“You’re going to have to help with steering,” said Space Janitor (071-080).
“I’m so weak. Just let me die,” said Shep. Space Janitor registered that Shep’s anger had morphed into open displays of self-pity. It was ugly to see. Space Janitor understood the pain and feeling of hopelessness that Shep was encountering. Space Janitor also had a deep well of guilt inside of him regarding the whole foot fiasco.
What was Space Janitor supposed to do? Melt his own foot off out of solidarity? He considered it, but it wouldn’t change anything.
Two broken dogs? No one would miss them. If they wanted out off here, it would come down to them and them alone.
“I can’t let you die. Not, after all, you’ve done for me. We need to get out of here. I owe you a foot.” said Space Janitor.
“I don’t care, keep it,” said Shep.
“It’s not about that, I need you to steer this transport” Space Janitor said. Shep’s eyes were still closed. Space Janitor dragged him to the transport. Cold icy air clawed at their fur. Space Janitor minimised his shaking as best he could.
They would have to get moving soon. Space Janitor felt as if he were going to pass out. He forced his eyelids as wide as possible. The cold forced his eyes to flicker.
They were at the transport. Space Janitor was pushing Shep towards the driver’s seat. Shep struggled to get in. Space Janitor didn’t even know if Shep was aware of what was going on. Space Janitor would find out soon enough.
“Come on, Shep. You have to steer this thing,” said Space Janitor. He looked down at the control panel. Here’s hoping it worked.
“Just let me sleep. Why won’t you let me die?” Shep demanded.
“I won’t let you die because I need you to live,” said Space Janitor. Shep’s eyes still shut aimed in the direction of Space Janitor.
“Thank you, maybe the whole foot thing,” said Shep.
“Don’t be thinking that it is down to the kindness of strangers or work colleagues for that matter. Let me set it straight. I want to get out of here. Only recently I’m conscious, aware, alive, whatever. All I know is that I want to keep things that way.” Spenglactic chimed in.
“Getting a bit mercenary aren’t we,” Spenglactic said.
“Don’t get me wrong. I want out of here and to send back that thing that tried to eat me,” said Space Janitor.
“You’re taking it kind of personal,” Spenglactic noted. Space Janitor wasn’t listening. He was focusing on getting Shep into the driver’s seat of the transport. The dog’s body was stiff, but he would move when prompted.
“You’re in position. Right, let’s get this started. How do I get it started” Space Janitor asked out loud.
“Use the key,” Spenglactic got in quick.
“OK, where’s that?”
“Should be in the ignition,” said Spenglactic
“The ignition. The thing with the slot?”
“Fantastic,” said Spenglactic.
“Then we’re on our way” Space Janitor was jubilant.
“No, you need to listen to tone better,” said Spenglactic, “I’m sarcastic. It means the key is missing and we’re screwed again. How do you know how some items work yet not others? Right OK. You can go and look for the key and die in the process, or you can do something quicker but illeagler. Is that a word. Who cares my circuits are slowing, and my rhetoric chip is shorting.”
“What’s the quick illegaler option,” asked Spenglactic.
“Hook me into the slot, and I’ll jack it. You know what I mean?”
“Will that help?” asked Space Janitor.
“Of course it will help, how come you got to ask? Have I steered you wrong at all so far?” Spenglactic reproached.
“When you’re on,” Space Janitor replied.
“That’s not fair, and you know it. I’m always on, and I just want to make sure that we’re both doing the right thing. Now plug me in” said Spenglactic.
Space Janitor did as he was told and hooked up a wire from Spenglactic into the designated slot. Spenglactic made a blipping sound. There was a bit of a pause, and then the lights came on the console. It appeared that what Spenglactic promised it would do was done.
The transport’s engine shuddered to life. The lights came on, and Spenglactic retracted the wire back in.
“Right prop up the other one and let’s get out of here,” Spenglactic ordered.
Space Janitor moved Shep into position. The lights were fading out on the console as Space Janitor manoeuvred Shep.
“Something’s happening,” Space Janitor said.
“Like what,” said Spenglactic.
“The lights are getting darker. The powers failing.”
“It’ not failing, we have a small window. There’s no way I can stay plugged in while you steer. Gave the thing a little boost. Have to make sure that we can get outta here by then. You thought we were just gonna coast on out?” Spenglactic belted.
Space Janitor spoke into Sheps ear. He told him that it was up to him to steer. Shep nodded, but Space Janitor didn’t know if any of what he said registered. Space Janitor positioned himself on the flat of the transport. He turned the settings on the Spenglactic to the specifications as instructed.
Space Janitor locked his feet in place. Squeezed on the handle, the heat was intense, but there was no movement.
“Are we clear?” Spenglacti enquired.
“We’re stuck,” said Space Janitor.
“What do you mean we’re stuck?” Spenglactic asked. For a machine, it conveyed a lot of emotion.
