Chapter Ten

Fire!

 

 


“Shit!” I yelled. “A fire! Son of a bitch!”
I took off running toward the burning quarters that the alarm was screaming from and I heard a human screaming as I approached the door. Horrible, blood-curdling screams of terrible, excruciating pain and fear. And then, even worse than the screaming, the human screams abruptly stopped while the alarm screamed on.
The light above the door was flashing red. Solid red meant you could only open it from the inside unless you were captain, solid yellow meant go in but don't come out. You guys know, if there's a flashing red light on your door you need to get the hell out of there right then before it stops flashing. The alarm kept screaming but whoever was in there had stopped screaming, and all of the doors' lights were solid yellow, meaning come in and stay in, except the one flashing red.
When a door flashed red on the outside it was solid red on the inside and nobody but me could get it open from either side.
The door wouldn’t open, even for me. I was horrified and I may even have panicked a little. “Computer,” I said to the tablet. “Open that God damned door, there’s someone in there that’s hurt!”
“Unable to comply,” it said.
“Reason?”
“Danger to the ship and passenger, other cargo, and crew.”
“GOD DAMN IT!” I yelled. “There’s a woman dying in there. God damned computer!”
“Containment in approximately two minutes.” This must be a bad one for the automatic fire suppression to take that long to take hold – but of course, since the cabin was occupied it couldn’t just let all the air out like if one of the engine rooms had caught fire, or a maid or other robot caught fire in an unoccupied room.
“OPEN THAT GODDAMNED DOOR!” I screamed at the tablet.
“Unable to comply” the computer answered emotionlessly again. God damned piece of shit computer! God DAMN it! There was a human being in there and I didn't care how she made her money, she was a person.
I think I changed my mind about hookers then. I kind of pitied them.
Three of the whores showed up wondering what was going on. I ignored them and continued stupidly and uselessly screaming at the tablet. “God damn it computer, I'm going to...”
Yeah, getting emotional with a computer and threatening it is pretty damned stupid but I'd kind of lost it. The whores were all yammering and I kept ignoring them and kept uselessly yelling at the damned stupid computer like I was a witless idiot.
A medic rolled up behind me and the door opened, air rushing into the smoke-filled quarters, its pressure already lowered but not enough to harm a person.
Huh? What the hell? You don't know what a medic is?Medics are robots that look kind of like narrow tables with padded tops and appendages to measure bodily functions and administer medicine and stuff like that. Planetside they call them “gurneys” but everything is named different on a boat, which you two guys obviously ain't never been on. Like port and starboard. Which makes no sense with a space ship, because the portholes are all on the ceilings and that's the only place you can see stars, and the ceiling is the bow. And the deck faces the stern.
God but it stunk when I walked into the room! A burned flesh smell and a burned chemical smell. A nasty burned chemical, even making the burned flesh smell smell worse, if you can believe that. It was even worse.
It was no wonder the computer wouldn't open the door, I'd have been cooked as done as the woman, and the other three women, too. Hell, as bad as it looked the whole damned boat might have gone up in flames.
The medic lifted the woman, who I recognized as the Billie whore, on itself. I recognized her, but barely. She was burned up pretty bad, real bad. The medic robot, which was the table, put an oxygen mask over her face and a needle in her arm and sprayed her with water, and the cot and her left for the sick bay.
“Damn it, Joe,” one of the women said, “What's wrong with Billie? What happened?”
“I don't know, there was a fire,” I replied. “I'm investigating so stay the hell out of my way.”
Another one said “She's been trying to bum drops from everybody. Probably trying to cook up some other drug.”
I walked around the smoky room and saw what caused the fire – the stupid whore was indeed trying to make an ancient drug called “methamphetamine”. Even on Earth making that shit is dangerous if you're not a chemist that's went to college, in space it's a fucking crazy menace. I guessed that since she couldn't get angel tears she figured she'd make a substitute, as if all drugs were alike or something. Dumb whore. It was just crazy.
My fone buzzed; it was Destiny. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, sugar, just one of those stupid whores trying to get high. Blew up her quarters and burned herself up pretty good.”
I went outside. As soon as I did the door closed and I could hear the windy sound of smoky air being blown out to space. I wondered why they wasted it like that? Cheaper than filtering, I guess.
A maid was already waiting outside the door to clean up the mess and I started walking back home. A dozen whores were coming down the hallway towards me. “What's going on?”
“Billie blew herself up trying to make drugs,” I said. “I catch anybody else doing that and they're in deep shit. Now excuse me.”
“Wait! Is she okay?”
It was that one broad, Sparkle, the one that was fighting with Billie the first week. Apparently they'd not only made up, but were lovers. Lesbian hookers? That don't make no sense to me, but I ain't went to college. The bunch of them went on to the sick bay and I went back to drink some wine with Destiny. The robots would take care of Billie.
As I walked back to my cabin I pulled out my fone and hailed the ship's public address system. “Attention, cargo and passenger,” I said. “There has been a fire caused by someone really, really stupid. Pay attention, now. If I catch any open flames whatever, the lady with the fire is locked up 'til we get to Mars. So if you're going to try to make drugs, you damned well better not need fire to do it. And even if you don't use fire if I catch you with drugs you're alone until we get there. So be good.”
As I passed the commons there were two naked women having oral sex with each other. “Hey, you two. Get a room,” I growled. What the hell was wrong with these whores? Almost none of them seemed to be wearing clothes lately.
They ignored me.
“You wanna be locked up?”
“Fuck off, Joe.”
“That's Captain Knolls to you,” I said, and pulled out my taser.
“You're an asshole.”
“Get. Both of you. You're alone the next twenty four hours.”
They weren't paying me enough for this shit. Fucking droppers!
Well, Destiny would cheer me up, she always did. I was actually pretty cheerful when I got back.
“Took you long enough,” she said slyly.
“Oh, them whores,” I said. “I had to lock a couple of 'em up.”
“What did they do?”
“They were having oral sex with each other in the commons. I told 'em to go somewhere more private and they told me to fuck off. Look, hon, there's two hundred of them and they act like feral children. They'll take over if I let 'em.”
“Feral?” she grinned.
“You're rubbing off on me, Brainiac!”
She giggled. “Here, I got some cheese while you were gone.”
I picked up my glass. “To cheese!”
She laughed. “I'll drink to that. Want to watch something?”
“Nah, put on some music and we'll cuddle.”
“Cuddle?”
“Well, you know where cuddling always goes.”

 

 


Chapter 9
Index
Chapter 11

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