Off in another fantasy, this time sneaking through Juxl Surveying Corp. Headquarters. JOS’s one unrealistic dream since being young has been to bring down the corporation responsible for enslaving his family for generations. Corporations didn’t encourage you to learn about your past, only your future. He was going to change that for everyone, if one Corp. failed, the balance would be upset. The whole Board would fall to pieces.
In this fictional reality, JOS has successfully made it through every tier of security on the way to the Brain. Centrally located in the Juxl Satellite World.
Finally, this time he’d do it, he reached to the explosives satchel on his hip, ready to set the last charges.
His stomach hit the floor feeling the hollowness.
How could he not sense the weightlessness? “Cqak!” the expletive was instinctive anytime he felt pressured. Stress levels rising he paced trying to think of something, it took him a moment to recognize the alarm blaring.
A sharp strike to the face sent him upright.
Instantly JOS was back from his fantasy. Musky oil stench filled his nose, the scent of the maintenance compartment turned quarters. The sour taste of brown congealed mass he’d eaten for his previous meal made his mouth water even though it was excruciatingly bland. Dim running lights revealed the mess of greasy tools, and his compartmental companion NaN, half rolled over, no headrest.
JOS felt around, not surprised when his arm bumped a cushioned mass from the spanner shelf just about the toolbox he called his bed. Responsively, JOS launched it back. No response.
He must’ve shut off his data card’s alarm function without realizing it. At a touch the device lit up the entire compartment, blinding him slightly. JOS fought through the severity of the light to read through his responsibilities for the roto*.
“Another rotation cleaning up after others.” JOS murmured the mantra he’d taken up five cycles prior to prepare himself for anything. Crawling out of his bed, he opened the small one square unit* locker that housed his only personal belonging, an oversized engineer’s coverup. Despite it’s wear and tear, he was proud to actually own something. When NaN PK-76\3927, and he had been at the Juxl Servitude Colony, every rotation they’d been reminded of how insignificant they were. To be able have possessions was a dream alone.
Sliding on the tough, grease covered white suit, he recalled Voiyn Valegbash, a being like he’d always dreamt of becoming, standing about one unit over JOS. From a distance he looked like the color of old grease with an oily shine, up close like the golden statue of a portly reptilian god. Extra weight or not, Voiyn was certainly not one to test physically, not without putting their life on the line.
A click from the last magtag on his collar. JOS bent down to tuck the loose materials into his foot insulators before putting on the heavy magboots that he’d have to drag around the rest of the rotation. Unable to lift them high enough to kick NaN directly, JOS drove his hell into the bottom of NaN’s toolbox. Still no reaction. JOS looked down on his sleeping friend, shrugged his shoulder saying, “Not my problem.”
JOS thought to himself, ‘I know it’s been a couple of periods, I still can’t get anywhere near that comfortable. Passing by the “Official” Crew Quarters, NaN and him’d joked, couldn’t help but snicker remembering the confrontation between Vahl and OhkBD. Per usual OhkBD barely escaped a beating because of Essec. It seemed so routine though, JOS wondered if it really came down to it would Vahl really commit, there was no way to know. ‘Sixty rotos wasn’t long enough to know anybeing.’ he determined, throwing his weight into the command apparatus in the operational compartment, too small for even the creature that could fit his coverup.
Recognizing his miniature stature, the operator seat lifted him to the controls with a hydraulic hiss. JOS inserted his hands into the red, on the left, blue, on the right, holospheres. The retina projector scanned him for preset being class, then took his biometrics confirming the eyes first. One at a time, the cool blue lines of his finger prints appeared in his vision as they were confirmed. Boot up functions for the ships Brain completed, JOS instructed the Brain with a couple flicks of his fingers, to begin wake up functions: prepare sanitary fluids, jettison biowaste, run maintenance scans, alert Voiyn, and crew. Finished, JOS disengaged the retinal projector, blinking wildly, a couple of tears rolled down his face as the seat hissed back to it’s original position.
Climbing out, he shuffled around for his data card, pulled it out, and ticked off the first item of thirty on his to do list. Next, sustenance preparation! JOS scowled at the idea, but it was important to do what was necessary in order to stay with this Pack. Violent outbursts or not, it was the closest thing to homeliness JOS’d ever come close to. Far closer than the Servitude Colony was or would ever be.
Without NaN’s lazy ass waking up in time, JOS doubled his workload. NaN was horrible about waking up, but once awake the guy earned his salt. Really NaN sleeping wasn’t so bad if everything worked properly, to date he’d failed five times at successfully managing the extra workload. A separate horror every time, the worst when Vahl’s nutrient combination dispensed incorrectly. Vahl put a knife to his throat, JOS had been through worse, but the reminder was clear.