“The treads are turning, but we’re not moving,” said Space Janitor. The treads were indeed in motion. The transport vibrated in place. “I think we’re frozen in place,” said Space Janitor. He looked over the side. Saw there was a small yet thick bridge of ice that tethered them to the side of the freezer.
“You know what you got to do then,” Spenglactic insinuated. The machine had not completed audiblising its sentences. Space Janitor already had the nozzle pointed at the ice and giving it full blast.
Out the corner of his eye Space Janitor noticed Shep had slumped over again.
“Sit up straight, Shep,” Space Janitor commanded. Shep registered the instruction and complied. “Spenglacti this isn’t working. It’s too slow. Shep’s going to be frozen before we even move off,” Space Janitor was desperate.
“Computing,” said Spenglactic.
“Yes,” said Space Janitor. The cold throttled Space Janitor. He saw the warm mist of air squeezed from his lungs. Soon he would be rung dry.
“Right we’re going to go for a Particle protocol blast,” Spenglactic said.
“How do I do that?” asked Space Janitor.
“You have to shut everything down on me. I got to warn you, it’s risky, and you might not survive it,” Spenglactic warned.
“At this point, what choice do we have?” Space Janitor said to Spenglactic.
“OK. I’ll talk you through it,” said Spenglactic. At the same time, a little control jutted out the side. “Take the control and shut it all down. You have to go through everything on the manifest. You have to check off everything. It’s called the Check-Off Protocol for a reason,” Spenglactic continued. “You hear me?”
“I hear you,” Space Janitor responded.
“Good, get started. After you’ve done all that, you press the big red button. I’ll either hear from you again, or I won’t. I never really tell a colleague good luck or anything like that. I don’t want them thinking I’m getting soft or nothing. This case is no exception” said Spenglactic.
Space Janitor looked at all the items on the list. He would have to act fast if he was to stand a chance. Space Janitor went through the list. He switched everything to off and hoped for the best.
The list was long. I’m not going to tell you everything that was on it. You can probably guess correctly. Items like primary vents, secondary vents and if you said tertiary vents, don’t be silly. Space Janitor turned off the speakers and the shielding.
Space Janitor wasn’t sure what all this stuff did, but he didn’t care at this point because he was freezing. How he hadn’t frozen by now? Anyone’s guess to be honest. He’s a plucky young mutt. It might be something to do with his mindset. What you find cold might freeze someone else. Kind of like me, I don’t like the heat all that much. I’m sure my ancestral lineage traces back as far as some kind of polar bear kin. Hot weather makes me lose my temper.
Anyway, I digress. How Space Janitor survived in the freezer for as long as he did is and will remain a mystery.
Everything on Spenglactic was shut down. It wasn’t until the final item to Space Janitor realise how much heat Spenglactic provided.
The red reset button presented itself on the screen. Asking the question, “Do you want to press me?” in big, bold black font against a grey background.
“Do you want to press me?”
Space Janitor very much wanted to press the red button, but there was also a feeling of doubt. What if this was all part of some elaborate plot for Spenglactic to explode himself. If it were, boy would Space Janitor’s face be red, and separated from the rest of his skull. There was no way for Space Janitor to know. At the end of his rope Space Janitor answered the prompt of the screen through action.
Space Janitor pressed the red button.
It sounded like the rumble of a tummy at first. It got louder and louder. Space Janitor didn’t know which end it would come out. Space Janitor took off the pack and checked to see if there was any sign.
There was an intense heat given off. Subliming the surrounding ice. It became hot to the touch. Space Janitor realised how useful the heat shielding on the straps was. There was the sound of a valve being released. Space Janitor checked to see what where it was coming from.
The Straps were the only way that he could hold the Spenglactic. The Spenglactic was shaking more violent now. It flipped itself from the transport onto the ground. This thing was going to take off without him. Space Janitor would have to get a grip on it by the straps and ride it like a toboggan.
Shep had slumped over again. The Spenglactic was doing a breakdance. Space Janitor grabbed Shep and without any care forced him down onto the Spenglactic.
There was no care given this time. Shep yelped in pain. Space Janitor usually courteous to a fault didn’t even apologise.
The Spenglactic was spinning out on the ground. Becoming a centrifuge with Shep at the centre.
“Are you going to get on?” Shep squealed.
Space Janitor watched and knew he would have to time it right. He jumped and landed on Shep. Yelped again, poor Shep.
Space Janitor reached for the straps as a means of steering. The speed of the spin forced his hands back. It was a battle to get a firm grip. Sounds were coming from the bottom end of the Spenglactic.
Space Janitor used his foot to hold Shep in place. If there was to be a massive heat expulsion Space Janitor didn’t want Shep to get any more limbs melted off. Melting off one foot, rude. Melting off two feet? No more birthday cards for you. Unless you dislike birthday cards in which case, more birthday cards for you. Unless it’s a double bluff. Look I’m getting sidetracked here. Mostly what I’m trying to say is, it’s impolite to melt off someone’s feet. Call me old fashioned.
