Chapter Three – Bin There Done Hat.
Harrington rested. The last few hours had been something of a personal low, he vowed never again to cause harm to any kind of rodent. His arms and legs were a mess in the aftermath of slowly crawling through approximately 493 heavy duty rat traps. Counting them as he went was the only thing keeping him vaguely sane. Keeping a mental note of all the small details helped him concentrate.
Pain he could deal with; it came with the territory of being a successful mercenary, what really annoyed him though was the fact not a single one of the 493 traps had caught a rat, whereas almost 200 of the 493 had caught a Harrington.
He rubbed his arms and pushed on, it wasn’t all bad he supposed; he’d managed to stop off in an empty waste management sector. It had looked so rundown he figured it wasn’t in use and promptly took refuge, enjoying a rather leisurely lunch.
Reaching into one of his many combat pouches he grabbed a business card, originally the sole product of a 3-week online advertising course he took last June.
On the front it read:
[Harrington, Space Adventurer & Premium Dog Sitter]
[Smuggler, Murderer & Friend]
It had been a relatively unsuccessful self-promotion campaign as most of his work tended to be through clients who were quite adamant about secrecy. Instead he used the many spare cards for small personal reminders and shopping lists. On the back of this particular card was a list of items he was being paid to acquire on this Death Moon. 2 of the 3 had been ticked off within the first 10 minutes of arriving at the station, due to a very classified area having the main security door wedged open, the air conditioning was broken and several of the guards had been quite hot and were now quite unconscious. The 3rd item worried Harrington, he strained to read his own handwriting in the darkness and wasn’t sure what ‘Exotic’ was or why it ‘matters’. All he knew was that it was at the heart of J section and would probably mean he would have to do a spot of murdering to get it.
If Harrington had bothered with even minimal research, he would have known that exotic matter was in fact a key component of an astoundingly clever new engine currently being developed; capable of messing around with gravity on a rather impressive scale. It was the hot new toy of the science world and its existence had been purely theoretical for over millennia; no matter how hard people looked, it was never to be found. That was… until last year when one of George Miller’s top research teams had failed to find it for the 10th time in the same month and out of frustration they created a tiny sealed room designated specifically for the sole purpose of ‘not looking’ for exotic matter. After a quick tea break they came back to find the room full of the stuff.
This method however, has unfortunately never been successfully replicated as theoretical matter refuses to be tricked twice and so only a limited amount remains. Despite this, the team’s small success did influence the creation of a number of new research centres specialising in theoretical ‘existence’ mind games. The largest of which however, was promptly shut down by a group of organised religious fanatics following claims that they could lure God into disproving himself.
This was unnecessary knowledge for Harrington, who prided himself on having almost no natural curiosity; a trait which generally came in very useful in his profession. In exactly 49 minutes however, he was going to wish he’d known what removing an exotic matter container would do.
Roger was a big fan of the Martian Olympus Games; held every four years in the crater of Olympus Mons, he always made time for it and rather shamefully enjoyed several of the more strenuous female gymnastic events. He was also an avid watcher of the long jump and javelin, especially when they turned down the gravity for the finals.
One thing he never failed to notice, however, was how utterly miserable the long distance runners looked. Now he fully understood why; having spent the last 36 minutes running harder and faster than he’d ever done before, Roger was utterly miserable, his legs burned, his heart burned and now that he’d finally stopped, was becoming acutely aware that he was, incredibly hungry.
Peering out of the large bin that he and Martin had ducked into, Roger could now make out the bustling mass of Death Troopers making their way to the cafeteria.
“We’re never going to get lunch are we?” asked Roger on behalf of his stomach.
“Not unless they give us a final meal.” Replied Martin, trying desperately to find his happy place, which at the moment, was anywhere that wasn’t a dangerously foul smelling bin.
“Maybe we could live in here until this all blows over?”
“Desertion and castration? I think someone will remember.”
