Space Janitor 001-040
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Space Janitor 001-040
“I’ve just arrived,” said the space janitor.
“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.
Theses are the compiled entries of Space Janitor 011-020
Space Janitor 011-020
“I don’t know what time is it?” asked Space Janitor.
“Are you insubordinate?” asked the desk dog.
“I don’t know, I’m not sure what that word means exactly,” said Space Janitor.
“It means you are veering close to going on my bad side. See how you’re getting on? Stop it now.” said the desk dog. The desk dog put on a pair of glasses and looked down at work before them.
“I’ll behave differently,” said Space Janitor.
“How?” said the desk dog without looking up. They turned a page. Space Janitor thought for a moment.
“I don’t know if I’m honest,” said Space Janitor. The desk dog let out a sigh, took off their glasses and pinched the bridge of their nose.
“Look here,” the desk dog leaned forward to read Space Janitor’s ID badge,” Findo”. The desk dog looks puzzled. “Findo, that’s your name?”
Space Janitor lifted his ID badge towards his eyes.
“I thought my name was Opult.” said Space Janitor.
“Findo, Opult, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Brand new to your asymmetrical ears. Based on this interaction, dehydrated brain. Your name doesn’t matter. It’s not for you, it’s for the inhabitants of this station. Don’t worry about what your name is. Worry about what you should be doing.” said the desk dog.
The information made Space Janitor realise it would take him a while to work out where he fits in correctly. The news came as a great relief to me, the narrator. Honestly, names are something I have problems keeping track of. Until it becomes relevant, I’m going to keep referring to this little mutt as Space Janitor. Anyway, these two are in a state of limbo. Back to it.
“What should I be doing?” said Space Janitor.
“What should you be doing? Your job.” said the desk dog. There was more than a hint of a growl in the back of their throat.
“And what is my job?” Space Janitor asked obliviously.
“On your way in, you felt something of a compulsion to clean?” Desk dog said, eyes wide.
“I did, wow, how did you know?” said Space Janitor looking at desk dog with a sense of wonder. He pressed two fingers to his temple. “What about now, can you tell I’m hungry. Wait, I just gave it away. Now I have another feeling. Do you know what it is because, to be honest, the sensation of being alive is still a novelty? I’m not even sure how I know words. Words like…words and lugubrious and brolenderkantz. Hold on that last one was my imagination. How come I don’t have to actively breathe? It kind of already happens. When I think about breathing, it stops, and I have to forget to breathe to remember how?”
Now I want there to be an air of mystery regarding how much desk dog appreciated this soliloquay. If I had no respect for you as a reader, I would simply write: Desk dog was ___ and put in the appropriate emotion. However, there’s no fun in that. You’re reading this, so you’re already above average and intelligence. If I might be so bold, let me also say above average in attractiveness too (love what you’ve done with your hair by the way”. Anyway, you’re smart. You’ve already deduced the emotional state of this haggard tired bureaucratic dog.
For the sake of pacing and story let me reveal it to you in a series of images.
Desk dog sits listening to Space Janitor. His breathing steady, his paws static. Throughout Space Janitor’s monologue, the breath quickens and is more shallow. Gulps become sips, you know what I mean? The claws, once still, begin to drum. The tempo increasing until they are a gallop.
There is a build-up until desk dog shoots up onto his feet, slamming both paws down on the table.
“Would you please be quiet!” shouted the desk dog.
Space Janitor went quiet and twiddled his thumbs.
“It is not my job to sit here and listen to your inane twaddle.” the desk dog said. It took a deep breath and then lowered itself down onto his seat. When it spoke again, it did so in a softer tone of voice.
“You are not here to ask why. Here you clean. You are here to clean because that is the sole purpose that you have been created. You have had your genetic makeup manipulated so that you might better serve your purpose. All those questions you have? A sense of curiosity is good in a cleaning dog. It makes you seek things out and do your job that little bit better. Now let me reiterate to you. It is not my job to listen to you go on and on about every thought coming into your head. I will tell you where you are next to go. You might feel curious and that there’s still a lot left unanswered and I understand. I’m am only several station months in my existence, and I have questioned myself. Questions like,”.
Desk dog trailed off and looked at a point over Space Janitor’s shoulder.
Space Janitor turned his head to see if there was anything in particular.
The desk dog spoke up again. Space Janitors head turned round to meet the gaze.
“What does it all mean? What is the point? If I was designed, why must they make me feel pain in every instance? Did they have to make my nose so small that breathing is a difficulty? I’m I defective? Will reporting my defects lead me to termination?” Space Janitor sat staring. Space Janitor felt an onus to speak but suppressed the urge. “These are the questions I have but never do I verbalise them. You must not verbalise these thoughts, not now or ever. What you must do is take this card and leave my sight.” The desk dog slid over a flat piece of card and report for asiantation. Now get out of my sight.”
Desk dog looked down at his desk, sighed and resumed working.
Space Janitor looked at the card.
49D was emblazoned on it in a deep black.
Space Janitor took the card and held it tight to his chest. He didn’t know what it meant. He summarised it was a location somewhere in the building.
Space Janitor felt compelled to ask the desk dog where exactly was he supposed to go. A good boy he was, he suppressed the urge. He moved on down the corridor. The corridor branched off in several directions.
There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the design of the building as there was no real organisation. Space Janitor felt he was in the digestive tract of a metallic snake.
Space Janitor walked confused. There were sporadic appearances of other dogs who shot from door to door. It felt as if to slow or speak to Space Janitor would put them under penalty of death.
Space Janitor knew he was close. He never felt so close to giving up either. He looked back down at the card 49D. Every time he looked up, he felt as if the layout of the building changed.
“Where in the blasthole is 49D?” Space Janitor blurted out. Shocked at his own annoyance.
“On your left” a voice answered. Space Janitor looked around. There it was on the door. 49D.
