Not wanting to leave the limited cover of the shower stall until absolutely necessary, Jason squeezed some of the water out of the beret, then grabbed his work overalls and quickly patted himself down. He then pulled on the shorts, which were extremely baggy; they would have slid right back down around his ankles were it not for a length of plastic bailing twine hanging off the belt loops. Once the rope was tightened and secured to his satisfaction, Jason pulled on the “Party Bitch” shirt, which hung down almost to his knees, completely covering the shorts.
Don’t I fucking look beautiful …
After pulling on his damp socks, Jason once again glanced around the stall. The security guard, who was busily chewing his thumbnail, seemed rather unconcerned with what Jason, or anyone else for that matter, was doing. Ducking back into the shower, Jason took a deep breath, carefully jammed his smarting hands into his short pockets, and resolutely strode out of the stall towards the exit.
Halfway to his destination, Jason caught sight of a Rimmer stuffing his work uniform into a large chute set into the wall. A sign above read: “All soiled work garments must be deposited in laundry receptacle prior to reentering the Rim.” Suddenly uncertain, Jason glanced back towards the shower stall, where his jumpsuit lay balled up on the bench. Going back for it would be a risk; even if he wrapped the uniform around his hands, his implants would be exposed for a few moments after he dumped it down the chute …
He turned back towards the guard, who was now watching him with mild interest.
Well, he thought, I guess it’s now or never.
Head down and hands in pockets, Private J-538 strode awkwardly forward, looking for all the world like a drunk young woman.
A few steps from the exit, the guard placed a gloved hand on his shoulder. Jason’s chest tightened, and he felt his bladder loosen, threatening to let go. When he looked up, the man was shaking his head, the hint of a smirk playing at the corners of his mouth.
“You lost, kid?”
Jason blinked. “What?”
The guard took his hand off the young man’s shoulder, and rested it over his machine gun. “I said, you lost?”
“Um … no,” he said, his mouth twitching, “I don’t think so.”
“Well,” replied the guard, spreading his hands, “seems to me you must be lost. This facility’s reserved for Transitional Workers, and you obviously aren’t one of those.”
Jason coughed and quickly looked away. His throat began to close up. “What do you mean?” he croaked.
“I mean that even the stupidest fucking inbred Transitional Worker knows you’re supposed to shower coming out of the Rim, not going into it. Now since I just saw you taking a shower, and now you’re going into the Rim, I have to assume you’re not actually a Transitional Worker.”
“Oh, yeah …” Jason said quietly, his voice shaking, “I, I guess I shouldn’t have done that … had a long day, thought maybe I could sneak in a quick shower …” He cleared his throat, then looked down at the floor. “Sorry?”
“Sorry?” the guard bellowed, “You’re fucking sorry? Well like they say, sorry don’t pay the rent, do it? So what the fuck am I supposed to do with sorry?”
With an odd sense of relief, Jason realized it was all over. Though he didn’t have a hope of successfully fighting his way out of this in his present condition, he figured he should at least go out swinging. He took a deep breath as he considered whether to go for the face or the balls.
The guard shook his head again, this time making no attempt to conceal his smirk. “You fucking Rimmers are something else, you know that? Now get the fuck out of here.”
Jason looked up, eyes wide.
Just then the guard’s walkie-talkie bleeped. “Yo, Miller. We’ve got a level 5 breach, Reclamation Centre.”
Frowning, Miller grabbed his walkie. “Okay,” he said, “Hang on a second.” Letting his arm drop, he glared at the pale young man still standing before him. “Well, what the fuck are you waiting for?” he barked, “Go home! And don’t let me catch you disrespecting the rules again, or I’ll shine my rod in your asshole!”
Jason quickly turned and marched to the plexiglass door, which opened automatically upon his approach. A sign in the small cubicle read: "Please enter completely – outer door will not open until inner door is fully closed". A moment later the door behind him hissed shut, and the metal door before him swung open, flooding the little room with artificial sunlight. Partly blinded by the glare, he stumbled partway out, then stopped and stared in horrified wonder at the desolate, broken-down wasteland before him.
“What are you, fucking retarded?” the guard shouted through the plexiglass, “Fucking move it already!”
Startled, Jason jerked forward, wincing as bits of broken concrete dug into the soles of his feet. Shabby-looking individuals watched speculatively as he came to a halting stop a few feet past the exit.
In the distance an alarm wailed.
“By the way,” the guard shouted as the door swung closed, “nice dress!”