“Right, right. Thanks, Katy,” Hy said, sitting up and coincidentally dumping her bedclothes from over her head over on top of the other pile, which squeaked in protest. “This isn’t over,” she warned the pile. It giggled. Hy lurched to her feet and shook her head. C’mon, Alistair, what you gonna do when emergencies hit and worried townsfolk wake you in the middle of the night, hats in hand? Get used to getting up at oh-christ-hundred, you signed up for this.
She grabbed a tunic at random, thought about possible media coverage of the experiment, and put it back to select another with a careful eye towards fit, style, and recent cleansing. Hy dressed quickly, trying not to look at the empty spot on the bed where Arcus was now rolling about to create a giant Arcus-filled blanket tortilla. Her husband Ambrose was already hard at work somewhere. Sewage management waited for no man or mayor, apparently. Hy sighed, trying not to feel hurt that he was paying more attention to human effluvia than he was to her. Everyone in the town was hustling to get the bugs out of their systems while diasters were still easily contained, and making their byproducts swiftly and smoothly wend through the mysterious processes that turned crap into vegetables was, at the moment, much more important than spending time with her. Dammit.
Besides, soon she’d be leaving him behind to deal with slightly different human byproducts. She thought about Ambrose crawling through the sewer mains and smiled to herself. Their jobs weren’t that dissimilar, actually. She just turned crap into government.
A new voice — a young, female, and worried voice — shrieked out of thin air, causing her to jump and drop the brush she’d been using to hack through the worst thickets of hair. “Hy? Hy!”
“What is it, Greta? And I warn you, if it isn’t an incoming missile the next time we pass over the Andes I’m flushing you out.”
“It’s an incoming missile.”
Hy dropped the brush, again. “What?”
“Sort of. It’s a call from Admiral Buchanon.”
“Don’t put him through!” Hy shrieked, frantically checking to make sure nothing unmayorly was poking out of her tunic. “Dammit, he’s going to expect pants…”
“It was just audio,” Greta said. “He said to tell you that the new captain’s on his way up.”
Hy relaxed and concentrated on pretending to be someone awake and full of coffee. “Great. When he gets here tell him to wipe his feet. I’m going to get Arcus ready and get to the capsuling, meet me there in half an hour and be sure to get some good pics for the media pool. Try to avoid my right side, my hair’s decided to launch a solo career this morning.”
“No no no no no, the Admiral said you gotta! Really important, he was very clear about it. His voice sounded funny but Katy IDed him as being him. Captain’s ship docks in twenty.”
Hy stopped with a sock in each hand. “How? We’re not down the street by the liquor store, Greta. This guy’s been in a can for, minimum, 28 hours and Buchanon’s just letting us know about it now?”
“There’s this old saying, you know, about messenger-shooting being a bad thing?”
“Never heard of it.” She finished pulling on something respectable. “Did the good admiral mention what I should be doing? Giving him a guided tour? Getting him drunk and tattooed? What?”
“He, uh, he said something about ‘reviving’ him.”
“And releasing him from custody. I’ll be there in a sec to get Arcus ready while you’re gone, good luck, say hi for me, bye now!” There was a click.
Hy looked at the bed, which was pulsating gently. “Used to be if you talked to the air, they put you in a nice padded cell and fed you jello,” she said.
“Can I have some jello?” the blanket pile asked plaintively.
“Ask your Auntie Greta. And you might want to hurry,” Hy muttered, heading for the door. “You won’t be seeing her very much after today. I’m pretty sure she’s more than eight years old.”