“…and the fucking jizzmonkies tried to jump us right in the middle of me taking the greatest shit of my goddamn life! I mean you wouldn’t fucking believe the size of this turd from fucking hell coming out of my anus like an assload of -”
“Jesus! Foulmouth. The story.”
“Ok, fuck! Keep yer tits on. So there we were, ass out, with these greasers sneaking up behind us. Janix hears a twig snap or some shit and he wheels around, trousers around his ankles, cock flapping in the winter wind, and just absolutely bitch slaps this cuntpuddle into the air. Holy shit was it beautiful. He spun, no lie, like at least 8 times before hitting the ground. The other jizzstain just froze in stunned silence like ‘What the fuck?’ And I swear Janix flipped up in some acrobatic ninja bullshit and clopped the other guy right in the jaw with his freshly shit-stained boot.”
“Ugh you can’t tell truth from exaggeration in your stories. Is that really how it happened, Janix?”
“Just as he says.”
“Yer goddamn right it’s as I say. And then we went up inta the town and may God strike me down if Janix didn’t fuck every single skank in that backwater whoremill at the same time. I myself had a-” Foulmouth pauses with his mouth open for a couple of seconds, then bellows “Is that fucking Halder?”
It was nice to see that nothing had changed.
“Last time I heard that story it was 5 spins.” Halder finishes walking in the doorway of the east wing cafeteria as his friends rush to greet him. Aidon “Foulmouth” Wikson grabs Halder in a bearhug, too tight as always. Wikson’s beard has gotten bigger, if that’s possible, and probably so has his prodigious gut. Hasn’t lost a bit of charm, though.
Janix places his hands on Halder’s shoulders. “It’s good to see you,” his eyes expressive and heartfelt. The two grew up together back in Dwunn and so have the advantage of not having to talk much. “Have you met Lethos?”
“No, well I…I thought Lethos was a guy. In your…who…”
The young woman (comparatively speaking) stands up and offers her hand. “I’m Fragil. Fragil Lethos. Widow of Renault Lethos.”
“Best damn gunner in the universe.” Wikson adds reverently.
Fragil is a wisp of a girl, dark-haired and somber. Bags under her eyes. She’s not healthy. She wears an old military jacket over a white dress that’s not more than a slip. She’s been eating what looks like beef tips in gravy with her hands. Halder can’t think of a way out of the handshake so he just does it.
“Aidon was just filling Lethos in on the Kleptine latrine incident. Somehow she hadn’t heard it yet. Come, pull up a seat. Eat with us. How have you been?”
Halder walks over to the handwash station, noticing for the first time a silver robot in the corner of the large room. The robot is staring at its own hand, moving it around slowly in front of its face. “I’m well, thanks. Hey what’s that robot?”
“Oh fer fuck’s sake, don’t. Just drop it.”
Halder shrugs. “Okay.” Then to the beverage interface, “Server, dispense a mug of Drillix Red. Extra head.” The station whirs and buzzes. The beer is dispensed, ice cold. He takes the seat next to Wikson, who eyes it greedily. Wikson’s own beer looks flat and warm.
“So where in the cack have you been?”
“I’ve been working,” Halder looks at his beer. “Things have been crazy.”
Fragil fills the silence with a question, “What do you do?”
Foulmouth pipes up, “He only built this entire fucking station with his bare hands.”
“I worked on some of the Server modules. It’s not that interesting. I’m actually sort of looking around for some new work these days.” Janix looks up at him and doesn’t smile. “Maybe I could join one of your teams. Uh, what do you do, Fragil?”
Janix explains, still looking at Halder with concern. “Lethos can sense the presence of others at a distance. The next room, across the station. Doesn’t matter. If she had been at Kleptine, Aidon would have been able to finish his shit in peace.”
“Well thanks fer fucking nothing, Lethos.”
“My pleasure,” she smarts back at Foulmouth. She slurps some gravy off her wrist.
Janix and Wikson start discussing military tactics mostly in acronyms. Halder loses the thread within a few sentences. He focuses on his beer. Fragil looks at a particularly large beef tip on her tray, tilting her head to the side and frowning. “Say,” she says a little too quietly, “can I borrow that knife?”
“Sure.” Halder picks up Wikson’s steak knife off the table and hands it over to Fragil.
“Thank you. And now at last I go home.”
Fragil spins the knife around and plunges it directly toward her heart. Janix’s arm flashes out, mashed potatoes flying as he releases his spoon. The robot in the corner watches in wonder as the spoon traces a trajectory into the wall. Janix’s hand catches Fragil’s wrist with a loud slap. “Whoa there. Nice try.” He takes the knife. She slumps back into her seat and grabs the large beef tip, eating it all at once with a pout.
Janix starts clearing the table, starting with the silverware. “Suicide watch. It’s part of our duties these days. Fragil’s been through a lot. We don’t know what we’d do without her.”
Halder finishes his beer and gets up for a refill. Wikson sees an opportunity, “Ya know, if ya’d like to keep drinkin’ I might, uh…know a guy who could help.” He looks around before raising up his trouser leg to show a series of plastic tubes circulating a murky golden liquid. “I know it’s still morning technically, but is there really time in space?”
“Server, pour me another beer.”
The interface beeps, “Authorization required. Code?”
Wikson points. “See what I mean? Damn nazi smegheads and their rationed gobshite.”
“Granted.” Another beer appears.
Foulmouth Wikson is flummoxed. “How? How did you do that?”
“You just have to give it your ID to authorize multiple drinks. It’s not locked down or anything.”
Stammering, “What-how-no, wait. What’s my ID? WHAT’S MY FUCKING ID?”
“Server, read the directory entry for Wikson-comma-Aidon.”
“Wikson. Aidon O. ID number zero-5-zero-4-S. Charged with multiple complaints of-” Wikson runs to the beverage station and commands it to produce a deliciously authorized Karuna Stout. He chugs the entire pint of dark, creamy liquid and lets out a sigh. “You little son of a bitch. You knew about this the whole time? The entire station thinks there’s a rationing on for some fucking reason.” His eyes unfocus, “You don’t know the great lengths I’ve gone to. Great. Lengths.”
“It’s all in the manual. Don’t you guys read the manual? Has nobody read the manual?”
“I don’t think so…” Wikson suddenly has the best idea of his life and he bolts upright, murder in his face- “No one speaks a word of this to anyone. Understand? Do you fucking understand?”
Alarm klaxons go off. The room is filled with an ear-piercing squeal and the lights flash red. Halder’s face goes white. “Valzon.”
Janix frowns. “That’s a hell of an assumption. It could be anything. It’s probably not Valzon. But we’ve got to get to our stations. Come with us. Nickel!” The robot turns its head, eyes wide. “You’re with me.”
“It is Valzon. I made his alarm a little less…squeally. So we could recognize it.”
Janix looks at Halder for a moment, studying him. He turns to Fragil and raises his eyebrows, waiting. She sighs, clamps her eyes shut tight, and concentrates.” She snaps her eyes open. “It is him,” she says in a hush. “It’s Valzon.”