“I’m sure we’d get used to the smell and look, that might be food?”
“I hope we get a quick death.”
“That wasn’t food.”
Martin, guessing that his life would soon be flashing before his eyes decided to get a head start so that he could spend more time in the moment, in his last moments. He mulled over the last 3 years that he’d spent being employed as a ‘Death Trooper.’ The name sounded better on paper; in reality it actually meant very little. He had no combat experience; it was just standard procedure that he wore combat ready cream battle armour, in fact he still struggled to get into a bath if it was just a little hotter than usual. He was by all means nothing more than a glorified Janitor, whose career was in the illustrious field of Waste Management.
The idea to kit out all staff to look like battle ready soldiers was a genius idea, the logic being that in the event of an invasion, you could send a squad of bathroom attendants to support an assault team, they wouldn’t have weapons of course but instead just stand at the back looking intimidating. It was a surprisingly successful tactic, especially in propaganda videos’ where thousands of troops could be seen in impressive formation, when only a handful could actually tell the difference between a plasma rifle and vacuum cleaner.
After 3 long years Martin could tell the difference between many vacuum cleaners and would provide anyone with enough free time with a short rundown of the latest models and the unsurprisingly predictable relationship between cost and suction efficacy. He enjoyed his job, something deep inside of him longed for everything he saw to be clean and tidy, causing him to spend many hours of the working day lying under a waste compactor with a heavy duty toothbrush. Those moments were as close to serenity as he could find, the rest of his life seemed to wind him up so tight he struggled to breath. Martin’s only real goals were to have nutritious breakfasts and to get everybody to tidy up after themselves. Now, 3 years of abnormal normality had been stripped away and he found himself sitting waist deep in a dangerously misused recycling bin with a man who couldn’t even spell the word vacuum. It was unfair, everything was so unfair, Martin had begun to realise that unfairness was a recurring pattern in his life. Why was he so tall? why didn’t any hats look good on him? why did he always get the worst items on the lunch menu? He was going to die and he wasn’t at all surprised.
“It’s just par for the course I guess.” said Martin wiping a particularly slimy part of the darkness off his shoulder. “I knew something didn’t feel right about today, I thought it was indigestion but I guess now it was impending doom.”
“Sorry for kicking the Officer in the gentleman’s area” said Roger staring apologetically into the blackness.
“It’s ok I suppose, in some small way it’s probably my fault, I guess grabbing an early lunch wasn’t the greatest idea. It just seems silly that it should end up like this.”
“Want a hug?” offered Roger.
Martin replied with a dangerously sharp stare; a stare that soon collapsed, folding in on itself leaving him frowning uselessly into the pitch black.
The punishment regime set up for the majority of the staff was far from silly, they were in fact a key necessity in running such a smooth operation. However, as a result of a rather impressive piece of pragmatic bureaucracy, on this particular Death Moon, the severity of all punishments (for the lowest crew ranks respectively) had been dramatically heightened across the board a few months back. The original punishments were simple: the docking of pay, high gravity push-ups or on occasion, being forced to count within a 0.5% margin, all the ceiling tiles in each bathroom in their sector.
However, due to an unforeseen power surge in central filing, 3,485 Severity level-10 DM-Punishment/s098 forms had been printed instead of the 2 ordered. As such and keeping in-line with the Chief Death Officer’s ‘waste not, want not’ mantra, all misdemeanours are now being met with a deathly response – until all the forms are all signed off. Something that is taking a rather long time as the death moon has coincidently hit an all-time low in incidents… for the third month running.
After what seemed like hours but was in fact just some very long minutes, light snapped into the large recycling bin along with a half full coffee cup, both colliding with Martin’s unhappy face.
The light snapped off and was replaced with sound.
“Did that bin just say ow?”
“…………….no” replied the bin.
The light sprang back as a face emerged peering down.
“What are you doing in there?”
