Using for the Cause

“Braindead” hauled herself out of her chair—it took a little effort with the flight suit—and locked herself in a toilet stall in the locker room adjacent to the on-deck lounge. “Braindead” wasn’t her name—could you imagine?—but her call sign. She got it back in flight school when she didn’t realize her mic was hot and called the instructor braindead on an open channel. She spent the next month burning latrine pits after that, but she managed to get her wings, and the name stuck. That was a while ago.

She’d seen a lot of shit since then, and not the kind you find in a burn pit. A fair amount of action. Had to bail out once, on Titan, back during the Ring Crisis. Got way too up-close-and-personal. Had to use her combat knife. Wasn’t pretty. That was the worst of it, but not the last. Plenty of other instances to keep her up at night, or to wake her with a jolt when she did slip into sleep. She couldn’t really remember when she started using, but it kept her steady. Focused. Capable.

It was for the cause.

She unwrapped the little yellow pad from its foil cover. She preferred a synthetic heptaphetamine called high rise, but it was hard to find and she was all out. This shit was called bad butter, and that’s about how it tasted. Picked it up on leave not 100 meters from the port from a preteen in an Ajax jersey. They don’t even have football in the belt. Anyway it was doing its job. As the pad melted on her tongue, “Braindead” felt like her flight suit was melting off her body. Yeah, everything was melting; the locker room, her spacefighter in its launch tube, the whole goddamned universe. Everything but her. She was made of diamond, sharp and strong and incompressable.

Should call this shit meltdown.

In the midst of this new manic resolve, the lights all flipped to amber and a siren st-st-stuttered with rapid low tones.

Shit. 99% crushing boredom and 1% bad memories in the making, that’s what her life consisted of. Now entering the 1%. Duty calls.

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