Is this recording device on? Currently I am floating through a Galactic Gregarine waste field. I am here due to my recent promotion, a dream job as Pusher, from my last job moving Space Debris. I spent my whole life working towards this moment. First, you cannot touch the Gregarine excrement, so we push the deep purple viscous mucoid substance, in steps, using our Pushers.
Pushers are designed to apply forward force in space toward objects while pushing the opposite force into empty space and away from the handlers.
Gregarine excrement is used for intergalactic travel. When the substance is touched, wormholes of varying sizes and shapes open. When collected and kept in zero gravity scientists can manipulate the substance to create stable portals. Amazing what one critter’s poop can do when collected from deep space and can be sold for an off-worlder retirement.
Pushing galactic alien poop is a dream compared to working with Space Debris. Large amounts of debris collect along the gravitational pulls of different planets and block space travel and off world production ships. Our job is to move the debris into collection bins that are dumped onto uninhabitable moons throughout whatever solar system we work.
We work in teams, with Space Debris, an operator of the bin who pilots a Dozer and two in space to ensure all debris is collected. It takes one team a week, or at least seven sleep cycles, to finish one parsec of debris.
I recall a friend from when moving Space Debris for three years. We were tough as nails. Both of us worked on the same team following our Dozer from space. At the end of every shift instead of heading straight to our rooms we would hang around the lounge by the dining area and start fights with other crews. Fist fighting amused us as we threw punches or accepted a few depending. After each fight we would say goodnight and head to our bunks.
This became our routine for almost a year until we met our match. A Dozer driver, new to the outfit, sat quietly that evening. He tried to drink a beverage when we started a brawl. The driver walked up to my friend and told him that he needed some quiet time and asked him politely to back down. My friend mouthed off as the driver turned around to walk away. Within seconds the driver’s fist plowed through my friend’s jaw.
I saw his jawbone separate and blood and gore splattered on my uniform. The driver then grabbed my friend’s head and smashed it on the corner of a table. I remember how I stood startled until the driver knocked me clean out. I woke up in the Medical Bay and my friend did not make it. This story is common among off-worlders. There is so much exhaustion, violence, and death you become numb or maybe we are already numb at birth.
Collecting excrement is a dangerous business that is why off-worlders working in Space Debris removal seem to have the fortitude necessary. Collection requires many hours in space and if you are not careful your body will be separated into many small parts that will be sent through different wormholes.
All it takes is one touch. My coworker in Space Debris lasted one minute before being torn limb from limb when some excrement touched his boot. Luckily, us off-worlders have fear genetically removed at birth so we can start working Space Debris almost immediately.
Oh hell, hold on. Almost touched some. Is this thing still recording? Gregarine excrement is a one-man job. Our technology can only send one person through a portal opening to a Gregarine waste field. If I die this mechanism embedded in my forearm will alarm and my replacement will be promoted and sent here immediately to take my place. Death is a little different when working with Space Debris. If we die from faulty suits, Dozer accidents, or deadly debris the team must stop all collection and wait in the dozer for a replacement.
This usually takes a few weeks and hell yeah; we are lazy during these times. Death is our vacation in more ways than one. The constant vigilance required to stay alive in space everyday while working eighteen hours is exhausting. Even a lifetime of training can only relieve a portion of the pain of daily existence.
All of us off-worlders take a large dosage of Sk7-258 daily. Sk7-528 increases our sensory ability, prevents fatigue, and improves focus. The smells from the inside of our space suits, Sk7-258 stink, are sometimes unbearable. Most of us do not shower often and wear our suits five years without cleaning. I am prey to these varieties of smell. Gregarine excrement, though contained within zero gravity storage units, emits a deep foul odor that sneaks into every crevice of my Junker. Sk7-528 does not help with this but it does give us the ability to sense the presence of debris and excrement while floating in space.
This drug enables us to remain vigilant enough to stay alive and the only side effect is anxiety and the inability to sleep more than four hours during our sleep cycles. Some of us dose up with mild hallucinogens before sleep to take the edge off the Sk7-528. Sometimes these hallucinations can carry over into work. I had a friend once who double dipped and thought a huge floating piece of debris looked like his co-worker. The chunk hit his helmet hard enough to depressurize his world.
I do not play with death. I am ok with four hours and ignore the anxiety pains in my chest and my random fits of anger. Hold on. Hold on. Can I pause? My pusher acted up and I am afraid of a push in the wrong direction. One parsec is almost cleared.
I feel I am one of the lucky ones who finally made it out of Space Debris and into Gregarine Waste Collection. Why am I recording this? Hold on a second. Damn pusher is jammed. A little tinkering here, lets see. All right, almost done with my second parsec. Shortly after this second parsec I will head to my Junker to get my food and four hours.
I am recording this because suddenly, I became concerned about what I got to say. I never cared until recently, than I realized that this could be my last job and there is no guarantee I will even retire. Maybe if my suit survives me another person can hear what I got to say. Just one person is fine I am not expecting miracles and if I die in a wormhole none of this will matter anyways. You ground bound folk travel from planet to planet through space cleared by us and do not even think about it. You live your cozy little lives and forget we are out here.
Space is ours, we own it, and you can stay trapped on your little planets for all I care. Wait a second, there is a disruption in space-time, and my suit readings are going nuts. What the hell is going on? Damn, over there, I see a Gregarine. No one has seen a Gregarine. Is it one? No, this is just my mind on Sk7. My word, it is one and it is the size of a Dozer!
I saw a bright baby blue sphere more the size of my Junker than a Dozer. Located on the sphere were four nodes that linked together like a small mountain range. After a closer look I could see the top of the nubs open and close. A long green glowing rope looking thing came of the nubs, some a little and some a lot. Each rope looks like it is feeling its way through space. The Gregarine stopped moving forward and seemed to detect my presence.
