The cot Jardel sat upon was not luxurious by any fool’s definition. Old green canvas stretched taught between a hard, metal frame. She had tried sleeping in her own quarters, but with all the celebrating going on up there, it was just impossible. Did she want to die down here alone, beneath a woolen blanket, uncomfortable but at least with some dignity, or did she want to die in the most comfortable bed on the ship, surrounded by a million partying idiots who had no truck for the seriousness of their situation? Neither choice was very appealing.
She stretched out on the cot and as she did, her feet hit Opal, her dog who was sleeping soundly at the bottom of the cot.
“Piss off!” Opal said. “Your feet smell like tacos.”
“Those feet will kick you out of this damn bed if you don’t show some…” Jardel said.
“I’m sorry, sweetie, I shouldn’t have said that,” Jardel said. “I’m nervous about the jump.”
Opal instantly forgave Jardel and nuzzled her toes.
Jardel smiled at the freak show of a dog in spite of herself. Opal was a special needs dog who had been modified centuries ago to work with children suffering from Tourette syndrome. Some research team had mangled the poor pup’s brain in order to mimic the symptoms of the disease. In theory it was supposed to have given the kids something they could relate to and make them feel like they weren’t alone. In reality, the scientists overdid it and Opal was so brazen and crass she ended up scaring most of the children into uncontrollable fits of sailor talk. The misguided geniuses even gave her a gruff, male voice despite all the obvious evidence she was in fact, a she. It was a noble idea executed poorly and in bad time. Tourette’s was cured shortly after her surgery and Opal was sent to the pound, destined for the sleep chamber.
Jardel’s grandfather, a man who could do no wrong in Jardel’s eyes, found Opal at the shelter and adopted her. Jardel was jealous of Opal at first, since her grandfather paid too much attention to Opal when she visited, but after a few years, Jardel could tolerate and sometimes even like Opal. When her grandfather passed, his will stipulated that Jardel take possession of Opal and care for her. Jardel had no desire to own such a foul mouthed beast, but her small inheritance was contingent on Jardel caring for the mutt. So Jardel had taken possession of the pup and had kept her, sometimes willingly and sometimes quite begrudgingly.
Jardel watched the dog sleep. Opal was, if nothing else, a cute little dog. Her curly black hair, thick long body, and short legs gave the appearance of a pigmy hippopotamus afoot when she tried to move at anything quicker than a brisk trot. Jardel’s smile broadened.
Opal decided the cot wasn’t soft enough and began scratching the cot, moving in a little circle and then scratching some more. Jardel’s smile faded.
“You can’t make this cot any softer,” Jardel said.
Opal ignored her and continued scratching, circling, sniffing, and scratching some more.
The poor mutt froze and looked at Jardel nervously, the big eyes wide, the black ears held back submissively.
“I’m sorry,” Jardel said, “but please stop.”
“Whore titties,” Opal said and continued the endless circle scratch.
Jardel gently pushed the dog off the cot.
“Get on the other cot you foosh,” Jardel said, “and be still!”
The dog slunk across the room with its tail between its legs and hopped up on another cot.
Jardel turned over and pulled the itchy wool blanket up to her chin. From across the room she heard little dog claws scratching on the taught stretched canvas.
“Oh my god!” Jardel cried. “Really?”
Opal must have found a soft spot on that god forsaken cot because she settled down with an I-don’t-give-a-shit sigh.
Jardel sighed in return. The maintenance cot was stiff and uncomfortable and smelled of ironed linens stuffed in an old drawer. She squibbled about some time, but was unable to fall asleep. She cursed herself for coming all the way down here without anything to eat or drink. She was on a dang brewing ship and forgot to grab beer on her way down. She could order some, but it would take forever since it was a full-on celebration in exactly every other location on the ship except the very one she had chosen.
She remembered Dad had said he was sending her funsuit down and she realized if she hurried, she could get the suit to bring some beer down with her. But before she could place the order, she heard a buzz and the metal door at the other end of the room slid open. A dark humanoid entered, standing for a moment, scanning the room.
The figure was so black you wouldn’t have been able to to see it in the dim light if it weren’t for the faint twinkling sparkles scattered about it like stars in the night sky. It was as if a human were wrapped in deep space itself. The figure spotted Jardel and moved towards her.
Jardel cursed a little.
Whether she wanted to or not, she would get some sleep now. Her funsuit had arrived.