My girls had planned on taking me on board the Scimitar for drinks tonight It’s my birthday. My birthday, and the birthday of Red Base 7 — we share a birthday. Red’s only a little older than me.
The Scimitar is a Basto warship, Thenian Class Destroyer, but they have one of the best bars in the quadrant. And as it happens, they’re docked in Neptune’s Station R-73, close enough that we can zip-jump it. We don’t have to cryo-sleep, which is important, because when you’re my age, you can’t. They won’t let you anymore.
Not that you’d necessarily want to.
Doesn’t matter. I’m stuck here for the night. Praetorians from Squadron Seven are already on their way to investigate.
The girls are in our mess hall, at the other end of Red Base 7 – we call her Red, because after all, she’s one of us. The mess hall is where we spend most of our time, and where the girls spend most of their time when I’m not around, talking, gossiping. Living as best they can on such an obscure base. I’m glad they’re in the mess hall. It’ll give me a chance to walk through one more time, talk to her, commune with her like I’ve done for so many years, now.
Secluded though we are, Red usually gets decent traffic. She’s quiet, for now. Probably will be for a couple of days. The Praetorian Police will quarantine it for at least two days, of that I’m sure.
I get up and start to leave the deck – it’s like the deck of a ship, but we never go anywhere. Most of us don’t like it in here, never even bother to come in here. On other bases like ours, everything is automated. Red was built before the Robot Synergism, so now you have mostly useless rooms like the deck.
I suppose it wasn’t useless earlier today.
I look at the monitors, dark now. I don’t want to look at them anymore.
Past the deck is the first hall — the low-rent rooms. They’re our cheapest, but they’re still nicer than some of the new ones I’ve seen, all white rubber and slick surfaces. The cheap rooms have a nice bed, a couch, and a small kitchenette. There are six of them, and I consider poking my head in Number 4. It was my first room so many years ago.
And like most girls, my first time was a miner. Just a kid from the Vilaxian District, not much older than I was, if at all. He had the two hundred credits – two hundred, at the time, all those years ago – for the thirty minutes, so we had sex and he spent the rest of the time talking to me about his days in dark caves mining iridite ore and Paravan-52 dust.
I skip looking in on Number 4. I remember it, anyway.
Nana T was never a greeter, but like the girls here, that’s how I started out. I’m in the entryway now, and I am reminded again of my first day.
Low, red lights coming off the docking stations. There’s always been a red light here in the foyer. It’s big, and white, and soft, and the red light gives it a welcoming glow, a nice, easy glow.
The girls are still in the mess. I can hear them at the end of the hall, talking in low whispers. They know what’s coming.
She was beautiful, Katja. I loved her the way Nana T loved me. I was sure she was going to take over for me when I left or died.
Katja had come from the Aurealian Sector, the Lumin District. She was perfect, and I hired her on the spot.
She brushed a strand of her long, brown hair away from her face, never stopped engaging me with her gorgeous, perfect brown eyes.
So do I have the job, Miss Marnie?
Yes, I said, breathless, yes, you have the job, love. She smiled, bit her lip, and gently caressed her breast for an instant as she put her shirt back on.
Now I only know what I saw the monitors showed me on the deck.
I thought the rumors about Booster G where bullshit. It’s a new go-drug, you don’t have to wait for juice.
But it’s got some nasty side effects. He was a miner. And I thought he looked funny when I saw him come through the foyer, drop his credit in the slot by the door, and get assigned Katja’s door. I should have known. I should have stopped him.
The monitor. It was horrible. His muscles should have been thin and limp. Instead he had a giant fist gripping her hands together above her head, another hand on her mouth. She couldn’t scream.
They weren’t kidding about Booster G. His eyes, though, were the worst, a sickly gold, ears and nose bleeding with the pressure of his bulging, straining muscles.
He tore her to shreds, even after I gassed the room – a precaution all greeter bases have.
There’s another precaution the new bases don’t have that we do.
See, Red’s four hundred years old – just a little older than me, cryo-sleep Earth years – and she was built during the Domker Reita Invasions. You never knew when you’d get one of those shape-shifting little fuckers in your room. They’d eat you alive. The rooms are off the main hall, like leaves on a tree. And each of the rooms was built with an independent ignition and ejection switch, which no one – not Nana T, not me – had ever had to launch.
That fucker is floating out in space, somewhere. He’s long out of oxygen if the Booster G didn’t kill him.
The Praetorians will take me, I’m sure of it. One last walk down the low-lit red corridor to the mess hall to be with my girls.
© 2016 by Benjamin J. Kirby
All rights reserved.
Originally published at terribleminds for a flash fiction challenge.