“BLARRRGH!! HACK! Broof Blarggggggggg Glug... Oh, galaxy! AAAARGHblugblug HACK Oh, shit! Son of a bitch... Blurg...”
“Williams, take your bag and get some fresh air. Johnson, watch his screens,” Zales ordered.
“Sure thing, Sarge,” Johnson replied. “Williams must have had a little too much breakfast.”
Zales shook his head. “He shouldn't have volunteered for Venuswatch duty if he has a weak stomach.”
“Aw, he'll get used to it, Sarge. I had to hit the bag a few times myself when I was as green as him. I lost a little weight since I started.”
“I'll go see how he's doing,” Zales said. “O'Brien, you're in charge 'til I get back.”
“Affirmative, Sarge,” O'Brien answered. Zales went outside, and O'Brien said “Whoopie! Looks like I won the pot!”
Johnson said “Lucky you! Man, these Venusians sure are some sick bastards. I can see why Williams hacked, watching this sure isn't giving me an appetite.”
“That's why I watch sports when I get home from work,” said O'Brien. “It takes my mind off of this disgusting job! Did you see the zooterball game last night?”
“No, I had to work on my floater. Damned levitator went out again. I'm going to have to have a mechanic adjust it.”
“My floater's been acting up, too, probably the levitator, same as yours. I'm glad I won that pot, it'll go a long way towards paying off the mechanic because I'm sure it's going out of adjustment. With my luck my mechanic Bob will probably say I need to replace the whole damned thing, that floater's pretty old.
“Bob says the Pist levitators are junk that have to be adjusted every six months, and you need special tools that you can't just print out to do it with, you have to buy them from Pist. When it needs another adjustment I'll probably have him put a self-adjusting Heinlein on it and trade in the Pist. I shouldn't have any more problems after that.”
“A Heinlein? Those suckers are expensive!”
“Yeah, but the Pist is false economy. As cheap as a Pist is, having it worked on every six months is expensive, and what the tools cost would buy five Heinleins.”
Johnson made a face and said “I can't afford a Heinlein. I'm still paying off the Pist and the rest of the floater it's installed in.”
“But you can afford to pay a mechanic every six months? They don't work for cheap, either, you know. The expensive tools and other equipment they have to buy makes them have a lot of overhead. Everybody thinks floater mechanics are all rich, but Bob showed me his books. Poor guy's deep in debt and works his ass off for peanuts. Pist rips those guys off worse than they do his customers.”
Johnson said “I can afford to pay a mechanic all at once, but I can't afford to shell out what a Heinlein costs all at once and I don't want to borrow any more money.”
“Hell, Greg, the Heinlein will pay for itself in three years including interest on the loan. Why not take out a loan?”
“I probably will next year when I get the floater paid for... if nothing else goes wrong with it. I wonder how Williams is doing?”
O'Brien laughed. “I'll bet he fell in love with a ghoul woman!”
Johnson looked a little ill. “That's disgusting, Larry. You suck at comedy. Don't give up your day job!”
O'Brien grinned. “Tough room,” he said.
Outside, Zales put his hand on Williams' shoulder. “Feelin' a little better, son?”
“Yeah, Sarge. Galaxy but those creatures are nasty!”
“I can't argue with that, Williams. What made you hack?”
“Well, I was watching Washington. He went in to a bar called...” Williams frowned. “The Dead Martian.”
“Surely that didn't set your stomach off.”
“No, but the first thing he did was cut off three Venusians' heads with that gaudy sword, they must have looked at him funny or something. That was bad enough, the way their eyes blink and their mouths open and close like they're trying to breathe, while the body and limbs flop around with all that blood squirting out of the neck!”
“You'll see worse than that,” Zales admonished.
“It did get worse. He laughed, downed some kind of drink, and propositioned a woman. When the Venusian she was with objected, Washington blew the guy's head of with his microwave gun.”
“And that's when you got sick?”
“Hell, no, Sarge, that didn't even make me queasy. That ghoul almost had me laughing when he was flopping around without a head.
“After Washington blew the guy's head off, the woman yelled ‘Who wants a blow job?’ Three guys stood up and she microwaved them. She and Washington thought it was hilarious.
“Then they both got naked and had sex right there on the bar table in front of everybody. And then...”
“I guess she was having an orgasm. She screamed out ‘oh, yeah! Oh yeah! I feel like my head is going to explode!’
“So then he shoots her in the head with his microwave, and her head exploded, and...”
Williams heaved into his bag again. “Sorry, Sarge. Anyway, he kept humping her headless, twitching body!”
Zales looked a little ill himself. “Look, George, we have plenty of staff today, go ahead and take the afternoon off.”
“Thanks, Sarge,” Williams said. “If somebody kills that sick bastard I want to see the video.”
“Sure thing. Get some rest, watch a ball game or something. You're probably going to need to eat, I think your breakfast is in that bag.”
“Hell, Sarge, I may never eat again!”
Zales laughed. “Yeah, I know what you mean. You'll be OK in a while. Go home and get some rest before everybody else starts hacking.”
“Thanks, Sarge. See you in the morning.”
“See you. And Williams...”
“Don't eat so much for breakfast tomorrow!”
“I think I'll skip breakfast tomorrow, Sarge. See you.”
“See you, Williams.”
“God, I hate this job already,” Williams said silently to himself.