Unintended Consequences - or - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Ham
Posted By: Flu
Date: 29 March 2004, 8:39 AM
"Chief?" Sergeant Johnson called through the locked door. "What in the hell are ya' doin in there? You been in there a long time." Johnson pressed his ear to the door and strained to listen like he would if he was being stalked by cloaked Elite.
"There was no answer. Not even a murmur, just a long, uncomfortable silence, but Johnson thought he could hear the Chief's boots rustling on the cold metal floor.
" "Chief you comin' out, or do I need to get a medic?"
" "No medic!" The Chief insisted. He was going to get through this without any more help from modern science. He just didn't know how.
"Truth be told, this was probably the worst case of diarrhea that MC had ever had in his whole life. The doctors suspected it was probably some kind of reaction to a rapid unthaw and double dose stim he had done upon waking up from hypersleep on his most recent mission. It wasn't helped by the weeks of conscious starvation he'd had to undergo on returning from the remote location, nor the calorie rich rehab he was undergoing now. Not that MC cared what had caused it. He was just tired of spending so much time in the head and drinking electrolytic fluid until he was shooting green stuff out both ends. Thank God for artificial gravity, he thought. That probably saved a mess or two in the ship's latrine. He thought back to his original Spartan team. There was one in particular who had a hard time after augmentation surgery. The whole team had done low-grav. exercises after that. Bodily fluids look different when they're spread out in weightless geometric patterns, and fortunately, odors are reduced in a semi-vacuum.
"The Chief tried to speak, but peristalsis took his breath away. Even his intestinal muscles were much stronger than an average person's. He could hear Johnson still moving against the door outside. He regained his composure and yelled at the sergeant..
" "Can't a cybernetic superhuman take a crap in peace?" MC's lips were cracking from dehydration. He needed more fluids. He looked around and found his bottle of ERG-electrolytic fluid, and squeezed a generous dose down his throat. He held his nose to avoid the taste.
"Johnson chuckled. "10-4 there big bionic buddy. Let me know if everything comes out ok." He sniggered silently to himself.
"MC didn't think that was the least bit funny. He threatened Johnson. "When I get outta here I'm gonna hold you up by your ankle and spank your shiny ass if you don't leave now."
"Johnson could not let it go. "Alright, alright. No sense in getting all hostile. And shit. Well come to think of it, you are pretty hostile right now...and you got the shits...that's pretty much the same thing." Johnson collapsed next to the door and held his aching sides. He was laughing so hard it burned.
"There was a very loud bang on the door. MC hit it hard enough to thump the back of Johnson's head. The sergeant's ears rang for a second, but he got the idea, and wandered off toward the next unoccupied head. As he heft he muttered to himself, "A thousand flood and thousand covenant couldn't even get the bastard to say boo, but one case of the browns and he's gonna get physical with ME!?"
" "I heard that..." MC proclaimed, but it was drowned out by Johnson's headphone music. MC heard miniscule beats and guitar riffs trail off in the distance: then nothing.
"Silence. That was nice, but there was something else now. A cold, fluid feeling washed over his mind. Oh no, not now.
" "Chief?" She whispered in her silkiest, smoothest approximation of a motherly voice.
" "Go away." He groaned.
"Cortana was curious. She had never seen the Chief so sick before. He was among the healthiest possible humans that had probably ever lived, but this intestinal disorder had him nearly incapacitated for hours at a time.
" "I just need to run another internal diagnostic of your systems to find out if there's anything more I can do." She was as insistent and persistent as any doctor or nurse MC had ever met.
" "I thought we agreed," MC began, "It was the combined effects of hypersleep, stim-overdose and alternate starvation cycles."
" "Well, yes, I think those contributed considerably to your present condition, but it seems there's more to it than that."
" "What do you mean?" Chief had been dreading this. He was a little worried about his exposure to The Flood. He wondered if his immune system was trying to fight -and purge- any errant Flood genetic prions. That seemed the most likely explanation for such an intractable problem.