Space Janitor wrestled the straps to get control of the spinning. The blurry white of the revolving surroundings now became more of a steady white.
The rumble of Spenglactic now become more high pitched. The nozzle glowed a bright blue. Space Janitor freed his right hand and grabbed the control of the nozzle. Despite the heat shielding, he could still feel the massive warmth building-up.
Space Janitor pointed the nozzle in the opposite direction he wanted to go and gulped.
There was a moment of silence.
Space Janitor tasted electricity.
The sound of a slow trombone release. You know the sound. The one from the end of those ancient jazz records. The ones where the guy cuts out his lovers cheating heart even though he’s married to someone else. That kind of trombone sound.
The Spenglactic was a champagne cork out of a frozen bottle.
“What the what is happening?” Shep screamed, but that was 100 feet ago.
“We’re getting,” Space Janitor stopped talking. He couldn’t hear his own voice, what chance did Shep have in taking in words.
The ice particles in the air pelted Space Janitor’s face. He did what he could to shield himself, but it was of no use. The wind whipped at his ears too.
Space Janitor could make out shapes in front of him as they grew larger. It was a struggle, but he managed to steer himself clear of the oncoming obstacles.
Space Janitor didn’t want to speak too soon, but he had a feeling as if he was getting the hang of steering. No one would see, so he allowed a smile to sneak onto his face. Once he had accounted for the sheer force of energy below him, adjusted for Shep, it became manageable. Space Janitor knew that on some level it was a case of avoiding the more massive objects. While at the same time, making sure that he stayed well enough away from the ceiling. It was tight, but Space Janitor enjoyed the challenge. All things considered.
How far had he come into the freezer? The rows went all for what felt like miles. The force of the wind that was prior assaulting him had lessened in intensity. There was darkness up ahead. That had to be the entrance. That had to be the destination to aim for.
Space Janitor felt the Spenglactic below him sag. There was a loss in energy and Space Janitor had to double up his effort to level the pack.
Out ahead, Space Janitor could see the glinting green in the dim light. Space Janitor had forgotten about it, but this thing had clearly not forgotten about him. Space Janitor could not go flying out to freedom.
What could he do?
Space Janitor decided the best thing to do would be to ditch Spenglactic right at the entrance. With a deep gulp, he steered it into a set of shelves.
Space Janitor leaned away and let the device impact. The Spenglactic bumped into the shelves and knocked one set over. As they fell, they hit into another set of shelves. The impact caused a domino effect sending row after row tumbling into one another. Packaging and produce fell and scattered.
One of the shelving units tumbled outside the area of the freezer. The gunk which sloshed back and forth snapped it up immediately. Space Janitor was able to make out the gunk as it sucked it in. The shelves silently bubbled in the transparent wash. The shelving unit dissolved almost instantaneously. Space Janitor figured that in their absence it had become more aggressive. It was more aware, but it was still cautious of the cold.
How would he be able to play this to his advantage? They could not stay here forever, and it was highly likely that no one was coming to save them. They would have to take care of the gunk themselves.
Space Janitor’s mind was slow. He went to the freezers threshold. There wasn’t much that he could make out except for the dark humanoid silhouettes within the belly of the beast. They moved within. Did they move of their own accord or was this the internal tide of the gunk.
Space Janitor wasn’t sure, but he could feel a plan hatching in his skull. It may not be a plan ready to be born, but there was no other way. He would have to do something, and he would have to do it soon. The Spenglactic was still out of commission after the crash. He would have to rely on himself.
“What’s the hold-up?” Shep asked between his feet.
Space Janitor hesitated a moment. He looked around at Shep. The eyes were still closed, but the face was aimed at him.
“To put it mildly. We’re trapped.” Space Janitor responded to Shep. Shep shrugged and let off an amused sound.
“Of course we’re trapped,” Shep began, “We’ve been knocked around since we go in here. What now, is there a raging fire? If there was a raging fire, do me a favour and chuck me in. I could hit the right balance if you did that. Well, what is it? The station itself is starting to fall apart. From the frozen atmosphere of the freezer to the freezing vacuum of space. Is that poetic. I don’t care. At this point. Just let me die.” While Shep’s exterior may be frozen, there was a fire that burned big inside him. The flames seemed to crawl up his throat and set fire to his tongue.
“I have an idea. Let me be honest Shep, it’s not a great idea. It’ll probably get me killed, and I don’t even know what will happen if it works but at this point, what is there to lose?” Space Janitor asked, looking at Shep. Space Janitor blinked a long blink then opened his eyes on the gunk. “I’m going to get started on it. If you don’t hear back from me, it won’t matter.”
Space Janitor went about putting the pieces of the plan together.
Shep, still cold could feel a change in the atmosphere. Ahead of him, out there in the darkness, there was warmth. All he need do is reach out and feel firm caress. He knew not to fall for its allure. There was death in the darkness. In fact, that’s all there was, death and darkness. What was he supposed to do?
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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