not blink. Were it not for the rapid expansion and deflation of his chest Space Janitor would think him dead.
Space Janitor sank to the ground too but didn’t lie down. Instead, he bowed his head down between his legs and breathed deep. Space Janitor closed his eyes. In his mind, the events raced through his head. Strobaspocis freeze frames of traumatic events etched into his mind.
Space Janitor could hear himself bark at the memories. They were just memories, nothing to be afraid of. Space Janitor lifted his head.
Shep lay on for a moment longer. He blinked, Space Janitor knew he was back in the room. Shep rolled onto his front. Heaved himself to his feet and stretched himself out.
“We should probably get out of here. Management doesn’t like it when we screw around on the job.
“OK, back out the main entrance, do you know the way?” Space Janitor asked. Shep grunted.
As they made their way back to the front door, they registered the carnage that had been left behind.
“Do we not need to stay and clean this up. Look, there are tables overturned. Is this not our job?”
“You know what, probably,” Shep said to Space Janitor.
“Where do we start?” Space Janitor asked, looking around.
Space Janitor watched as a chandelier fell from the ceiling. He held an arm out to halt Shep. The fixture fell shattering in front of them. Glass was sent flying and bounced off their limbs.
“Let’s see if there’s any back up alright?” Shep asked Space Janitor. “If there isn’t, then we’ll have to see what our best option is. You know I’m without a paddle, and your one looks like it’s out of juice. We’re not that useful in general and to be honest, I don’t think they’ll look too kindly on this. We shouldn’t get fined. We shouldn’t. You know what we might,” Shep looked about and saw all the damage that had been done.
The two continued towards the entrance. Shep rolled his head around until he heard a distinct crack. He laughed at the relief he felt.
Space Janitor focused his attention on the door. An enormous crater in the floor of the entrance. It went down several levels. There was, even more, to clean up than he first thought. This would take years if it were left up to the two of them. Would there be any support? Space Janitor gulped at the prospect.
They circumnavigated the hole in the floor and made it to the door. Shep and Space Janitor turned and gave the room one last look.
“You know we could run from this,” Shep said. A smile crept onto his face. “If they caught us, it would mean death, but we wouldn’t have to clean anymore,”
“You need to get some medical attention Shep. You’ve been cold too long, let’s see what they say. Do you think they’ll be mad?”
“They don’t get mad,” Shep said to Space Janitor. “What they do is make sure it goes onto your account, so you have no chance of getting free. Think of it as deferred billing.”
Space Janitor and Shep made their way out the door. When they got to the other side, the station went about its business. There was no acknowledgement of what had gone on the other side of the doors. They were finally out in the artificial sunlight.
Space Janitor felt good as the rays hit him. He looked to see Shep who hobbled along beside him. They took a moment and sat down on the steps, unsure of what to do next.
Space Janitor took of the Spenglactic and lay down on the steps. The sharp corners dug into his spine, but at the moment, he didn’t care. He was glad to be warm.
The warmth dropped.
A shadow grew overhead.
Space Janitor’s eyes opened and looked up. Something was heading their way. Shep stood up.
Space Janitor joined him and stood upright. The vehicle, small, sharp and shiny landed in front of them.
A side hatch opened up revealing the Great Dane. The ship was too small for his stature. It rocked violently as the Great Dane scrambled out.
Space Janitor and Shep stood to attention as the Great Dane made his way towards them.
He began talking to them, but he was at too much of a distance to be heard. By the time he got to them all that they could make out that they were to make some kind of decision about something.
“Well, is it number one, or is it number two?” the great Dane asked.
Space Janitor looked at Shep. Shep shrugged.
“Number 2?” said Space Janitor. The Great Dane smiled at Space Janitor and nodded. “Did I choose, right?”
The Great Dane could not help but smile at Space Janitor.
“Of course, you made an excellent choice. If there’s anyone who’s equipped to clear out the landing strips it’s you,” the Great Dane said to Space Janitor.
Space Janitor wasn’t too sure what any of that meant he looked round to Shep. Shep’s eyes were wide, and his ears were up.
“Oh no,” said Shep.
“What’s the matter, Shep?” the Great Dane asked. “If anyone can do it, new pup here is more than up for the task. What better than you to guide him?”
“Can I tend to the clean up here, Max?” Shep asked the Great Dane, Max.
“How do you intend to do that? I see you are without a pack? Tell me what happened.” Max said.
Shep stuttered and stammered trying to find the words.
“It’s not my fault,” said Shep.
“I’m not worried about attributing blame at the moment,” said Max. Space Janitor watched the two of them speak.
“There was a malfunction with the pack, and it was destroyed,”
“That’s not good. That’s not good at all. You see, you can’t help with the cleanup. If anyone can it’s new pup here,” Max gestured at Space Janitor. Max turned to him. “Do you want to help with the cleanup and I’ll send Shep on his own to the next job?”
