Friday, March 16, 2012

Flashfic: Dirty Job

Crewman Jab stood in the corridor outside Playroom 4, pulling on a fresh pair of gloves. Further down the corridor, the entrance to Playroom 6 opened and a trio of drunken crewmen staggered out. They reeked of booze and perspiration. One crewman had his shirt on inside out and back to front.

They staggered past Jab wearing the happy grins of the truly plastered and indecently satiated. Jab hated them all with the white-hot fury of an exploding star.

Gloves secured, Jab replaced his facemask over his nose and mouth. From a compartment on his tool belt, he drew out a fresh pair of safety goggles. They were the cheap kind that would disintegrate in a couple of hours. Something similar would happen with the plastic cap Jab slid over his hair.

The new guys assigned to Custodial Services always snickered when they saw Jab in his uniform. He never said anything, merely gave them the option of not wearing the protective gear. After all, it wasn’t required. Most chose to forego the gear that first day and all of them regretted it. The next day they would usually don the cap, gloves and eyeware with the thousand-yard stares of battlefield veterans who had seen and done horrible things.

Properly outfitted, Jab punched a code into Playroom 4's control panel. Immediately, the room’s systems went into diagnostic and analysis mode. Inevitably an alert was triggered. There was matter in the theater that would need to be physically removed.

Jab hoped it was just a bottle of fake-wine, but he didn’t get his hopes up. He’d been working Custodial on the Inanna too long.

He opened the theater door and, instantly, the smell hit him. Jab reeled back, and felt the facemask tighten around his mouth and nose. It released a powerful blast of lemon freshness, right into Jab’s nose and mouth. His sinuses felt like they were on fire.

Reluctantly, Jab stuck his head into the room.

What he saw, oozing on the diamond-patterned deck was not a bottle of fake-wine.

Not by a long shot.

Jab stepped out of the room and the door sealed. His facemask seemed to relax, although it kept pumping lemon-scent into his nose. He pressed the Playroom’s computer interface.


"Yes, Crewman Jab?" The voice of the Inanna’s computer always sounded vaguely grandmotherly to Jab.

"Who was the last person to use Playroom 4?"

"Commander Sykes."

"I knew it," muttered Jab.

"I did not understand that statement, Crewman Jab," fretted the computer.

"Computer, connect me with Doctor Vogel."

A moment later, the voice of the Inanna’s Chief Psychiatric Officer emerged from the intercom.

"This is Doctor Vogel."

As usual Vogel sounded calm and tranquil. Jab suspected she was heavily self-medicating. How else could the woman deal with all the lunatics on this tub?

"Doc, this is Jab. I’m at Playroom 4. Commander Sykes has been misbehaving. Again."

Vogel sighed. "Thank you for informing me, crewman. I’ll deal with it."

She severed the comm-link and Jab scowled.

Sure, she’d deal with it. Just like she had the other eleven times their resident coprophiliac went off his meds. Like cleaning up the spooge wasn’t bad enough!

Jab called it in to his supervisor, an annoying wunderkind fresh out of the Academy.

"Drury, the Brown Terror has struck again."

"Oh geez," muttered the teenager. "You let Doc Vogel know, Jab?"


"Cool. Thanks. Take your time cleaning that up. Okay?"

Sure, thought Jab. Cause I really want to linger cleaning this crap.

He put another facemask on, layering it over the one he was already wearing, then pulled his personal blazer out of his tool belt. Officially, you weren’t supposed to fire a blazer inside the ship, but there was no way Jab was cleaning that mess up with his hands. They’d never said anything the other times he used the thing to sanitize the Playrooms.

Actually, Jab sort of wished that someone would make a fuss about him using the blazer. That Lt. Commander Zara would burst in on him with a couple of her goons and drag him off to the brig.

It’d be a nice change of pace from cleaning up other people’s shit.

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