Space Janitor approached the door. It opened.
As the door slid back, he saw row and row after of little locker lined with benches. There was a Great Dane breed of a dog standing by the entrance to the locker room. Space Janitor didn’t see it at first. Space Janitor walked into the room when he felt a great paw practically lifting him off the ground. It took Space Janitor a moment to register his feet weren’t actually moving him forward. It was when he did a 180 without his knowledge did he notice the mass of dog before him.
Space Janitor looked up to meet the gaze of the Great Dane.
“What kept you?” it said.
“I’ve only just arrived,” said Space Janitor to the Great Dane.
“I know you have, you’re late. What is your excuse?” asked the Great Dane.
“There was a bit of trouble when it came to getting here. Things aren’t as clear as they should be” said Space Janitor pursing his lips.
The Great Dane’s face didn’t move. Didn’t change expression leaving doubt in Space Janitor’s mind, maybe the time had stopped. It felt it had as the small eyes focused in on him. They were almost entirely black. Colour wouldn’t give them any more life, any semblance of a soul. Space Janitor may have been the same.
“Very well then,” said the Great Dane. That wasn’t as unpleasant as Space Janitor expected. “We’ve all had the first days. Well, I say that, but they’re only really is one first day isn’t there? There’s only one last day too. Listen to me. My design has made me a bit more contemplative. I have to plan ahead as a unit leader. Let me scan your card.”
“I know my name, it is Findo,” said Space Janitor. “If that is of any help.”
“Your name doesn’t really matter. No names matter really for we are all strangers with a common goal. There I go again. Your chip will tell me a bit more about you so I can put you to work in useful areas. There’s no point in putting you somewhere that you are ill-equipped to handle. I do what I can to make my team comfortable. Although what comfort is there. Floating in a void. Designed to serve. Live a life that is nasty, brutal and far too short. I don’t have to do that you know that. My kindness parameters have been set to zero, so anything nice I do is voluntary. Some unit leaders don’t care. I don’t care about either, but I understand what it must be like.”
“Would you like to scan the card?” asked Space Janitor.
“Yes I would,” said the Great Dane. The Great Dane took his small scanning device and held it up to the badge. There was a beep, and it began printing a receipt.
“What does it say?” Space Janitor asked.
“Nothing that I haven’t already seen a million times before,” said the Great Dane. You’re a standard issue cleaning dog, a dogsbody. You’re curious enough to be self-motivated to do your job. There’s a lot of.” The Great Dane stopped talking and returned the card to Space Janitor.
“A lot of?” Space Janitor asked.
“You see, curiosity. Like that, standard. Look don’t take this the wrong way but you’re already running late, and there is work to be done. I could stand here and explain to you who you are and what makes you tick. I’m not going to do that, OK. Knowing doesn’t change anything.”
“Oh OK,” said Space Janitor, disappointed. Space Janitor would have liked to have known more about himself. Space Janitor had a fair idea of who he was. Some clarification would have been welcome.
You are probably not interested, but I, the narrator, am relieved. If the Great Dane standing over Space Janitor were to spell it out, then it would make everything obvious. If you were to read every aspect of Space Janitor’s personality, then it wouldn’t give me room to manoeuver. I’m glad the Great Dane made a choice to cut the biography short.
The Great Dane rocked on his two feet and twiddled his thumbs.
“I’ll get to it then.” said Space Janitor unsure if the silence was his cue to speak.
“Huh? I got distracted there. You look like a dog we used to have here. Rusty. He was so full of life and full of beans. Even more so when he ate beans. Rusty is no longer full of beans or life.” said the Great Dane a letting out a long sigh. Deflating himself. Slackening in the shoulders.
“I see.” Space Janitor said nodding.
“Rusty is dead.” said the Great Dane.
“I’m sorry to hear about Rusty,” said Space Janitor. “I hope he didn’t suffer too much.”
“No more than any of the rest of us do. When we’re born, we have a debt, and it will be repaid.” said the Great Dane.
“Yes, the cost of existence. If only we had a receipt” said Space Janitor. He wondered if he would ever break away from this sizeable melancholy pooch. He wanted to pet him but instinctively resisted the urge. The Great Dane closed his eyes, the breath was shallow that it was not perceptible. Space Janitor wondered for a moment was the Great Dane dead. The dog was so still, a statue of sadness in the locker rooms, obstructing the exit. If the Great Dane were killed, then Space Janitor would be along after him. Once he had either dehydrated or starved to death. The thought of eating the Great Dane crossed his mind. Space Janitor decided doing so on the first day would get him a reputation. Space Janitor would first ascertain if his superior were dead. “I said if only we had a receipt.”
The Great Dane’s eyes opened and looked at Space Janitor in a puzzled manner. Space Janitor felt large paws grab him and spin him round in the spot. There was a tearing sound, and he was rotated back to face the Great Dane.
“You do,” said the Great Dane holding out a thin strip of paper. Space Janitor took the paper from him. Space Janitor read the details on the strip.
“I’m being charged for existing?” asked Space Janitor somewhat incredulous.
“It’s a soul tax,” said the Great Dane. Space Janitor’s hand was in the process of destroying the receipt when the Great Dane noticed. “Hold on to that! You’ll need it for your records. There are loan sharks out whose business model revolves around financial illiteracy. Although they don’t usually target dogsbodies.” said the Great Dane.
“Who do they normally go for?” asked Space Janitor.
“Humans” replied the Great Dane.
“So what do I do with this then?” asked Space Janitor.
“For now, hold onto it, you’ll need it to keep track of things. Some of your wages will be deducted to go towards your cost of living.” the Great Dane said to Space Janitor.
“OK, thank you for the advice,” said Space Janitor.
“Not really advice. It’s common knowledge. Everyone born here’s got one. Unless they’re breeding your lot now to be more stupid. Are you stupid?” the Great Dane.