“re-organising“ replied Roger holding a convincingly stern glare whilst moving rubbish around himself.
“Now piss off” added Martin as he wiped down his coffee stained brow.
The face considered this for a moment and decided against it, instead looking at them thoughtfully.
“Is that…Martin? and Richard?”
“It’s Roger and No”
“I know it’s you Martin, you’re stupid hats on the floor in front of the bin.”
“Bugger.” mumbled Martin, now aware how much he liked that hat. “Is that Samson?”
“Could be, could be, but why are you guys hiding? couldn’t keep your hands off each other through lunch?”
“Just leave us alone” pleaded Martin, realizing as usual that life for him meant always being at the mercy of something or someone that seemed to have rather poor view of him.
“What’s that hat stand?… No I don’t think so, I think if I’m not mistaken that you’re both probably late for a appointment with an airlock or a set of really big sharp things, huh?”
“Come on Samson.” said Martin
“Come on? Come on..? are we buddies or something? Remember when I drank too much at New Years and you turned my bedrooms lights out and gravity off?… I thought I’d woken up in space…naked.”
Roger sniggered in the darkness.
“It wasn’t funny! I thought I was dead, now I have to be tied to my bed or I can’t sleep.”
“You’re right it wasn’t funny at all.” lied Martin.
“As much as I love you both, it’s an awfully big crime to not report this little excursion. I’m not sure I can run such a risk without reward” said Samson with audible smugness.
“What do you wa-”
“8000 credits, all your hats and… for you both to eat rubbish; anything from the bin will do, just three big mouthfuls.”
“We don’t have 5 credits between us and there’s nothing edible here I checked” pleaded Roger.
“Shame… wish I could say I’ll miss you guys; but when you’re floating in space, moments from death, think of me. I kind of know what that’s like; before I report you though, I do actually need to throw some stuff away.”
Piece after slithery piece from Samson’s lunch platter came hurling at the pair who were softy covered in a variety of slime based nutritious products. A malicious pelting that was abruptly halted by a loud authoritative voice from down the corridor.
“OI, WHAT YOU DOING SON!”
Samson dropped the lid in surprise as two Enforcement Officers closed the distance, looking him up and down with the glee of pure job satisfaction.
“You deaf boy?” Continued the shorter Officer raising his stun baton. The air crackled around his hand as he smiled.
“Deaf… boy?” added his taller accomplice who was already energetically filling out a rather large form.
“Ahh, Officers, glad you’re here, there’s something in the bin” replied Samson, allowing his smug grin to resurface.
“Too right, your lunch for starters” said the shorter Officer.
“Well I suppose but-” started Samson.
“What does it say on the bin” interjected the taller one, not looking up from his electric clipboard.
“Uhh ‘Property of J section,’ but that’s not the issue here, there’s actually people…”
“Recycling, r-e-c-y-c-l-i-n-g” spat the baton wielding officer “is organic matter recyclable?”
“But there’s peo-”
“No it’s not” snapped the tall man looking up from his notes.
“We like to keep our section ‘ship shape’ don’t we Harold” added his accomplice.
“That we do Greg, that we do.”
“I’m sorry but you have to unde-” protested Samson until a Mark 17x2s Stun baton turned all his available thoughts into a mixture of pain and confusion as his motor functions took on a few very experimental and chaotic motions.
“People like him make me sick Harold. Selfish it is, some poor sod in sector J 98 is now going to have to sort through that rubbish; You got that level 10 s098 form ready?” asked Greg as he gave the seizing, dribbling heap another small prod from his stun baton.
“Just finished” replied Harold, and with a final flick of his wrist Samson’s fate was sealed.
“So where’s he heading, airlock?”
Both men nodded as Greg picked up Samson by his legs dragging the convulsing groaning form off into the distance.
“Stop moaning, it’s not hard, there’s only 3 bins to choose from; not our fault you’re chose the wrong one” said Harold as they turned a corner and walked out of earshot.