One final recheck of all in-use SustenanceStations, ensuring all six meals were in correct ration, nutrient content ratio, delivery order, etc. Beginning to engage each SusStat, with only a few circuits* before all four of them flooded in for their “First Feeding.” NaN came clomping lazily, half-dressed in his own orange oversized coverup, “Have they came yet?” He knew he was safe.
JOS gave an irritated sigh, “No, do up your magtags.” Covering for NaN was also routine. Thinking quickly, JOS dove his hand into NaN’s utility pocket for his data card. “Already checked ’em off.” NaN laughed. JOS narrowed his gaze, dropping the device in his friends hand.
“Glad you’re both ready. Today is big.” Voiyn’s guttural voice bellowed from behind the hydraulic door.
Hissing open, the doors revealed the great reptile himself. “You two are coming with to earn your worth. A scavenging hunt. Forget other responsibilities after First Feeding. Clean. After see us in Operational Compartment for order.” Voiyn held out his massive hand for his rations. JOS handed it to him automatically, he watched his new idol exit the room.
Caught in the the same admiration, JOS and NaN looked to each other with “this-is-finally-really-happening?!” plastered across their boyish faces. The spell broken the instant the Double Dosca*, Vahl and OhkBD, entered the compartment.
“Surprised they have not picked up on Nontanish yet?” Vahl pointed accusingly in their general direction, ignoring the two, nonchalantly grabbing his food.
“Don’t be so hard on them.” OhkBD responded, “Mammals take a lot of training, that’s all. Always concerned with procreation.” He explained knowingly, using his fore-limbs to reach for his radioactive green slime. Behind his back, he gestured a phallus entering an orifice with his rear limbs. Both erupted into laughter when Vahl finally noticed.
OhkBD’s high pitched laugh was ear piercing, then cut off by the door to the compartment closing behind him. JOS’s face was red with fury, but even their chiding couldn’t break his spirit. A chance finally to earn the respect of these ex-ex’s, and the Valegbosh, a chance he would not take lightly.
JOS sent NaN to clean out the SusStats, a minor recompense for sleeping in. Essec walked in casually as always, making no sound except from the click of his magboots. Politely, he grabbed his food with a nod, and walked out, no one but Voiyn really knew anything about him, only, he was lethal.
Hearing NaN toiling gave JOS a sense of satisfaction in a hard-works-done, knowing it would not have to be him chest deep in nose singeing grim. Enjoying his entertainment JOS picked up the nutrient slush allotted to him, savoring each bite as his thoughts wandered to some impressive Lost Architect Ruin, and chancing upon some ultra-rare artifact, leading to his fame and glory.
Something sticky hit JOS in the face, his eyes focused on NaN laughing at him, “Ya’know it’s gonna be some boring trip, recycling in the void.”
JOS blushed slightly at being read so easily. “One day…” he trailed off, “Hurry up and stuff your face. The sooner we are done, the sooner we will be able to scrap this chore list and do something more fun than cleaning Vahl’s biowaste receptacle.” NaN agreed by shoveling all three of the final bites into his mouth at once, and darting towards the door.
“Like you can outrun me!” JOS threw his dish into the sanitation system, no manual utensil sanitation on Valevyinellin* after Feedings. Clamoring down the passageways, JOS maneuvered his body to block NaN from the operation compartment access control. JOS reached for it within range, in that last sphere* NaN’s hand batted his away to steal the victory. Nothing was making him feel very good about the coming rotation.
Defeated JOS trudged in after his oil-black haired friend, at last the two took their seats in the circle. Across from JOS sat Essec, tactically ready in his steel blue omni-environment suit. NaN Sat on his left, next to Voiyn in his distinctive horizontally striped orange-black-green suit. To his right sat the Double Dosca, unusually alert and silent. Vahl looking even more muscular than normal his white suit while maintaining that intense Ioikheil look, as if all nature covered their bodies in warning. From his black tendrils, to his “X” shaped pupils, and a mouth that protected his face creating a vertical seam from nose to chin. OhkBD one seat over looked strangely elongated in his matching white suit. OhkBD was a KipikOwmag, which as a species took on a stick-like appearance somewhere in their evolution to defend themselves. But his highly evolved brain made up for it in technical ability. JOS found himself admiring OhkBD’s computational wizardry, he still just couldn’t get passed his lackadaisical attitude.
Voiyn grumbled, instantly getting the packs attention, “We are honored. JOS QK-11\204 and NaN PK-76\3927. We are partaking in your initiating hunt.”
*roto – slang for rotation, the length of time a planet rotates 360degrees
*Unit – measurement equivalent of one meter
*sphere – measurement of time roughly one second
*circuit – one hundred spheres
*Valevyinellin – Vale Vyinellin
*Vyinellin – predatory creature disguising itself amongst asteroid belts