“If I was stupid, would I be aware of my own lack of smarts?” asked Space Janitor. The question was sincere, but he knew that he might rile up the beast in front of him.
“I can’t tell if that is a smart or stupid question. A couple of breeds ago a batch of you started talking about unions. Appropriate living conditions and not getting spat on. They all got disintegrated. They got to be in a union that day I can tell you.” the Great Dane said, smiling at Space Janitor. Space Janitor listened intently. “That was a joke, did it scan, OK? Who knows maybe whoever reads our transcripts will let me know. The point is, talk about unions, labour laws any of that. The dust that was once your body will be swept away by your replacement. Got it?
We’re not the inner districts like Santcimonium or anything like that. You’ll never go there but the moanis pride themselves on how well they treat their staff. Sanctimonium is a dump. This is Edgerion, things are different. We got an expression. Want to hear it?” asked the Great Dane. Space Janitor nodded. “In Edgerion the only thing you can keep dirty is your mind and the administers are working on that.”
“Thank you for all your help,” said Space Janitor.
“Now you can stay here and lose out on more money, or you can go and get sorted for your gear.” the Great Dane pointed to an area at the back. Space Janitor looked to the end of the room before turning back round to the Great Dane.
“What is your name?” asked Space Janitor.
“Well, they used to call me the Great Dane. Then there was the great soda flood of sector 8H, and I got demoted. Call me the Alright Dane.”
Space Janitor nodded and walked away.
Space Janitor approached the door, and it opened automatically. The room was empty. Except for the middle of the room. In the middle of the room, a desk. On the counter sat a backpack with a hose attached. Space Janitor regarded it curiously. He l got in closer to the pack and sniffed.
Space Janitor saw there were signs of wear and tear on the backpack. Chips and chunks were missing across the casing. There were also burn marks and places where it had clearly melted. Vents lined the side. There was dull darkness over bulbs and light panels. Beneath the surface, there was a green glow encased in metal.
The backpack gave off a strange smell, and Space Janitor drew back a step.
Space Janitor didn’t know if he were to await further instruction or if this was for him.
“You will have to touch me at some point. Regardless of smell” came a voice from in the room. Space Janitor looked around for a speaker. “It’s me, the thing you’ve been rubbing your moist nose over for the past few moments. You’re my new partner? Great. I’m so happy.” said the backpack.
“Pleasure to meet you,” said, Space Janitor offering out a paw.
“Listen, dogsbody, you better be putting your hand out to strap me on. Otherwise, Mr Genius, we might be waiting a while, and I don’t know about you, but I have nothing better to do with my time. So hopefully we can just wait until the hexium core melts down. Wouldn’t it be nice? Hope you brought some radblock.” Even though it was a backpack Space Janitor could hear the sound of panted breathing.
“OK, I’m going to put you on then,” said Space Janitor.
“Can’t wait. I will be the ringer in the sphere in that case. You want a line you can use on your cheap floosies? Why didn’t the pack go to the dance? It had nobody to go with. Also, it’s an inanimate object. Also, hurry up and put me on.” said the pack.
Space Janitor took one of the straps and pulled the pack towards him. It was heavy once it left the tabletop. Space Janitor groaned.
“Are you calling me fat? Because that would be a good way to make a first impression.” said the backpack. Space Jointer put the other strap over his shoulder. He let it fall a little before he foisted it up into a more comfortable position.
“I was not expecting the weight is all Mr Back Pack,” said Space Janitor. He widened his paws to balance. Swayed a little before he steadied. Space Janitor puffed his chest out. He felt his back curve to accommodate for the distribution.
“Mr Back Pack. I wish I were Mr Back Pack. Model four to specific. In fashion right now. Turns into a bed for those who want to party all night. Do you know what I am? That’s rhetorical before you start guessing. I’m a Spenglactic 1.3. I’m going, to be honest kiddo. Actually, I lie. Let me dump some thermic gas into your cranial capacitators. I’m the best there is, I’m not a few versions behind. My custom modules are definitely not in need of fine-tuning. Also, my sarcasam metre is not broken at max level. You can hear my 20th-century era Brooklyn accent is completly correct for the job at hand. I don’t resent you.” Space Janitor stood in silence, not knowing whether to expect another onslaught.
“OK, Mr Spenglactic,” said, Space Janitor.
“I’m not finished. Also, Mr Spenglactic is my manufacturer. Call me Spengz, it’ll make it easier on the transcribots. Before we set out, I need you to verbally consent to a partnership. You and I, are we going to be a team?” asked the Spenglactic.
Space Janitor thought for a moment then nodded.
“Hey, a physical gesture means jack. Are you good?
Space Janitor 021-040
“OK, I consent,” said Space Janitor.
“Now you’re getting the hang of things,” said the Spenglactic. Space Janitor could feel the heat of it on his back, and he knew that it was going to be a long day or night. To be honest Space Janitor didn’t even know if he was to be close to any particular form of a significant light source. There was the internal lighting of the buildings, but he knew they would not sustain him for long.
Space Janitor longed to be out in the fray. There was an urge he felt deep within him. With the Spenglactic on his back, it felt as if that urge was about to be sated.
Space Janitor turned to go back the way he came.
“Wow, wow, wow. Where you going?” the Spenglactic chimed in. Space Janitor stopped dead in his tracks.
“I thought we were going to get to work. At least I was hoping for that. I’d really like to get to work now.” said Space Janitor.
“Oh, and you think I like hanging around sitting on tables waiting for mutts like you to come in and abuse me?”
“Well, I don’t know,” said Space Janitor.
“If you and I are going to work together, then you’re going to have to listen better and follow my lead from time to time.” said the Spenglactic. “We go through the back door, so we can get stuck in sooner. That’s what you want, right? Otherwise, you can take the long way. Go down that pipe there, and it’ll drop us off where we need to go.”
