JUST ANOTHER DAY

by John Dodd

Never been on TV before, this is going to be a mistake, I can see it.

"We're here, live in Downtown Central Processing 1, the very heart of the sewage management teams of mort" The reporter looks far too bubbly and precious for the drab grimness of the office we're in, her professionally cleaned teeth gleaming in the cameras light "This is Adam Connolly, head controller of this area"

I wave half heartedly at the camera, silently wishing for Mr Slayer to speed up time.

"Mr Connolly," she begins "how would you describe your job?"

"Underpaid, overworked, underthanked." I murmur out of the side of my face, doing my best to look interested in the several screens in front of me

"Seriously Mr Connolly." There's an irritating happy whine in her voice, like a little girls Bimbie Doll, one of those expensive talking models.

I glance sideways, fair enough, if she wants to play the silly game, I can do that "This here is the primary monitor," I indicate the main screen "from here we can monitor all the crews, obstructions, and other things going on in our sector." Looking over, I can see her attention span is already gone, so I decide to press things.

"Looking here, these red dots are known obstructions, these green dots are crews, these purple dots..."

I continue with the lecture, going into teacher mode, keeping the words short for the morons listening back in their houses, I can see the reporter going to sleep and smile to myself. Half an hour later, I finish the idiots guide to the sewers and look over at my audience. The woman is sat on a chair chewing gum of some sort, trying to avoid looking at her nails, the camera crew are true professionals and haven't wavered, although one of them is giving me a glance that says it all.

I stop and make a gesture that encompasses the entire room "From here, we control everything." I indicate the controllers sitting below me in their individual boothes. "It takes five years of training to learn what goes on down here, it's not a job for those who don't have the stomach for it."

The reporter smirks nastily "How hard can it be?" she sneers, even though she's off camera, the tone of her voice says all she feels about the training required for this job.

I smile politely, motioning for one of my people to bring over the small glass tank that I'd prepared for my guest. Inside it is a pool of murky brown water and two piles of what appears to be excrement of a sort. I pass the tank over to the table in front of her and open the top.

"One of these creatures is lethal, one of them is harmless, it's the first lesson you learn when you come in for training, care to guess which one?"

Two beasts can be seen vying for position in the pool, one of them is a small insect with a long spike on its back, the other is a small type of lobster. I grin like a tiger as the girl goes pale.

"C'mon, there's a good chance you'll get it right, I mean, how hard can it be?" I smile congenially. The girl either has less brains than even I gave her credit for, or she's just afraid of being taken for a fool, she reaches in and grabs the long spikey insect. Instantly it stings her and she watches in horror as her hand goes blue, then the colour spreads up her arm.

With remarkable presence of mind, she faints away, leaving the camera men staring at me in shock. I think I'm getting used to the whole camera thing. I smile and hold up the recognition chart for the animals, they're both harmless, the one that she picked up is occasionally used to produce hypoallergenic versions of Lumo for those who can't use the regular version, both creatures are completely harmless.

"But that, you see, is not something that the average worker down here can take the chance on." I smile again to the camera. "There is no guessing in the sewage teams, we work on knowledge and efficiency."

I glance down to the blue reporter on the floor "Other professions get a margin of error we can't afford". I look back up and motion for the cameras to follow me.

"Here we have the incident list for the day." I indicate the wall of shifting symbols on the far corner of the room, the list keeps on scrolling downwards, not stopping.

"Is that a rolling list?" asks one of the camera people.
"No," I reply, "it's just updated every time we have an incident, there's only been a hundred and fifty on the mornings shift so far, but it's still the first hour, things will speed up."
"So how do things get decided here?" asks the same person, he's obviously putting himself in the place where bluegirl should be.
"The controllers have the authority to make any decisions regarding blockages, redirections of flow, and sewer crews, should they require anything higher, they have to refer the matter to me or one of the other sanctioned people."

As if by magic, my headset chimes, I thumb the receiver onto main speaker.

"DTP1 responding" I say quietly.
"This is controller 113, we have a code 3 in the region of DTP1."
I put one hand over my mouthpiece for a second "A Code 3 indicates that more firepower than a sewer crew carries is required."
"That's a Roj 113, do we have identification on the problem."
"Negative DTP1, crew 2735 didn't report in and crew 2845 just found their remains."
"Identifying marks?"
" Kibble and bits remaining DTP1, crew 2845 requested immediate evac from area, I granted it, they sounded spooked."
"Understood 113, we're switching to tracking, request blue BPN be raised for clearance duty."

I flip the mike up to my ear and turn back to the camera

"We don't let crews take on problems requiring firepower, too much time and training involved to lose good personnel, we prefer to let Operatives handle it."
The cameraman raises his hand "Do you value the lives of your crew above those of Operatives?"
"Of course." the words are out before I think to stop them. "It takes five years to train these people, they have the dedication to go in to these places and clear them up, getting paid one tenth of what Operatives do, they're in it for the job, not the money." I pause for breath "Operatives get paid silly amounts of money, take nine months to train, and set me back 50c a piece if I lose them, you tell me which one I'd rather lose".

