We wasted no time wondering why there was no bun waiting for us. Molly opened the cover to a service tunnel, crawled in and yelled, "Let's go to the Snappeh Thistle!" No bun questioned her. We were glad to have some plan to grab onto, no matter how silly. There it was, our idea for the first meal, a beverage, and a place to visit - a cheap space bar at a repair station. The medics, doctors, and bureaucrats would have to wait a little longer to get their grubby paws on us.
We moved through the tunnel with ease, floating along and making minimal contact with the paw rails. The iris locks sensed our advancement and opened up early enough so that we didn't have to slow down at all. Soon, we arrived at the junction connecting the tunnel to the bar. We took that turn, and shortly after, Molly was staring into the kitchen of the pub.
One by one, we egressed the tunnel, and we spooked Mick, the bar-bun. He spilled a big, dark-red blob of fluid that now drifted toward an air filter. He was too surprised to be upset as he gaped at us and lost track of his spilled beverage. Abby grabbed a cleanup hose and vacuumed up most of the blob. She handed the hose to the bar-bun and said, "Hi Mick, sorry about that; here you go; we'll seat ourselves."
We worked our way through the kitchen very carefully. The pub was mostly deserted except for three other buns. We swooped to one of the serving stations. Determined to hold the dispensary to the last bar credit, we took up offensively defensive positions around it. Mick floated up to take our order and looked at us with squinty eyes, "Wait a minute, Toes, aren't you one of the crews that flew through that cloud of cadmium-chrono-chromium debris?" He pointed at the screen where, in fact, the news of the explosion was front and center. There were a lot more ships affected by this than I had first imagined, and the Regional Center had a difficult time coping with the catastrophe. Perhaps, that explained some of the chaos and why no bun had shown up to receive us after our docking. We nodded, and Mick disappeared in a hurry. Shortly after, the treat sampler arrived on a conveyor, and the beverages followed. Then, more food arrived. Had he mixed up our order with some bun else's? When Mick returned, he announced it was all on the house, and he was very glad to see us. "At least you've made it, not like those sorry sods," he said as he motioned with his head to the other three buns. "Did you lose anybun?" he asked. "No, we all came through," answered Ava.
I took a sip of my carrotini, and it kicked me in the gut. I think it tried to burn a hole through me. It felt good. Then, I looked at the three buns by the other dispensary, and I got chills. Two of them were students, and one was a junior instructor. The instructor was tethered to a paw rail and was out cold. His mouf was open, and his tongue was sticking out. He was floating blissfully, head down relative to the students. The students looked very frazzled and were already three sheets to the solar wind. "Where is the senior instructor?" I asked Mick, because those crews were required to have two instructors. "Not everybunny was as lucky as you were," replied the bar-bun. I gulped down another beverage. I watched as one of the students passed out.
I knew the emergency techs and medics would find us sooner rather than later. Misery and boredom would follow. Sure enough, as I put away my third drink, the medics and security otters filed in. "It's them, over there!" Joey belched and pointed at the three hapless buns. The otters fell for it at first but returned quickly. Well, we stuffed as many treats into our pockets as we could, and we surrendered.
The doctors and nurses worked us over very well. They were most unhappy about our diversion to the bar. We were such beautiful specimens, and now we had spoiled everything. To make matters worse, we didn't feel like playing the submissive sufferers they expected us to be. I told the docs they should be happy they got our diapers. We were tired; very tired. Unfortunately, out heads cleared way too soon; that soured out moods even more, and by then, Joey was ready to start punching out headlights. We knew that the debriefings would go on for a long time, but we were done for the day. Pancake demanded our immediate release. Once we could go to our rooms, we elected to stay together for the night, and we piled into a pod that was way too small but cozy with a nice view.
I can't explain what happened next. Maybe we had reached our breaking points. Maybe we missed the woods. Joey wanted to use the litter bin, but there was only one in the pod, and Ava was already using it. Suddenly, he threw her out and tried to pull himself into the compartment. Ava would have none of that, and she smacked him. As she did that, she nicked Molly in the nose. That got Pancake upset, and she started scraping and biting. White fur floated everywhere; it was mayhem. We tried to mark our territory, and the urine droplets floated in every direction. As we peed more and more, the build-up of ammonia in the air triggered the environmental alarm. It went from amber to red, and the buzzer sounded.
Then just as suddenly as it started, the brawl came to a halt. It was the alarm that brought us back to sanity. We froze, stupefied by what happened. A bunch of very distraught orderlies showed up, bent on using force if necessary. Joey told them to back off and give us some space to calm down. His look and demeanor suggested he was about to make you eat a stogie and make you blow smoke circles out your keister. Pancake talked down everybunny and got us a new pod, a little bigger, with better facilities. The orderlies backed off and returned later with some herbal beverages to help our nerves. We accepted them. Once we got cleaned up and ready for sleep, Penny turned down the temperature almost to zero. I snuggled into the sleeping pouch and watched the outside view. As the herbs kicked in, I realized how much I missed Hopmeric. The freezing air felt good. It didn't smell like the woods in winter, but it was close enough. It soothed my primordial spirit for now.
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