There was a dull dark hole in front of them, and Space Janitor hesitated before the maw.
“It looks scary,” said Space Janitor.
“You can do it my way, or you can waste your life. You have to trust me, mutt”.
Space Janitor gulped and jumped into the pipe.
The tunnel carried Space Janitor along he felt the air pushing against his face. His gums flapped in the breeze. Saliva, paratroopers, bailing from his mouth when they reached a certain mass.
The light strobed before him as he twisted and turned in the system. From what little he could make out, it was clearly a different style of the tube system. It was different from the one he travelled through earlier. This one felt tighter, more compact.
Space Janitor felt himself slow down and the tube came to an end. The momentum carried Space Janitor along. Space Janitor without thinking held his arms out to steady himself.
“Hey buddy, you’re a dog not a duck. Hold your arms in” the Spenglatic said. Space janitor tucked his arms in tight. Gravity grabbed Space Janitor and brought him towards the ground.
“Am I going to die?” Space Janitor asked.
He may have been addressing the Spenglactic, he may have been addressing himself. There is also a chance he was talking to some higher power he was unaware of.
“You got a chance to not if that’s any use to you. Take the nozzle off the side there.” said the Spenglactic. Space Janitor reached down. “I’d do it a bit faster if I was you.”
Space Janitor unhooked it from the holster. The ground was getting closer and closer. He must have been launched skyscraper height into the air. How he had not hit anything was a mystery to him. Space Janitor could just about make out the ground below him. As the dark blur grew more significant, he knew that he was running out of time.
Space Janitor felt thrown, literally, from one scenario where he was about to die to another.
“What do I do now?” asked Space Janitor.
“If I had arms, I would point it at the ground and pull on the handle,” said Spenglactic. The author subtly dropped the “the” from Spenglactic because he forgot if he were to still use it or not. He decided against.
Space Janitor did as he was told. He pulled down on the handle, nothing happened.
“Nothing’s happening,” said Space Janitor.
“Obviously I can tell, it’s part of me. Did I tell you to pull the chord?” said Spenglactic. Space Janitor’s eyes widened. From his perspective, the ground was coming up to meet him rather than him flying down towards it. Either way one of them was going too fast for Space Janitor to survive the oncoming collision. “I’m going to take that silence as a no. Mutt there’s a chord I need you to pull for me. Reach up and grab it and pull down hard. I’d move lightning fast too. My sensors tell me that you’re going to go splat.”
Space Janitor reached and got it in his hand. He pulled, but it came loose in his hand.
“Nothing,” said Space Janitor. He resigned himself to the fact his life was to be smooshed on a literal pavement of progress.
“You’re treating it like a prom date. You gotta get your fingers and give it a yank,” said Spenglactic.
Space Janitor reached and pulled again.
Nothing, there was no change.
“Get stuck in there, hold on let me try something,” Spenglactic said.
“We’re going to crash,” said Space Janitor.
He thought about some of the cool adverts he saw on his travels through the station.
“Get your hand ready. Only when I say when,” said Spenglactic. Space Janitor got his hand in position. “Ready?” Space Janitor nodded. “When”. Spenglactic fired a jolt of electricity into Space Janitor’s back. Space Janitor saw a pedestrian frozen to the spot watching the approach. His arm spasmed. Janitor yanked the chord.
The Spenglactic roared, “Now, the handle.”
Well, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what happened to Space Janitor to know what happened next. Here’s the thing about writing. If you leave things up to the minds of the audience, then they have a tendency to not need you. Me not being required means I’ll wilt away. You’ll go somewhere else where the writer will tell you what does happen. In other words, don’t click somewhere else, let me tell you.
Space Janitor, are you ready for this?
Are you paying attention? Spoiler warning, he didn’t die. He came pretty darn close to it. Remember the pedestrian I half-arsed established in the last instalment? Yeah well, their noses touched as Space Janitor engaged the nozzle on the Spenglactic.
Space Janitor managed to slow himself down.
Now I’m sure there are some physicians, some scientists. Some nerds reading this will say something as follows. “Hey hold on. Mass deceleration would lead to major internal bleeding. The death of our beloved Space Janitor.” First of all, to that, I say, “Beloved? You mean you like him?” Then I would remember someone was nitpicking. Nitpicking a well thought out, not at all done on the hoof science fiction serial about a genetically modified dog cleaner. I’d get all severe and look you in the eye and say something to this effect.
“The space station is shaped in such a way that the gravity is always in a state of flux. There’s probably an undocumented black hole having an effect somewhere. Also, the dogs have been bred in such a way. Their vital organs are half size but double efficiency. It’s actually ingenious of me if you think about it” I would say.
You’re polite so you would nod and walk away.
As you walk, you would scrutinize what I said. It makes no sense or doesn’t hold up at least. As soon as you turn round, I’m gone.
You and I can argue this back and forth all day but can’t you be happy that Space Janitor survived. He’s a talking dog for crying out loud.
Space Janitor landed somewhere safe.
Away from people so he could collect his thoughts. There was a small, dark alleyway. Space Janitor stood there for a moment watching people go by.
“Look, we’ve wasted enough time today so let’s get to it OK. You have a quota you gotta keep up with. If you don’t, then there will be trouble. To be honest, sitting on a table for another bio-life cycle isn’t exactly my cup of tea. If you get me” Spenglactic said to Space Janitor.
“Oh, OK,” said Space Janitor. “What should I do?”
“Let’s see, hold on we’re somewhere in this sectors downtown. There’s probably some kind of clean up. Tell me what do you see. I don’t have eyes. What I do have is a series of sensors, but some of them have been damaged over the years. Gonna need your help to give me a rough idea. Describe what you see.” said Spenglactic.
Space Janitor looked around.
“Well, there’s a lot of people walking around. Many bags, many feet. There’s a large building up ahead.” said Space Janitor.