How could something that looked like that sense my presence? A smell suddenly crept into my suit. A stink I had never smelled before. My eyes watered and I suddenly felt nauseous. I closed my eyes tight to hold back the desire to vomit and regain my composure. When I opened my eyes the Gregarine was closer, much closer, and one of its ropes curled up next to my Pusher. I remained still. Maybe it will think I am debris and move on.
The rope uncurled and straightened out as it slowly crept toward my suit. Soon the rope reached my helmet. The end of the rope seemed to fray into smaller segments. Each segment had teeth. Oh hell, teeth. I think I might be feeling fear for the first time. Suddenly the rope curled around my helmet and the frayed end pushed into my shield. I think the rope end just moved through my solid shield.
I do not know if I am speaking or dreaming. Everything is light. I feel I am floating, wait, I do not know what I feel right now. I think I am afraid, and this is new. I am walking with a friend down a corridor right before beginning Space Debris work.
“Is this your first-time moving Space Debris?” My old partner asked.
“Yes. I don’t understand things yet.” I said. He stopped and looked over at me with an even stranger look. I noticed his eyes seemed metallic for a second as fluorescent light from above reflected.
“You must listen to me.” He said.
“Ok I will.”
“I am fixing what is broken and you will feel things you have never felt before. First, you will experience fear. Since this is new to you, I am going to talk you through. Do you understand?” He placed his hand upon my shoulder.
“Yes.” I said even though I did not. I felt a beating in my chest and a strange desire to run. Suddenly I felt a wave of emotions overcome my mind and water filled my eyes. “What is going on?’
“Fear is triggered by an emotional state. Something has broken all emotional systems within you. You are a manufactured entity?” He asked.
“No, I am human.” I felt the desire to scream but could not catch my breath. “I cannot breathe.”
“Just relax.” My partner said while a flood of different smells, tastes, and textures filled my mind for what seemed to be a lifetime.
Once the bombardment ended, I returned and could see the Gregarine tentacle leave my helmet. I could breathe. My helmet retained pressure and there was no sign of disruption. I looked around and the Gregarine seemed to have disappeared. How can a creature of that size just vanish?
I shook my head to gather my thoughts and realized my Pusher had floated away. I floated dangerously close to Gregarine waste as I pulled my limbs into my body and started my suit thrusters. I reached the Pusher and headed in a straight line to my Junker. Once I arrived safely, I activated my magnetic boots and attached to the outer shell.
With a bit of effort, I stored my Pusher and made my way to the hatch. Inside I removed my first suit and placed it in suit storage, where my second suit waited for rotation, and immediately headed towards my sleep unit, crawled in, and fell fast asleep.
The buzzer in my sleep unit woke me exactly after four hours. I opened my eyes and felt my daily injections of Sk7 take hold. Good, I felt foggy and could not remember what happened the evening before and I did not have time to try to recall things.
I grabbed a nutrition packet and headed to the hatch. I put on my secondary suit knowing that my first suit needed to be rotated to ensure proper wear and tear. Once suited up I crawled into the hatch.
What would happen if the hatch did not work? I wondered. This thought never crossed my mind before and for a second I almost did not push the depressurization button. Who cares if things fail, I need to be out there for my collection. My retirement is what counted, and I could make it if I tried. As I floated out the hatch, I quickly magnetized my boots and headed down the hull to collect my Pusher. Pusher storage, a few paces away from the hatch, seemed farther away than usual.
I glanced over into open space off to my left and felt dizzy. I never felt this before and moved my eyes to the hull. I could feel my heartbeat as it increased. Breathe, I thought, you must breathe, as I took a few breaths and reached storage. I flipped the hatch and released my Pusher into my grip and turned off my boots and let the Pusher lead me into space.
I immediately lost control and started to spin. I could not figure out how to stop as I screamed louder then I ever heard myself scream. Suddenly, in front of my helmet, a large fragment of Gregarine waste splashed onto my face shield. The world felt pulled apart and then blackness with no stars.
“You seem to come into work later everyday.” A planet side lab technician stated over the noise created from a Curran brewing machine.
“Right…right…how much longer I need a cup here.” The other technician leaned on some cabinets.
“The Office of Off World Affairs brought down a suit recorder found in an off-worlder Junker floating in a Gregarine waste field.” The first technician filled his mug with hot Curran and offered his partner some.
“Sounds boring.” The other technician took a sip of his Curran.
“Maybe. We are about to find out.” The first technician placed the recorder unit into a player and pressed play. First, they only heard one voice; an off-worlder seemed to have made a recording while working.
“I told you, boring. Just lazy off-worlder banter.”
“Wait a second he says he might have seen a Gregarine.”
“Wait listen.” The first technician turned the volume up. The voice of the off-worlder stopped. A strange static, whose volume increased and decreased, seemed to produce an odd rhythmic music. Through the music came a voice that sounded like a muted screech.
“That sounds like something familiar.”
“It’s mathematics. The voice is giving equations.” Both technicians paused the recording and grabbed their transcription tablets. They replayed the equations repeatedly until they felt they hade transcribed it correctly.
“Send it over to the mathematicians.” The first technician ordered.
A week passed since the equations were sent and the technicians gossiped everyday about the meaning of the equations until finally the answer arrived.
“Briun and Gavel the equations you provided us ended up being the missing equations in our Gregarine wormhole dilemma. With this knowledge we can now send whole worlds to different universes outside our galaxy. Briun and Gavel you have provided the math to alter the course of humanity. You two are famous.”
Briun and Gavel slammed down their cups of Curran and embraced in a celebratory hug.
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