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Being Joe’s Bitch
White Wednesday Fiction: Jack Trent’s Debriefing
Being Joe’s bitch was not what I had in mind when I applied to Sanitation. I wanted to make a difference—and, yes—wanted to be a shareholder in Society. The course work and physical fitness training was invigorating. I had never felt so unequivocally human. Of course they don’t tell you that your last week of training is with your veteran partner.
I was trained as Trash Finder and Disinfectant Applications Specialist, TFD for short. Joe was the breacher. The grappling just wasn’t happening, not with him. Neither was the buddy carry or the breaching. I was not expected, as a TFD, to be able to keep up with my breacher in his specialties. But you have to learn your partner’s specialty. It would not have been so bad—I might, for instance, have rated a Jackie, rather than Jacqueline—if I had been able to keep up with him on weapons, boxing, climbing. The only thing I had on him was my pursuit speed—best in the Teams. The other factor was, that a TFD who was weak on his D, was suspect. I only qualified because of my exceptional foot speed and free running ability.
So, as we were headed to our very first call, on my very first day, all I heard was, “Jacqueline this, Jacqueline that.” We were shuttle mobile—not confined to the rails—and had just received the APK—sorry, Automated Protocol Kit. We scanned the first 72 units on Skyview Tier. Then we received a request for backup from our Girls—I mean our cleaner team. Mandy and Arbella—who we did pair training with on my next to last day—came in over the link. The voice was Mandy’s, the Lead.
“Hey, Joe en Jacqueline, we’ve got a violation down on Clearview, Unit Thirty-one. Get the hell down here, now!”
She was rattled. That was pretty unsettling, with her reputation for—well, nothing. Joe hissed to the shuttle and then smirked to me and spewed the same old stuff. “Time to pop your cherry, Jacqueline. Make sure you keep your eye out for the trash and stay locked in. Got it, Bitch?”
“Yes, Joe,” I managed, embarrassed at the cracking in my voice.
I was freaked out, really. They had never told us how we would manage the trash, especially after the installation of the IRS’s—sorry, Individual Recycling Stations.
We got to the unit, and the cleaners were there, ready to roll with their sub-lethals. Joe does—sorry, did—not even look my way and snarled, “On my shoulder, Jacqueline, and rundown whatever moves.”
As we passed the IRS the black light and the nest alert were flashing.
We filed between the girls and Mandy growled, “This is fucking big, Joe—a fucking hatchery—a major, career-making infestation.”
Arbella was sucking in air, trying to control her breathing, which is simple on that tier, and most of the ground level tiers in the Bush River Sector, because it reeked.
Joe slammed his shoulder against the door and breached. These units are long and narrow. There was an unclean youth in the hallway before us, who darted back toward the dwelling proper. I ran him down and held him for Joe as he lumbered up, the girls bringing up the rear. Joe grabbed the kid—a small dark-skinned fellow with an afro—by the back of his head and slammed his face into the protruding interior of the trash chute. A whimper, a crunch, some blood—and it was over. He chucked the poor ki—ah, sanitary violation—down the chute and engaged the digestive tract.
I wanted to vomit right then and there. This had been my problem with the D training, even with the cats.
Joe slapped me on the back, “Man up, Jacqueline, it gets easier, and then more fulfilling, every time.”
He then walked ahead, stepping on the boy’s discarded toy shuttle snapping it in half, as the girls moved up and I doubled-timed it up to his shoulder. As the breacher he gave the orders. “These rooms open up to the left, and the egress hallway to the common area continues straight ahead. Watch out, it is a subfloor common. Mandy and Arbella break left and keep to the wall. Jacqueline, roll over my right shoulder and get the buck. There has got to be a buck here and he’ll break for it. I need you to run that trash down—hear me boy?”
“Yes, on the adult male, Sir.”
We had been briefed that there would by breeding blacks in the Bush River Sector. But they always say that, like they’re under every subfloor and behind every containment wall. In training there was hardly any video available and the still media seemed old. I really did not expect an actual black man, six shades from clean, to be rearing up in front of me when Joe slammed through the door—which just flattened out as he walked across it, with something squealing underneath it.
I couldn’t believe it, and was momentarily stunned, blocking the girls from access while I stared—frozen in place. The smell really wasn’t that bad. Mandy said the reek was really from the IRS units not being up to code yet. The interior was habitable. To the left were four females, in as many shades of unclean. The lightest one was almost legal, and the darkest one looked like apple pie next to the buck whose hair she was braiding. This fellow was off the scale—actually black! We were led to believe that was not a devolutionary possibility. The Third Norm of Sanitation states that “unclean degradations revert to the center of the spectrum, unless said mutations are intentionally selected for.” The implication—which hit me and the girls like a containment load—was that this was an insurgent hatchery.
Joe, though, he didn’t miss a beat—probably saved my life. The second female, the neutral brown one, had put the dot of a seven millimeter APC on my chest. Joe had stormed right in and began culling. There were five young under foot, another nursing, and one still infecting the dark brown woman. He had grabbed the little tile-scooter that had not been smashed under the door—that was the eight one, actually—and slung him like a satchel charge right at the unclean breeder with the APC, taking her full in the face, and causing her round to “thud” into the wall to my right.