“Right, keep going. A large building,” said Spenglactic.
“There’s a lot of glass, a lot of things coming out. They’re slow-moving,” said Space Janitor.
“OK then get closer to that, it sounds like it could be something.” Spenglactic chimed.
Space Janitor exited the alleyway and made his way towards the building. Instinctively he sniffed and then put his hand over his nose. He felt his gag reflex kick in.
“What is it?” Spenglactic inquired.
“It smells bad. Like really bad,” said Space Janitor.
“Describe it to me. No, wait, cancel that, don’t bother. The dishes at the top of me are picking up massive amounts of, well, you’re a dog. Don’t take this the wrong way but you won’t understand.”
“What is it?” Space Janitor asked through his hand.
“You’re not going to like it,” said Spenglactic.
“You’re going to have to tell me,” said Space Janitor.
“Even if it changes approximately nothing?” said Spenglactic.
“Forewarned is forearmed,” said Space Janitor.
“My circuits, did you get cliche’s coded into you? Besides you technically have four arms anyway, or is it legs. Look, there’s no way that you need to know. However, since I’m a good cooperative pack. Remember this for later, OK, I may need you to do something for me. Right, this is a Glutorium.” said the Spenglactic.
“I don’t know what,” said Space Janitor.
He was immediately cut off.
“I know you don’t know. Let me build a little suspense. See if your a mutt who feels compelled to fill a silence, we’re going to have problems. A Glutorium is one of those more than you can eat facilities. Actually, more than you can take of anything. Whatever is in there it’s not going to be pretty. Except for the prostibots they’re usually modified to fulfil most of the basic desires. From a visual perspective. Are you neutered?”
Space Janitor thought.
“I don’t know,” Space Janitor responded.
“How can you not know?” said Spenglactic. “Like I have a couple of computer viruses. Most of them are benign or have been patched out, just be careful when inserting pen drives, OK?”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Space Janitor.
Still, he did not understand the information he received.
“Great, fantastic and smart. There are probably going to be Sirelots. They’re a psycho-magnatheric jellyfish. Respond to your brainwaves. They’re mass-produced somewhere on the station so don’t feel guilty about blasting them. Aside from those things, we’ll play it by ear. There might be something else we don’t expect.”
“Like what?” Space Janitor asked.
Space Janitor looked ahead while he waited for Spenglactic’s response. The smell grew stronger, now there was a burning smell too. Space Janitor walked towards the building.
“Like I don’t know, what part of, don’t expect gives you trouble? If I knew what to expect, then it wouldn’t be unexpected. Am I making sense to you?” Spenglactic asked.
“I’m a little stupid,” said Space Janitor.
“You’re a big stupid,” said Spenglactic. “The readings are getting stronger, where are we now, describe it to me.”
“There are steps in front of us. There are some big robots with scanners. We’re getting scanned. It’s gone green” said Space Janitor.
“Go up the steps, then in that case. Those are part of SecFor. There must be something going on inside. If this were a standard clean up, then they wouldn’t be here. I’m not going to admit out loud to being intrigued. What I will say is that my sensors are seeking.” said Spenglactic.
“I’m at the top of the steps. I see another dressed like me. They’re ahead of me and going through a door. It’s dark inside there is some light coming through the ceiling. It’s glass, but much of it is shattered. There’s broken glass.”
Space Janitor’s description was cut off by a droning sound.
“Oh, that was my boredom sensor. You must have set it off. Look, I don’t need a play by play. Let me tell you what I need. If there’s something, you’re unsure off let me know. Say something like Spenglactic help. I’m going to focus on clearing up some memory space for a bit. Will I remember your name? You know what we’ll see. I’m going to tune out for a bit. If you die, what can I say? It’s been brief.” said the Spenglactic, it made a powering down noise. It was in the Brooklyn accent. This made Space Janitor believe that it was done for effect or to be extra obnoxious. It was probably both.
“OK, thank you,” said Space Janitor.
There was no response.
Space Janitor stepped into the main foyer area. There was a spiral staircase that led to an upper level. Space Janitor noticed it was getting darker. He looked up and saw that there were giant, long and narrow metal grids being placed over the ceiling. When the metal made contact with where the skylight had been, it dislodged some of the glass.
The glass fell towards Space Janitor, he found cover under a stairwell. The sound of shattering glass echoed throughout the foyer area.
Space Janitor looked around.
In the distance, he saw another canine cleaner disappear round a corner.
Space Janitor wondered whether this would warrant the attention of Spenglactic. He decided against it in the end. Space Janitor thought that he would probably have to use his own intuition. It would help him throughout his employ/existence. He decided to catch up to his fellow worker, and they could tackle, whatever awaited them together.
Space Janitor left the alcove and followed after the other cleaner. There was a lot of glass on the floor. As the light dimmed, he could see the ground. A veritable minefield of broken glass, damaged items and sticky liquids.
Space Janitor kept moving, doing his best to avoid debris.
For the most part, he was successful. Space Janitor possessed nimble feet and could hop further than he anticipated. It was not a flawless run. There was the occasional squelch or crack. The noises reminded him he was not the navigator of muck he would have hoped himself to be.
It took some time, but Space Janitor had found himself at the turn of the corner where he had last seen his colleague.
He turned the corner. Two options before him. Some stairs went up towards a faint light. There was a long corridor with a glow at the end.
Space Janitor followed the corridor.
The corridor stretched out in front of Space Janitor. He proceeded along, the glow in the distance flickered green against the gold of the walls. Was it real gold or some synthetic sci-fi gold? It didn’t matter. It looked authentic either way.
Space Janitor could see even less than usual, and it frightened him to an extent.
He slipped on something lumpy and thrust out his arms to brace himself from falling. Steady, he walked further trying his best to decipher the floor below him.