It's not the most political thing I've ever said, and I'm sure I'll get some heat for it later, but damn it, my people deserve to be recognised for what they're doing down here. No one even knows they exist most of the time, they just don't question how their toilet works, how they're not knee deep in s***, but hey, that's cool, that's what we're here for.

However, that said, from the look on the camera-mans face, I think he agrees with me. I shrug mentally "Tracking online." I say to the empty air.

Immediately the main screen switches to an overlay of the area surrounding DTP1. I look over it with a jaded eye.

"Controls to me," I say, again to the empty air, "give me full overlay."

A huge purple dot appears on the screen, signifying a large heat source in the area, I scrutinise it closely.

"What is it?" asks the camera person behind me
"Not sure." I murmur back, my mind is racing, it's a composite signal, so it's not a bunch of carrien, it's too small to be a group of pigs. My internal com chimes, I tap my headset once to mute the sound from escaping

"This is DTP1 acknowledging."
"This is squad Knife Edge, responding to your blue, we're in the area and will be with you in five minutes."
"Acknowledged, DTP1 out."

There's an echoing boom from the main door, as if someone drove a car into it. For a second there's complete silence in the room, even the other controllers murmuring stops, then the boom echoes again. Behind us, the girl stirs, sitting up groggily "what's going on?" she mumbles

"We're under attack," I say quietly "we have unidentified on the outside and trying to gain access."
She takes the news badly, it's probably something to do with the fact that she's still post mortem blue all over, but she slumps to the floor and starts rocking backwards and forwards, mumbling incoherently.

"DTP1, this is Controller 113, I have a visual."
"Acknowledged 113, give it to me."
The main screen switches and focuses on the main door, it's four feet thick steel, nothings getting through there without us letting it, and from the nightmare on screen, that's just as well. The pig is maybe six feet at the shoulder, eight feet long, and as if someone whispered in it's ear, it turns to face the camera, it's one good eye glaring with almost tangible hatred.
One horrible fast movement and the camera dies.

There's a muffled whisper of "Dear lord Slayer" from behind me. I turn and access the squad frequency for Knife Edge

"This is DTP1, do not proceed with blue, repeat, do not proceed with blue."
"That's a negative DTP1, we're just around the corner, ETA 30 seconds."
"This is DTP1, hostile is not within blue BPN sanction, you'll need something he..."
I cease speaking as the sound of gunfire rips through the air outside, I swing back to the main viewer as five human sized blips appear on the monitor. The larger blip hurtles towards them with terrible speed, the viewer wasn't designed for precision, there's a larger red mess on the monitor, moving around like a set of cats in a bag.

There's a blur of heat across the entire tunnel, one of the Operatives must be an ebon using red thermal, the gunfire lasts a minute or two longer, and the screams are long, loud, and not identifiable. A minute later, things go silent, and there's a soft tapping at the door. The reporter is up and running towards the door.

"It's the Operatives, they've killed it!" She straightens her hair and sets her face on pout. She stands near the door and indicates with a flick of her head for me to open the door. I glance wryly over at her and shake my head.

"Not till we've got confirmation." I say quietly.
She pouts again, I find myself thanking the gods I don't believe in that I don't work in media. I look over at the screen, it's still not clear, must have been some decent blast that went off in there. No realistic way for the team to make it out of that sort of carnage.
"Squad knife edge, this is DTP1, request confirmation that the creature is dead."
Static greets me.
"I repeat, Squad knife edge, this is DTP1, request confirmation that the creature is dead, please respond."

There's that soft tapping on the door again. The reporter pouts again, then glances sideways and I curse myself for an inattentive idiot, the emergency door release is mounted on the side of the door.

"NO!" I scream as she lunges for the button, then turns back to face the camera as the door starts to open. Behind her, the sewer rises up in a solid wall of filth and slime, lunging forwards. I dive across for the emergency door override mounted on the far wall, hammering the level one emergency lockdown.

The beast lunges forwards, its aim isn't good, as it barely fits through the door, but it does catch her arm, tearing it off cleanly at the elbow. The emergency lockdown kicks in and the door slams, the hydraulics catch for a second as it clamps around the pigs head, but then the reserves kick in and the pig is thrown backwards by the hydraulic clearance ram dropping from the ceiling. The door seals and the med team rushes forwards to treat the reporter on the floor. Already the remains of her arm is swelling up as the toxins from the pigs bite sweep through her.

The lockdown finishes and I breathe a sigh of relief as one of the medics displays a thumbs up at me.

"Station-Analysis, this is DTP1, upgrade blue to Red, Operative squad Knife Edge down, one known hostile, will require medivac for third eye team, one casualty."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not sorry that the stupid cow got her arm bitten off, but if she'd died on the base, then we'd be responsible for the death costs. I glance back over to the camera crew, both of whom are looking at me with undisguised admiration. I step over to the medic team, resting one hand on their shoulder pads and looking back up to the camera crew to make sure they've got me, the crew, and the remains of bluegirl in the shot. One of them nods, and I plaster on my best Rogue Grin, raising one thumb for the camera.

"Just another day in DTP1."