Space Janitor looked at Shep and then back round to Max.
“I’d prefer to stick with Shep if you allow it,” said Space Janitor.
“Oh, I’ll more than allow it,” said Max. “I just want to make sure you’re sure.”
“Yep,” said Space Janitor.
“Would you look at that Shep, nothing more loyal than a young pup. You could learn a thing or two from this one. Are you ready to go?” Max asked them.
“Shep needs a new pack,” Space Janitor said to Max, the Great Dane.
“Oh, if you’re doing your job right, you won’t need a pack,” Max responded.
Space Janitor, confused, looked round to Shep. Shep didn’t move.
Max regarded them and smiled.
“Get to it mutts,” Max said. “I tell you what you can take my transport. My treat, don’t say I don’t do anything for you.”
Max walked away from them. He observed the eatorium.
“This is a real mess,” Max said. “Get out of here before the sector head gets here. They don’t like setbacks.”
Space Janitor and Shep walked over towards Max’s transport.
“Getting use of his transport. That was good of him,” Space Janitor said to Shep.
“Is that what you think?” Shep said, limping towards the transport. Space Janitor kept pace with him.
“I don’t really know what to think,” Space Janitor responded. “Whatever it is we’re going to must be better than having to deal with that mess behind us.”
“OK, keep thinking that. Clearing out landing strips. Dog, this is not good for me. Need to see if something can be done about this. Feeling is returning. It’s going to weep soon and so will I,” Shep said.
They arrived at the transport. The door opened for the two. As Space Janitor went to get on board, Shep held out an arm and held him back.
“You know, we don’t have to get on,” Shep said, closing his eyes. Focused on his breath. “You and I, we could go stray.”
“Would you get far without the foot?” Space Janitor asked. Shep snarled at the question.
“Three-legged dogs can still run. Clearing out landing strips are the worst” said Shep.
“We clear out the strip. We see if we can do something about the foot. Then we see how we feel. How does that sound?”
Shep looked at Space Janitor with astonishment.
“You really are a new pup, aren’t you?” said Shep. He shrugged and got on board. Space Janitor followed him. “You’re not even thinking about what’s in store,” Shep let it hang in the air. The inside of the transport was spacious enough for the two of them. There was a seat for both of them.
The transport door closed. A slight rocking indicated the transport had taken off.
Space Janitor saw there was some dispenser. He knew it would give out some form of sustenance. The question was in the how.
Shep looked at Space Janitor and smiled.
“If you go over, press the button and say what you want, it’ll make it happen,” said Shep. “Of course, try the Margetanian trout, it’s pretty good,”
Space Janitor looked round to Shep.
“It can make anything?” Space Janitor asked, eyes off in the middle distance, thinking of infinite possibilities.
“Yeah, pretty much. Don’t be asking for a Remical Sky Whale. This transport is tight enough as it is. Plus it can’t give life. So, keep that in mind,” Shep sat back on the chair.
Shep wanted to get some rest before they got to the next place. To be frank, he also wanted to ignore Space Janitor for a bit too.
Space Janitor got up and approached the device. Pressed the button as instructed and leaned in to speak to the device. Space Janitor licked his lip. A well of droll formed at the side of his mouth. In all the morning excitement he had not eaten, and his stomach made him aware of this.
Space Janitor looked round to Shep.
Shep was dozing, but his ears were still alert. He could hear Space Janitor whisper. What was he saying?
Space Janitor approached Shep. Shep kept his eyes closed. If he kept them shut for long enough, then the journey would be over, and they could get on with the task at hand.
Through the transparency of his eyelids, the silhouette of Space Janitor stood before him. Reluctantly, Shep opened his eyes.
“I’m not hungry,” Shep said, not looking at what was in Space Janitor’s hands.
“Good, I hope that means you won’t eat this then,” Space Janitor replied.
Shep looked down to see what Space Janitor was holding.
“Great, you got me a foot,” She said. Space Janitor handed the foot to him. It looked as if it would fit his stump. The gesture touched Shep. He didn’t want to let his feelings known.
“I don’t know if it will work. It was just an idea,” said Space Janitor.
Shep held it down to where his original foot would have gone.
“I hope you don’t think this means I like you,” Shep said, looking up at Space Janitor.
“Oh no, of course not. I mean you wouldn’t need a replacement foot if it wasn’t for me,” Space Janitor said.
The transport rocked as it made its way across the station. On the inside, traffic was silent.
“Guess there’s no harm in trying the thing on for size. It looks like you may have got my size wrong. This is a nice…” Shep couldn’t bring himself to finish the sentence. The words hit an invisible wall in his throat. He was forbidden from speaking those words.
Space Janitor watched intently as Shep held the foot to the stump.
“It could work,” Space Janitor said.
“Need to work out how I’m going to attach it,” said Shep. “Any ideas?”
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.