Somewhere in the distance, there was the sound of dripping into a large pool. His mind boggled at how big this building was. Cavernous in many different ways. Some of the green glow at the far end of the corridor reflected off candelabra. Reflected off silver plates and platinum goblets. Where they authentic? If they were, do you think Space Janitor would know? He’s a janitor, not an evaluator. Let us check in on his thoughts. Hold on, it might get quiet.
Space Janitor to himself, those are shiny.
See what I mean, I wouldn’t exactly put a bid in just yet.
Space Janitor felt himself slipping and sliding once more. He caught his foot on something. Space Janitor was proceeding to skate all over the place. He skated face-first into a set of drawers and went to ground.
Something soggy yet substantial cushioned the fall. His mouth turned into a deep frown caused by texture and smell. The material stuck to his face. His tongue instinctively emerged from his mouth. Space Janitor forced the tongue back into his mouth.
Space Janitor rolled on his back. The ceiling above, dark. He couldn’t tell whether his eyes were open or closed. Spenglactic dug into his back. Space Janitor moved fast. He would cramp up in that position.
Space Janitor rolled onto his front.
His jumpsuit became saturated. Smells of all different types marched up his nose. A parade of putrid. Space Janitor’s eyes watered. He put out an elbow. Found a grip and hoisted himself along. He put up the opposite elbow and pulled himself along. He alternated between the two.
Space Janitor was crawling along to the end of the corridor with haste. The green glow still flickered. He wondered to himself, was it getting dimmer? Were his eyes becoming strained trying to focus in on the source?
A silhouetted mountain of flab eclipsed the light. Space Janitor came to an abrupt stop. He was working out how to traverse the mound. He poked it, the blubber oscillated wildly. As it shook under its own girth, there was a noise.
Space Janitor didn’t bank on hearing that particular noise.
It was a groan. It came from one end of the fat.
Space Janitor ignored the noise. Put a paw on the fat. The groan was now a whimper. Space Janitor ignored it again. The quickest way, over the top. Once he got to the top, he could survey the area.
Space Janitor began to climb.
“Who climbs my belly?” Space Janitor stopped in his tracks. The voice called out again. It was soft, but you could tell that this was not it’s usual tone or volume. “Is there someone trying to scale me?”
“It’s me,” said Space Janitor.
“Who is me? I know who I am, but as in who are you. Are you a delivery bot?” said the voice in the darkness.
“No, I’m a cleaning dog,” said Space Janitor.
“You see, I made an order a while ago and received a message that it was on the way. I mean I’m a long term customer, very loyal. I was wondering where could it be?” the voice in the darkness asked.
“I don’t know if I can help you,” said Space Janitor.
“OK, I understand it’s just that I’ve been lying here for so long. I’m starting to get hungry all over again. I know the Glutos has a zero tolerance on outside eatery infiltrators. In this case, it feels like Glutos must fulfil its end of the contract.” said the voice.
“You’re bleeding, you know that?” said Space Janitor.
“That’s fine, we’ll deal with that all in good time. Right now as a subscriber. As a permanent resident here, it would go over very well if you were to either reimburse me for the lost food. You could double the eating time at least.” said the voice.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a humble mutt. There’s no way for me to be sure. Not until we get this mess sorted out.” said Space Janitor.
“I’m a salamonium class customer. My name is Slimpins Kezor. I would like to speak to the owner. Who is your super? I’m hungry, alright.”
“Where is the owner?” Space Janitor whispered.
“I contribute to this place. You are the employee. You do what I say. What is this your first day?” Slimpins said, getting louder.
“It is, and I don’t work here. I’m with the cleaning branch, sector, people. We’re dogs, mainly.” said Space Janitor. He had backed away from the body by this point. He was standing up and noticed that the giant mass was getting smaller.
Space Janitor noticed Slimpins was deflating.
There must have been some hole somewhere leaking the insides out. The chances of Slimpins living a long full life were Slimpins. (Too soon, I mean, he’s not dead yet.)
Space Janitor walked towards the source of Slimpins voice. There was disapproval in Slimpins voice.
“All I hear from you are excuses. What I want to know is what are you going to do for me?” Slimpins demanded.
Space Janitor thought about what Slimpins was saying. Slimpins breathing was shallow, but the frustration took on a new depth.
“I don’t know if there is anything I can do for you. I don’t work here, I don’t even know what’s going on here. What happened?” Space Janitor asked.
“This is not how you run a business. I’ll not be back if this is how you treat a valued resident. When I came here, I was malnourished. Over time through loyal custom, I was able to put on enough weight I became dependent. Then I moved in. There were extension mods I had to have installed all at my own expense. I worked hard to get this size. Now look at me, I am wasting away.” Slimpins pushed his stomach. More of the contents fell out the side.
There was a wet, sloshing sound. Slimpins was in pain and Space Janitor didn’t know what to do. What would you have done in this case? Slimpins regardless of species, was dying. Space Janitor wanted to move away, but he remembered how alone he had felt at the beginning of his life.
Space Janitor wanted to proceed and get on with the task at hand, but he felt he should stay a little longer. As Slimpins deflated, there was the green flicker on the far wall. It was at it’s faintest. If he wanted to catch up to it now would be Space Janitor’s chance.
Space Janitor stood for a while longer. He closed his eyes and regained his composure. Space Janitor was aware he had not responded to Slimpins.
“Are you still there?” Slimpins asked the darkness.
“I’m still here,” said Space Janitor.
“Are you going to stand there mute, or are you going to get a manager or whatever your power structure?” asked Slimpins.
“There is no manager, there is no power structure. Right now, everything is in the dark, and I’m not too sure what is supposed to be happening. Understand you’re hungry, but the fact of the matter is in a few moments it will not matter” said Space Janitor.
