Remember Halo Ray? No? She’s a middle-ranked officer on board a coalition space ship crewed by brats. She’s been updating her diary of late. Here’s a little of what she’s been getting up to.
Jimson Wraith is looking at me. How fucking long has she been standing at the door? Jimson has golden eyes and pale skin which looks slightly green under the ship’s lights – and every other light. She’s green. You’re not supposed to say it, but she is. Alien DNA got mixed into hers somewhere along the line and now she glows in the dark.
“They want you on deck two.”
“Don’t ask questions, just do as you’re told.”
And that’s why Jimson Wraith is one of my least favorite people. She’s good at following orders, but that’s about it. If she had to make a decision on her own her brain would probably melt.
I keep my mouth shut and go and see what Sloth wants. Sloth is her actual name. It’s an unfortunate moniker, and it doesn’t suit her in the slightest. She’s a thin woman with a huge amount of energy and an even larger debt to the coalition which is going to see her serving on these ships until her very last breath. Her hair is already streaked with gray and there are wrinkles like little channels around her eyes, nose and mouth. It looks like her face decided to perform some kind of tectonic experiment. Facequake.
“Halo,” she says when I get to her. “I need you to take a team into this bay and get it cleaned up.”
She points to the interior of what was once a pristine storage area. It’s covered in algae. There’s not a part of it that isn’t dripping with the stuff, pink gobs of goo covering the walls, the floor, the racks, everything.
“Runaway biological process,” she shrugs. “Clean and disinfect.”
This is not why I went to space. This is not why anyone goes to space. Space should be the one place where you can be safe from runaway biological processes, but apparently someone left the climate controls in the storage unit on simmer for about a month. The result is something with the texture of snot and the scent of dead things. The extractor fans are working overtime sucking the stench into the vacuum of space.
It’s not going to be a fun job cleaning this mess up. Fortunately, I’m not going to be the one doing it. I’m going to be the one watching other people do it.
“Anyone you want on this?”
“Take West and Westerson.”
West and Westerson have names that sound sort of the same, but they couldn’t be more different if they tried. West is usually in trouble. Westerson toes the line to the letter. There aren’t any letters on most lines, and that’s where she has some difficulties. She’s the sort of person so busy crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s that she wouldn’t notice if she’d severed an artery. She’s a good pick for this job though, thorough.
I punch their codes into the intercom, then put the call out. “West and Westerson, cargo bay two on the double.”
Westerson reports in less than sixty seconds later. She looks harassed and worried. Her dark curling hair is cropped close to her head, her pretty face scrunched up with concern. She’d be cute if she relaxed for five seconds, but right now she’s giving Sloth a run for her money in the nervous energy stakes. West takes another three minutes to show up. She’s in her early thirties, but she looks younger. That’s because she’s never worried about a thing in her life. No concept of consequences whatsoever, no predictive abilities at all. She’s a portly redhead with all the impulse control of a running chainsaw. When she sees what the task at hand is she lets out a grating whine.
“West,” I growl. “Get cleaning or you’ll be doing it with a sore ass.”
It’s more warning than she deserves, but she doesn’t take it on board. She looks at me with an expression that’s probably supposed to convey annoyance. It makes her look constipated.
“I don’t want to do this,” she says. “It’s dirty. What if we get sick?”
Westerson has already put protective gear on and managed to clear a decent section of wall. I make a mental note to put her up for some additional recreation time. She needs it, and she deserves it.
“If you get sick, I’ll send you to sick bay. Get to work.”
West scowls. I have no idea why she thinks that’s a good idea. It’s not as if facial expressions are likely to sway me. I look at her blankly, giving her about as much feedback as the wall next to me.
“Bitch,” she mutters under her breath as she turns away to put her protective suit on.
I let it slide for a moment. She thinks she’s getting away with something, but she’s not getting away with a damn thing. This is going to be one long day for West.
“Westerson,” I snap. Westerson panics and drops her sponge, turning wide eyes on me as she does.
“Leave it,” I say. “You’re done here. Go take some R and R.”
“Thank you, Halo!” Westerson is instantly grateful. I flicker a wink at her as she hurries out of the cargo bay.
West is looking at me with that pointless pout again. I fold my arms over my chest and look toward the interior. “It’s all yours, West. Enjoy.”
Her mouth drops in dismay. “I have to clean this up all on my own?”
“But that’s not fair!” Her voice rises so high it almost sounds as though she’s yodeling by the end of the sentence. “You’re picking on me!”
The funny thing is, she truly believes it. She doesn’t see the connection between her behaviour and the consequence. West lives in a world of bitches who are mean to her for no reason. There’s only one thing I can give her credit for, and that’s the fact she’s still on the ship. Most people like her wash out within the first couple of weeks. There must be more to West, though right now I can’t say I can see it.