To an unsuspecting pair of nostrils, the odor could easily be mistaken for something pleasant. Hints of lemon and coyote berries assault her smell receptors and try to trick her into thinking she’s back in her mom’s kitchen. But no, the smell of human shit being repurposed for fuel is enough to make her sick. Not so sick to wear a mask like some of her older co-workers, but sick enough to make her take an extra cigarette break every shift.
She’s been stationed here since the beginning of the war, which makes her work unclogging toilets sound exciting to those fortunate enough to be back home. She sends transmissions to them rife with the fiction she’d rather be writing full time. To the ones she loves, she’s a hero taking part in the decimation of the Enemy. But to the ones stationed here with her? She’s no more than a janitor, and a sloppy one at that.
This warship, the Outlast 29, is designed to reuse 100% of the human refuse created daily by the 18,973 crew members it takes to successfully pilot it into deep space. This allows it to travel into Enemy territory without having to restock more then two or three times a year. The lemon and coyote berries weren’t added the the original Outlast. The soldiers on that first ship drove it into an allied planet, driven mad by the scent of their own burning excrement. The perfume exists now as a contingency plan — a way to prevent further mishaps.
April’s tool belt is a treasure trove of power tools and toilet snakes. To an outsider, some even look like weapons, but she’s too young to carry the stun baton others in her department are allowed for self-defense. Staring at the remains of some other recruit’s half-digested slop from the kitchen, she tries to decide which tool will do the job quickest. Her shift ends in twenty minutes, and she’d like to use her four free hours to finish writing the short story she’d started last night.
She eyeballs the toilet and considers all of the factors surrounding this clog. She’s in the forty-fourth subbasement rec room, which has thinner walls and therefore thinner pipes than any of the main floors. Her plasma snake is probably too powerful, as this part of the ship has yet to be retrofitted, and it would likely eat through and drench her like last week on the forty-eighth subbasement. She opts for a small and manual mechanism that gets the job done quicker than she expects. Another burst of perfume assaults her nostrils, and she almost succumbs to its sickly sweetness. She’s able to quell the urge by lighting a cigarette. She rushes out of the bathroom and into the empty hallway that greets her.
April approaches one of the many viewports that litter even the subbasements of this great ship. She feels grateful for this architectural detail, knowing if all she could see were walls and plumbing, she’d be ripe with cabin fever. She lets the smoke from her cigarette fill her lungs and drift out of her nostrils as the Outlast 29’s cannons are armed somewhere below her. She can’t see them, but she can feel it in the inner workings of the ship. She knows how this old cat purrs, and is happy that she’s free to watch as the unsuspecting planet below is littered with its fury.
She likes to tell herself that their impending victory in the war is due in no small part to people like her. The whole concept of the Outlast series is human sustainability, and without people to ensure that workflow, they certainly wouldn’t be the behemoths of vengeance that they are. She only wishes that one of the bastards in recruitment had warned her of the impossibility of rising through the rank and file when she signed up. They never told her what she was even signing up for. Only plied her with the promise of glory and a free education when it was all over. They never told her that she couldn’t go home until every last one of the Enemy’s home worlds was little more than dust.
She isn’t sure of the name of the planet they’re bombing today. In fact, she has little idea of where they even are in the galaxy...or the universe, for that matter. She just knows that an unclogged toilet keeps the engine warm and therefore the cannons pumping out their fodder. And she prides herself in it, if a little spitefully.