“Oh, won’t it now? How come, you’re going to remove me for rudeness is that what it is? Well, go on then in that case. Throw me out. I want my food. You’ll be hearing from my other goods provider. Do not expect any more money. I came here skinny, and by the sounds of things I shall be leaving here skinny too.” said Slimpins.
“The fact of the matter is that there appears to be some hole on the other side of you. I can’t see, and all your insides are leaking out the one side. Are you aware? Are you aware that you are leaking?” said, Space Janitor.
“What? I mean, I’m hungry, but I thought that was because I was waiting for so long. I’m going to die?” Slimpins asked. There was a whimper creeping into the voice now.
“I don’t know. I’m just a standard-issue cleaning mutt. I don’t know if there is anything I can do to help. If there is, I will do what I can to serve. Otherwise, any information you have as to what happened here would be a great help. It would help me to perform my job better.” said Space Janitor.
There was a dripping sound. It came from somewhere in the corridor. A loud echo. Space Janitor was aware. He was aware that he was not doing his job. Space Janitor was aware somewhere up ahead of him there was a colleague that was working. While his colleague worked Space Janitor was technically slacking off. Slacking off by listening to this dissatisfied customer.
“Are you still alive?” Space Janitor asked.
Space Janitor listened to make sure Slimpins was dead.
“No, I’m not dead yet. Although I have come to accept my fate that I will die in a way, I did not live. Not eating, this is deeply disappointing, and I will be putting in for refund procedure. Posthumously I will be buried with what I’m owed.” said Slimpins. He sounded weak and fed up. Not fed in the food sense. Do you know what I mean?
“You want to be buried with food?” Space Janitor asked.
It wasn’t until this moment that Space Janitor realised that he was hungry. As in famished. He had been on the move since he was conscious. Even though there were many bad smells, there were a few fragrant ones. Space Janitor was aware he was panting somewhat.
“Yes, bury me with the food. It’s mine, I’m entitled to it, would you deny me food?” Slimpins said. Some of what he said was becoming garbled as he was choking. It could be on his tongue, it could be something else. The amount of inhale/exhales was definitely down to double digits. It was a case of was it 99 or 10. More than likely it was somewhere in-between.
“I’m so hungry,” said Space Janitor.
He didn’t mean to say it aloud. The phrases slipped out his mouth. Had his stomach commandeered his speech centre?
“I don’t see how that is relevant information to me. I’m the customer. You work for me. I am the hungry one, and somehow you manage to make this all about you? I will see to it you get a negative review and I hope a termination. You selfish mutt. How dare you. How dare you.” said Slimpins.
“You’re giving me a bad review?” said Space Janitor.
Space Janitor waited for the inevitable response.
“Of course you’re going to get a bad review,” said Slimpins, “What were you expecting to happen? To be showered with praise. You stupid mutt.”
“Is there anything I can do to help you out any further?” asked Space Janitor.
“How desperate would I be to have to admit to needing your help. You have provided me with nothing and offered me nothing. Your bed is ready-made. Now is time for bed.” said Slimpins. What little strength was in him was being used to conjure up bile from within.
“Oh, OK, then. If that is how it is to be, then I shall be on my way. Enough of your mound has deflated that I can step over you. I’m sorry that I have not been of any use. Your patience and feedback have been invaluable to me. Enjoy dying, and if you do reincarnate, then I might ask you to reconsider. Have a wonderful death.” Space Janitor said in one go.
Space Janitor stepped over Slimpins body. Slimpins head moved to follow the silhouette of Space Janitor.
“Wait, don’t leave me. Don’t leave me, please. I am scared and hungry. Don’t leave me, please.” said Slimpins. The voice shrunk down. The distance between Space Janitor and Slimpins grew larger.
Space Janitor heard sobbing, then choking then the corridor was silent. Space Janitor stopped for a moment to consider the passing of this great fat alien. He shrugged as if a silent partner was talking to him.
The green glow had vanished from the end of the corridor. It split left and right. Which way would he go? There was no indication of the correct path.
Space Janitor listened. He didn’t want to disturb Spenglactic.
There was something in the air. Space Janitor wondered what it was.
Space Janitor sniffed the air. It was definitely there. What he could smell was a form of a biscuit. How did he know that is what it was. To be honest, it was instinctual, and there was an aspect of it that not even Space Janitor had considered.
Space Janitor was able to identify the smell and the direction it was coming.
There was a way forward for him to take. Space Janitor followed the path and the smell. It would bring him to an opening.
The room opened out in front of him. The smell was stronger now. Something that made Space Janitor salivate. He stood still and breathed it in. In the still dark, he could hear the sound of snapping and crunching.
Space Janitor was drawn towards it and walked in the direction in the hope that he could get to the centre of this maze. A loud crash emanated from somewhere. Space Janitor was startled by the noise. He carried on further down the path towards the sound.
Over a railing, in a lowered area of the floor, he could make the outline of someone in the same jumpsuit as him. They were crouched down to be as small as possible. Space Janitor leaned on the railing to get a better look.
Space Janitor’s force on the railing caused it to creak.
The being in the jumpsuit below looked up at Space Janitor startled. The eyes glistened in the darkness. It didn’t move, and Space Janitor felt uneasy.
Was it like him, or was it something else entirely? The thing didn’t pose an immediate threat; otherwise, they wouldn’t be staring at each other for so long. The shape in the jumpsuit went back to eating.
Space Janitor looked a little longer. Gripped his paws around the railing and breathed in deeply before speaking.
“Are you alive?” Space Janitor asked.
Space Janitor looked down at the shape. It stopped eating. Without looking up, it spoke.
“Of course, I’m alive. Are you some kind of new mutt?” said the voice.
“I’m glad to hear that. There was someone back there who was alive when I found arrived, but that appears not to be the case anymore. Are you in the process of dying?” Space Janitor asked.