Then all uncleanliness broke loose. The women were screaming, I was darting after the buck, who was darting down the hall. Joe was grabbing young by their ankles and swinging them around, smashing their heads into the wall as they cried pitifully. The girls were getting their asses kicked by the brown breeders. I remember one of them snarling at Mandy while she put her in a head lock, “Slanty-eye carmel bitch!”
Joe roared and kicked in the infected woman’s stomach, who screamed in such an empty moaning way that it hurt my stride. But I was in the zone now, doing what I do, and was soon out of sight, although the screams and cries followed me down the block hall as fast as I could run.
The buck was taller and thinner than I, and had a good stride, but I closed. It seems like the gain in color sapped his ass, because he just didn’t have the glutes to keep his lead.
I tackled him about a hundred yards in. I really don’t get the construction parameters—why they would even build habitation tiers with all of this subflooring, but it’s there and you have to deal with it when you’re nest-busting and trash-finding.
I have to give it to him, Trash One—to me anyways—my cheery find—was a scrapper. We rolled for a full two minutes, until I could sense Joe standing there, laboring with his big intakes. He was going to be reporting on this and was not about to lend a hand. If we had been finding multiple bucks he would have dispatched this one as a hand off while I ran down the next.
Trash One made the mistake of trying to punch me, so I locked an arm bar on him from the bottom and broke his arm. I then rolled him over and broke the other arm with a traditional side-bar.
The trash moaned in defeat and I stood to as Joe—the lead—read the citation. This began with the retina scan—of course, like any other conversation. Joe snarled, “Here Spook, we give you a break—ambulatory sanitation. Sanitation personnel are not authorized to dispose of Spooks, only sanitize them.”
The Spook’s eyes were big and white in the dim hall and bugged out in fear. Joe continued, “You may apply to the Social Registry as a medical donor, as soon as we’re through.”
A plaintive scream, which dissolved into a moan, could be heard back down the hall. The Spook was terrified, and in terrible pain with two broken elbows. But the call down the hall from one of his breeders seemed to make him forget his own agony. Joe was procedural, “TFD, initiate sanitation.”
I deployed my graviton claw and ringed both ankles, then set the unit down on the floor before his feet and hit the magnanomiter—in my haste to set it—on high, which must have hurt like I don’t know what. The unit thrummed, the ankle cuffs glowed, and then his legs did a 180 degree elevated split. Fuck—sorry—it is one thing to practice this on sheep, but on humans, the aductors popping in the groin and involuntary evacuation results in a nasty experience. I used the ranged applicator, which inserted the three hundred centimeter sterilization rod, and he howled like all of the damned souls of the unclean must have in The Beginning.
The Spook was howling in agony, but something caught my eye down the hall, something fleeing. I belted the graviton and ran for it, barking to Joe, “TFD, in pursuit!” and his big ass lumbered after me like some giant out of a woodland sim.
I was on it in seconds, cornered it in a declivity chute that served the casement well, and dragged it up out into the clear circle beneath a skylight, binding its ankles with the graviton claw—what an honor it is to operate the graviton. By the time Joe got there it was no longer resisting, but just looking up at us with—I didn’t believe this at first—blue eyes!
This was a heady moment. We had obviously hit an insurgent hatchery. Joe exclaimed, “What the fook is that, Jack!”
I had made it—Jack, already, on my first day. I was thrilled.
Well, I answered him, “Beats me. I didn’t even know this was possible. Do you think it’s mentally retarded, capable of speech, a subfloor mutation?”
“First things first, TFD,” Joe said as he stepped up with his retinal scanner and pulled up his diagnostics audio.”
It took a few minutes, which gave me time to examine it visually. It was a young female, perhaps fourteen, with red hair, blue eyes, and—I know this sounds crazy—white skin! As white as the shell of that compact! It didn’t talk. It was clinging onto this, which I removed from its hands—clean hands. I don’t know how the thing kept clean in that subfloor habitat, but it did.
Subject placed oily cloth on containment monitor and returned to his debriefing.
Anyways, the diagnostics program came full voice, like at the academy, “Unidentified biohazard—eradicate.”
And just like that, I had to scrap my graviton. Eradication strips the battery and the immobility rings are regarded as contaminated.
We stepped back and visored down while the graviton clicked back from ten to zero. The craziest thing was that—the creature—seemed human, and intelligent. I can tell you for certain that it could count, and all it did was sob every time the graviton dialed down—then, “splat!” What a mess! The girls hosed us down and checked us for biohazards.
Well ma’am, that’s my report. It’ an honor to be a Sanitation worker and a shareholder.
The lean, curvaceous face of the debriefing officer considered her new nest-busting hero as he about-faced and left Ob-Im Quarantine, with an eager salute, and a proud grin gracing his angular, perfectly goldenrod, face. She then looked down at the curious fabric symbol on the containment monitor at her feet. It was primitive signage of some sort. The cloth was died a crimson red, except for two stripes of blue fabric that formed a lateral X and gave the appearance of crossed bars, with each bar spangled with white stars.
The Debriefing Officer accessed her compact and spoke, “Lenny, we have retrieved something that does not register in the containment database. Get me that organic archivist—Munson. Get him up here. We have an outbreak. And call Social, priority One!”
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