His neighbors were mating again. Their neon plastered hides belting out colors so bright it blurred the edges of his vision. His entire room appeared to vibrate as the taste of blue invaded the back of his throat with a chalky burning sensation.

Jules groaned and turned over in his bed cradle. He screwed his eyes shut.

“Five more minutes..”

A strobe of purple went off in the far corner of his quarters.

Yawning lazily he opened his eyes to another disgusting morning. Checking the digital clock on his nightstand (the only normal thing on board) he cursed.

That was another hour of sleep he’d never get back.

When he had first signed up for this mission four years ago, it seemed a mysterious and beautiful thing. It was something that couldn’t possibly have any scientific explanation, an enigma like the prime numbers screamed out by black holes or the ruins of Dyson’s Odyssey.

Then he learned it was the way they talked dirty to one another. His view of them after that went a little down hill, to say the least.

It was on that day he had wished he had thought to buy a pair of extra strength sun glasses before leaving human controlled space. It made him feel remarkably dirty to know he was bathing in light that pretty much translated to “smack my ass.”

Pulling himself grudgingly out of bed he stepped on a sheet of glass suspended above a six mile deep ocean. It used to be a surreal experience, but now he just felt like he needed a shower.

He stripped to his birthday suit as he made his way to what passed for his bathroom. Why should he care if the folks next door saw his monkey wang? They were too busy doing the nasty above his bed, anyway.

His night clothes were absorbed through the floor before sinking out of his field of vision. He never thought to ask where.

Scratching his ass, he patted the shower stall warmly.

“Good morning, Pete.”

It squealed in delight and began to ooze. Jules gladly climbed in unphased.

Jeremy’s pout little face materialized inside of his shower orifice as Jules dabbed his body with salty discharge from the altered oyster. It smelled vaguely like ozone and marigolds.

“You’re up early, Julian.”

Barely glancing over his shoulder he scrubbed his hair thoroughly. Jeremy had donned his satanic horns today. The little puffer fish changed looks more than Jules changed socks.

Yesterday the little guide became intensely interested in NASCAR. Jules was not amused to see the adolescent Fish sporting Dale Earnhart’s colors and the McDonalds golden arches.

When he spoke, his voice was translated into that of unaccented English in the back of his head.

“My neighbors were at it again. You’d think they’d relax after a couple of weeks, but no. Every morning at the break of dawn it’s like the first day of spring for them. And you call us barbarians. Ugh.”

He reached into the soft yielding flesh of the giant oyster and fondled in the usual manner. It handed him an orange. Jules peeled it and ate slowly as the shower orifice did its thing. Whatever he didn’t eat, he dropped to the floor.

Jeremy swam nervously in his spotless worker cube, puffing out a dozen of his young before eating them in a fury.

“Dawn is a relative term, Julian. If you’d like I can adjust ocean sunrise to coincide with your biological clock. Perhaps I could manage your neighbors to sing your praise to wake you gently, would that be acceptable?”

”You don’t have to be a smart ass.”

He grimaced as his shower oyster groaned and began to lick the night’s build up of dead skin and sweat from his body. It was warm and incredibly gentle, but nothing would replace a standard shower head and an old fashioned drain. Something remarkably like a tongue sloshed between his legs.

Everything in the ocean that was his profession seemed hardwired to remind him of some disgusting earthly variant. When his tour of duty was up, he’d never set foot into a body of water again.

There was a rumble from beyond the bathroom.

He shook it off, thinking his neighbors were just getting into their occasional BSM fetish.

“Your first task for the day is to report to section 6, subsection 98, green. The sixteenth school damaged their oxygen recycler in last night’s festival. It is functional, but the carbon filter need to be fully replaced and tested.”

The Worker Fish could do that. Why’d that have to drag him into the drink? He hated getting his feet wet.

The lights flickered a little. Snow was working itself up into the corners of the organic display in which Jeremy’s image swam. Instead of the Fish’s unaccented English, he was left in silence.

The display sputtered and died.

He felt it before anything. The floor shuddered softly, the mass of wriggling salty brine around him trembled in fear as it slurped up a days worth of waste from around his toes hungrily.

That was when the power cut out completely and the door to his little shower stall moaned in effort. Usually opaque it became horribly clear.

Not more than three feet from him was a wall of frothing, seething water. It boiled with a fury that Jules had only seen once. That was when a small subsection of the greater ocean was damaged in a close quarters fire fight.

It had vented to hard vacuum.

Through the seething mass of turbulent water, Jules could see pin pricks of life being extinguished like candles. His neighbors, probably in the filthy act of depositing their young on his personal oxygen recycler, were thrown into the blazing heat of a neutron star.

He stood there for a full ten minutes, watching the ocean boil away into space before dissolving into nothingness. Stepping from his shower cell gingerly, he looked beyond his tiny compartment of life.

His quarters were gone, and where a solid mile of ocean had stretched, crammed with razor coral cities and feeder fish farms there was a solid hole, hundreds of meters in diameter. He couldn’t tell the difference between frozen Fish and stars.

The shower oyster cried. The sink clam suckled on the thin stream of fresh water nervously. The toilet mewed like a hurt kitten, he hadn’t fed it yet.

Putting his hand onto the clear door, it felt remarkably cold. Too cold.

Somewhere he heard a low whistle and his ears popped. Suddenly he wasn’t nearly as tired as he was fifteen minutes prior.


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