“Aren’t we all?” the voice said back. Space Janitor didn’t feel the barb. “Guess break time’s over. It stood up. It was a dogsbody like Space Janitor. “Who sent you? This is supposed to be a one dog job” said the shape.
“I did what my pack told me,” said Space Janitor. The shape stopped, it turned in Space Janitor’s direction.
“What?” asked the shape. “You’re letting your pack dictate to you. Step into that light over there.”
Space Janitor did as he was told and did so. The shape approached him. It was a dog of black and white patches. The face was mainly black fur with white protruding along the chest. It got in close and sniffed Space Janitor. Space Janitor smelled the black and white dog’s breath. Biscuits reminded him of his hunger that still panged in his stomach.
“Where did you get the biscuits?” asked Space Janitor. His stomach again.
“You came here, cause your pack to say so?” said the other dog.
“Yes,” said Space Janitor.
“You talking like it’s your first day but you smell old.” said the other dog.
“It is my first day,” said Space Janitor.
“Don’t lie to me. You recognise me?” said the other dog.
“To recognise you I’d have to have met you before. I haven’t so I just cognise you,” said Space Janitor standing as still and upright as possible. The weight of the Spenglactic unbalanced him.
“You don’t recognise Shep?” said the other dog.
Space Janitor looked at the other dog. He didn’t want to make assumptions, but he was going to guess he was the “Shep” he kept going on about.
“It pains me, a little, but I must say that I’ve never encountered you before in my existence,” said Space Janitor. In the shaft of light, he could see Shep’s expression drop. Shep blew some breath out through his nose.
“Could be me, maybe my memory is not so good anymore, and I’m getting confused, but you got that old smell on you,” said Shep.
“I don’t know what to say. It could be my pack, it’s old,” said Space Janitor swivelling on his hips so Shep could get a better smell of Spenglactic. Shep brought his nose close to it and took in the scent.
“Oh, it’s old, alright. Very old, dogagers must not expect you to be working for too long. Your whole set needs updating. If you live through this, then you have to get it done. If you even make enough to get something done. Then again, we’ll see how useful you are.” said Shep.
“What’s the plan?” Space janitor asked. Shep looked at him, licked his lips then spat on the ground.
“Plan? To not die for as long as possible. It’s a simple plan, and I’ve been sticking to it pretty good. What’s your plan?” Shep asked. He turned away from Space Janitor and walked up a set of stairs. Space Janitor watched him then raced after him.
“I don’t have one. Guess I need to do the job first,” said Space Janitor.
“Right, all sounds good. What do you reckon that job is?” said Shep a few paces ahead.
“I don’t know, probably to clean but I don’t really know where to start. It’s all a mess, isn’t it?” asked Space Janitor.
Space Janitor followed Shep round a corner. The two had entered into a banquet hall. It was dark, there was some outside light piercing through giving a vague idea of the layout. Tables had been overturned as had some alien bodies. There was the sound of spilling and smashing coming from the other end of the hall. Shep crouched down.
“I said, it’s all a big” Space Janitor felt a furry paw pinch his mouth shut and pull him to a crouched position.
“Quiet, we’re not alone in here. Do you hear the noise? Something is feeding.” said Shep.
“Another resident? They must really want their money’s worth,” said Space Janitor.
She looked down at a display on his own Spenglactic. He adjusted a dial, and the brightness of the screen went down. For a brief moment, although all moments are fleeting, Space Janitor saw the dogs face proper. Shep’s fur was patchy. His right eye had a droop. The droop appeared to be related to a scar that began strong, low on his cheek and faded out above his brow.
“Resident? It really is your first time. Listen for the sound” Shep said, holding his index finger to cue up an effect.
“What sound?” Space Janitor asked. Shep’s finger elevated further. There was the sound of a snap and then sucking. Shep dropped his paw and smiled.
“There you go, that sound. We’re dealing with a marrow muncher. You and I are in the unfortunate position of having bones in our body. It’s going to want to eat us. Now, we’re not on the menu, and if we do get eaten on the job, we’ll face heavy penalties. There’s a chance of fines. I don’t want to get eaten or get a fine. What we’ll do is take it on from different angles and coordinate our efforts. How does that sound to you?” Shep asked Space Janitor.
“Sounds like a plan” Space Janitor said.
“Good, let’s get to it,” Shep said. His voice sounded like he was smiling. Shep rose from his crouched position, Space Janitor followed suit. “If you make your way to that remote area. Hug the walls alright because you don’t know how big it is. There’s so many dead, and they have a considerable mass on them. Could be the size of a cab, to be honest, we don’t know, but hey that’s all part of the job.”
Shep turned away and peered into the blackness where the sound was coming from.
“Can you see anything?” said Space Janitor. Shep turned back to him.
“I got rid of my amplifier scope. To be honest, dogagers keep me above the surface most times. I’m pretty used to my eyes too. All fun where I’m from.” said Shep. Shep looked at Space Janitor’s Spenglactic and run his paw along the side. “Say you have an ampi-scope. It’ll come in handy. Did you have this the whole time?”
“I don’t know,”
“What do you mean you don’t know?” Shep asked.
“It’s my first day,” said Space Janitor.
“That excuse is only going to get you so far, you realise that?”
“Up until my second day.”
“Don’t be funny,” said Shep wagging his paw in his face. “It doesn’t suit you and look, your Speng isn’t even turned on. How the in the moremuck did you get all the way in here? How you expect to get anything done with an unpowered pack?”
“It said it only wanted to be on when necessary.”
“You wear the pack. The pack doesn’t wear you. Understand? Some of these packs are overly enthusiastic. Especially when it comes to patching their programming. Don’t let them tell you what to do. Now turn it on,” Shep demanded.
“It’s not going to like that,” said Space Janitor. Shep got in Space Janitor’s face. Space Janitor reached down the side of Spenglactic. He flipped the switch from down to up, nothing happened.
“What’s the matter?” Shep asked.
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