idol friends and rivals | week 6 | 1312 words
The HQ Commander tapped the lead neuron to make sure it was responding.
"We have now entered morning. I will be asking all stations to report on the State of the Human. Preliminary status is that coffee has reached the stomach but not the brain. Eyes are at half-mast and weekend regrets are a Go. I repeat, bring weekend regrets to full speed. We've got a Monday on our hands."
The beginnings of a caffeine tide trickled through HQ, and the Commander felt it wash through him. Much better.
"Bladder, usual status?" he barked.
"Yessir, everything's fine now. The back wanted me to tell you that he's—"
"Save it," the Commander said. "Stiff and sore, yada-yada-yada, every morning's the same. If he still hurts after lunchtime, he can tell me himself. Feet, what's up?"
"Still working on the coordination, but getting in synch—"
"Look out, loose rug ahead!"
"Do you mind? I'm talking here."
"All right, ladies, thank you, moving on..." The Commander checked the neuron threads. "G.I. tract, how's it hanging?"
A moan floated through HQ. "Possible issue with last night's pepperoni pizza."
"I told you it was too late to eat one of those. Didn't I tell you? In fact, I think those were my exact words."
The stomach shuddered and burped. "Yes, but I was hungry, and it looked so good."
"Okay, okay," the Commander said. "Hey, has anyone seen the appendix? He hasn't reported in for days now." Flaky little freak.
"Nothing here," the lower intestine responded.
"Nah, you kidding? I ain't seen 'im."
The Commander stewed. "A reminder, people. All vacations must be requested and approved in advance. No exceptions!"
A scattered chorus of coughs and hums rose and died away. "Gallbladder and pancreas are doin' okay," the liver offered, after a brief silence.
"Good. Left and right hemispheres, report."
"Muh?" The left brain stirred. "Uh… shoe."
"River floor," the right brain murmured. "Curtain cloud, windy murky—"
"Hey," the Commander said. "Dreamtime's over, Righty. Pull it together and help the left brain get our host dressed and off to the bus stop. Lungs?"
"Blood pressure rising to normal, should level off soon."
"Okay, looking good. We're up and running. All systems, proceed as usual. I'll check in on you later."
The Commander leaned back and watched the flow of blood through the capillaries and tissue around HQ. It was hypnotic. Another surge of caffeine moved through the area—Ahh, that's good. He hoped the left brain was becoming more awake. The host would be at work in an hour, and those numbers wouldn't crunch themselves.
He zoned out for a while, letting things run on autopilot. A neuron transmission roused his attention.
"Sir, this is the back. Things are not going well this morning. I feel a spasm coming on…"
"No," said the Commander.
"Beg your pardon?"
"I said, No. The weekend's over, you know the rules. Suck it up."
"You heard me. We've all got our jobs to do here, and your chance for drama ended yesterday. Now you've gotta wait."
The back whimpered and faded off the link.
Sheesh, the Commander thought. Crybaby. Every three to four weeks it was something. The back was probably bored, but HQ wasn't exactly humming most of the time. The Commander would have loved a tic-tac-toe game, or a book of crossword puzzles. Anything. Instead, he got to manage a bunch of loose parts with bad attitudes.
A wave of pain rocked the host.
"Back, that'd better not be you!"
There was a cough on the neural link. "Ovaries, sir."
The Commander growled. "You guys are way out of line! We just went through this, like, a week ago. Uterus, back me up. When's the next cycle due?"
"Not for two to three more weeks."
"You see? Knock it off down there, you two, or I'll have the fallopian tubes punch you. You know they'll do it."
"Yessir," the ovaries said meekly.
"Schedules, people! We're professionals. This random acting-up crap is strictly forbidden, you get me? I don’t want to say it again."
Never a moment's peace around here. The command trudged around HQ—drag-drag-drag—until the surrounding chamber quivered. Oops. Probably giving the host a headache or something. He felt edgy, and it was nowhere near lunchtime, so he wouldn't be getting an infusion of nourishment anytime soon.
He forced himself to stroll politely, and after some lengthy aimless wandering, he felt better. The host seemed to be in a groove now, and all systems were functioning normally. They might keep coasting up through lunch at this rate. The Commander decided to let things continue on their own until he was needed.
He was in a half-daze, listening to the blood pulse and rush through HQ, when the neural network demanded his attention.
"Sir, this is the gall bladder. Things are getting dicey down here. The appendix is back, and he says he's going to blow himself up."
"He what? That motherf——ing little terrorist!" The Commander bounced around HQ in agitation. "Appendix!" he called out. "Yes, you, you little worm. Behave yourself! Who do you think you are?"
"I'm nobody," the appendix said. "You've all made that very clear, since forever. I don't even have a real job—and don’t tell me that babysitting the colon is 'important work that only an appendix can do.' As if! You're all so full of it. What do you care what I do? It doesn't matter! I could have fallen off and died years ago, and no one would have even noticed."
Geez, this is all I need right now, the Commander thought. That something as small and unnecessary as the appendix could be so potentially lethal was a rough piece of irony. Better talk him down.
"Take it easy," the Commander said. "I hear what you're saying, appendix. You feel underappreciated and lonely, and it's getting you worked up."
"You bet it is!"
"So, given the situation, maybe a vacation would help."
"Huh," the appendix said. "A vacation?"
"Yes, exactly. Take as long as you like, don't worry about what to do or where to be. Just relax."
"Wow, that sounds real nice. Peaceful."
"Take a nap, even. Take a hundred naps, or a thousand. We'll be here when you get back."
"Okay, then!" The appendix sounded much happier. "I guess I'll leave right now. I mean, no reason not to, right? There's all kinds of room to explore down here. If that's acceptable to you, that is."
"Yes, yes," the Commander said. "Please do. Enjoy yourself."
The Commander ended the connection and leaned into the nearby tissue wall, wishing he could pound on it—even just a little. I'm the one that needs a vacation, he thought. These guys are killing me, and they know it. Unbelievable!
The closest the Commander ever came to getting a break was at night, when the host was asleep. That was hours away, though, hours. Just my freakin' luck.
"Hey." Someone was sending him a private signal on one of the side neurons. It sounded like the stomach.
"I'm feeling better now," it said, and yes—that was definitely the stomach. "The way things are going, I thought maybe you could use a little pick-me-up. Want me to see if I can make the host think she's hungry enough to go out for an early lunch?"
"Yeah," the Commander said, "why not? That'd be really nice."
'You got it," the stomach said.
The Commander felt the hunger pangs start working their way through the system, and he knew lunch couldn't be far off. The stomach was good at its job when it wanted to be.
The appendix, though… no matter what he'd told it before, the Commander would be keeping an eye on that guy.
Sneaky little twerp…
If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.