Dog Tired

<snip>Suddenly alone, Alex stared down at the mechanical horror crouched at his feet
"Shit" he sighed </snip>

He stood still for a good five minutes, shell-shocked, staring dumbly at the 'bot. Wondering.
He couldn't quite work out how he seemed to know less about Cass than he had before she'd unexpectedly shared a slice of her turmoil. He blinked, wrung out.

He suppressed the urge to prod Unit One with the toe of his boot, afraid he'd lose a leg.
"Less than a year old," he murmured, "that's-" He halted, mid sentence, unnerved as the spider-like robot twitched in response to his voice. It was both disturbing and oddly beautiful.
"... even younger than I thought." He finished quickly and quietly, forgetting the original ending to his sentence. A pipe creaked and he knew it was time to leave the strange little room, with it's Cass-nest shaft leading to who knew where.
He didn't like leaving Cass down there, but - he eyed the robot again - clearly she could protect herself. He wasn't sure if the ship needed protecting from her. Maybe.
He thought about how sad she'd been about Jay "... but I wanted to be." and felt a pang of empathy in his gut. She was messed up, more messed up than he'd realised, but she couldn't help it. Poor kid. Poor actual kid. Poor scary sexy crazy genius killer kid. He shook his head in bafflement.

"Uh" he cleared his throat "Unit One... Come?" Unit One immediately lifted itself to its feet and scuttled the few steps towards him, closing the tiny gap horribly fast. "Yep. Good." Alex responded, holding back a shudder.
He climbed back out of the submarine style door and along the corridors that had lead him there. He felt his shoulders and neck creep, as he heard his weird new companion scurrying along behind him.

They bobbed along for three quarters of an hour, and he gradually became accustomed to the spider's presence.
Less than a year old. His mind couldn't hold the thought still for long enough to examine. It kept wriggling away like a nervous pup at the vets. To Alex, the whole thing made about as much sense as Seymour after a Bollinger binge. She was an adult... and yet she wasn't. And yet she was.
She'd kissed him on the cheek. And hugged him. That was nice. Human contact. Female human contact. Smeg he missed female human contact. It wasn't really that long ago - give or take a few million years - that he'd had more female contact than he'd known what to do with. Actually he'd known exactly what to do with it. And he had...

"Why am I thinking about this shit? I hate thinking about this shit."
Unit One stopped its scuttling and stared up at him as if he were stupid. "You're right." Alex agreed and tried unsuccessfully to push the thought from his head. Jay's family... female contact... they were summoning unwelcome demons of his own. Big spiteful p*ssed off demons.
Gah. He banged his head with the heel of his hand.
"This," he confessed to the robot "is why I drink."
If Unit One understood, or had any thoughts on the matter, it didn't say.

They made it back to the residential decks. There was a noticeable difference in the quality of the air - it was warmer and tasted a little less stale.

Solvay looked down at the spider. "Thanks, Unit. Go home."
It cocked its head again, dog-like. Hideously deformed mutant dog-like. "Go on. Go find Cass."
It stayed where it was. He crouched in front of it "SHOO!" He flapped his hands, it bared some mechanical mandibles in warning. Alex almost fell backwards in shock but he managed to regain his crouch and smiled at the machine. It was creepy, clearly lethal, but neat. He stood back up and tried to remember Cass's words. Rejoin.
"Rejoin Cass."
The spider immediately wheeled round and disappeared back off to the dark places of the ship.
Alex stared after it and wondered if he'd imagined the robot, and, in fact, the whole evening. It wouldn't be the first time he'd experienced vivid hallucinations. Mind you, that usually only happened when he was high.

"Yes, Alex."
Alex took a deep breath, privately reassured to hear Holly's warm, flat tones.
"Is Jay locked in his quarters?"
"Yes, Alex. Jay is in his quarters, as Seymour instructed."
"... 'kay. Good."

So it had all happened.

Alex started towards the drive room, but then decided to head straight to his own quarters instead.

"Is that it then?" Holly said, sulkily, popping up on another monitor.
"What?" Alex strode on.
"Is that all you wanted to know?"
"It's all right, no need to say 'thank you', I'm only a computer with an IQ of 6,000, just here to answer your inane questions. It's not like I have feelings or anything..."
"Sorry Holl, lot on my mind."
"All right."
Holly disappeared again. Only to reappear several corridors later.
"Don't fancy a game of anything, then?"
"Only I'm a bit bored."
"No" Alex grunted.
"Noughts and crosses?"
"Donkey Kong?"
"No. I'm going to have a shower."
"Shower charades?"
"I'd rather not. Why don't you ask someone else?"
"I have."

Alex reached his quarters. Holly appeared on the monitor inside.
"Holly, I'm going to have a shower, good night."
"You 'aven't got a shower." The computer's voice was steeped in amiable accusation.
"Have. Gomez helped..."
"Oh yeah."
"G'night, Holl."

The spray was good and strong. Alex leaned a hand on the wall in front of him and let the water cascade over his hair and his face. The warmth blanketed his back, massaging his aching muscles. For a minute he forgot about everything except the water. He could have been anywhere, anywhen, anyone. Not a sad, isolated loser, trapped aboard a hunk of junk, lost in space. He screwed up his face as the thought stung him, the momentary tranquility spoiled.

He washed, his fingers finding the scar running along his collarbone as they always did, reminding him of his brother Jacob who'd given it to him during a rare but nasty fight.
The fingers pretended not to notice the other scars... as they always did.

After the shower he listened, in case he was missing an alarm or alert, but he couldn't hear anything. He took it to mean this was his time. Bed time. He looked in his locker for one of the bottles he'd stashed. He couldn't find it and started to panic. He rifled desperately through the junk he'd slung in there. As if they'd known he was feeling bad and family was prodding at his mind, Jacob's dog tags fell out to taunt him. He picked them up. Couldn't put them on. Placed them carefully back in the locker. Grabbed the drink.

He sat on his bunk, scrunching himself against the back wall, and let his mind drift to familiar places which loved and hated him in equal measure.

[This is where the post(s) 1882 take(s) place.
Part 1 - Bucket of Mud
and Part 2 - Anywhere But Here
("In a rare moment of calm aboard ship...")]

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