" "Well...I've been reviewing the data tapes from our most recent engagements and I think I may have found an issue." Cortana always stated her conclusions like she had just found the cure for cancer and the Covenant all in one.
"Chief wasn't so sure. 'What do you mean...issue?"
"Coyly, Cortana insisted that he needed to see the ship doctor for a full explanation. "Let's finish up here and we'll go to the infirmary and get to the bottom of this." Cortana quickly added, "By bottom of this I didn't mean anything. That is to say...no pun intended."
" "Right... If only it were that easy." Chief explained. "I can't just get up and hustle down three decks right now. It might be a minute."
" "Well how hard could it be?" Cortana asked innocently. "You're a superhuman. Can't you hold it?"
" "It doesn't work that way." The Chief insisted
"Cortana tried to analogize it in the best way she could. "But Chief, I've had to download streams and streams of data, and sometimes it just flows and flows and flows; it seems that I can't stop it, but I can always get a handle on it if I want."
"Chief rolled his eyes. "It's not the same."
"Cortana wasn't taking no for an answer. "Chief, I remember one time that I had to perform a data dump you wouldn't believe. It was so big and took so long that I felt like I was losing consciousness. In fact I..."
" "STOP!" Chief cut her off.
"Cortana was still confused. It wasn't like MC to give up when there were still options available. She searched for another answer and asked him, "Well, why don't you get one of those absorbent undergarments you wear in your MJOLNIR suit."
"Cortana had a point. Ever since the early days of human Space-Flight, there was a nagging, biological problem that each wearer of an EVA suit had to confront. Putting the suit on and removing it was labor intensive, and often the EVA missions were longer than either the bladder or intestines could endure. Urinary catheters could help with liquid elimination, but solids were handled with absorbent undergarments: adult diapers. Unfortunately, the Chief's diarrhea had been prolonged. He now had other complications that made him hesitant to agree to wear an undergarment to walk around decks.
" "So how about it Chief?" Cortana asked.
" "I'd rather not." He didn't want to say why, but he knew Cortana would insist on an answer. "I don't want to put one of those things on because I have a...rash."
"Chief couldn't tell, but he would've bet his armor that Cortana giggled and then cut herself off.
" "A rash?" She seemed genuinely shocked. "On your butt?"
" "I don't want to hear it." MC insisted.
" "Wait here." Cortana ordered.
" "Like I have a choice."
"The liquid feeling receded from the back of his skull and once again he was alone and enjoyed a moment of solitude. Cortana's presence didn't return for quite some time, but then the Chief heard the supply dispenser next to the toilet rumble softly. He looked at the little metal door. It was completely still. He pushed in the hinged, square cover, and saw an empty receptacle, but he could hear something bumping around in the blackness back there. It sounded like something was making its way through the supply tubes to the dispenser. He closed the door. There was a short click and then it sounded like a small, cylindrical tube was rocking back and forth inside the receptacle.
"The Chief opened the door and withdrew the small, white cylinder. Slowly, he rolled the tube over in his fingers so he could read the label. It said, "Dr. Bronners Soothing Perineal Rash Cream."
" Below that in much larger letters it said, "The Best Butt Cream in the Galaxy!"
" "Cortana!" The Chief yelled.
"Several minutes later, the Chief was sure the waves of muscle contraction were over. For at least a little while, he hoped. He made his way down to the infirmary where he was greeted by one of the ship's doctors.
"The doctor thanked the chief for coming and led him into a small meeting room. Cortana's holo was there, and seated to her right was a lab technician the chief had seen before.
" "Good morning." They all said, and the lights dimmed. A neuro-link tape began on the view screen. It showed the Chief as he made his way through an urban firefight he had engaged in recently. The Chief remembered every detail of it clearly, but as he watched himself enter the kitchen of a small apartment he'd had to run through that day, a strange feeling came over him.
"The others watched the Chief as he stared at the view screen. Slowly the chief licked his dry lips. He reached for his water bottle and fumbled nervously until his fingers found it, but instead of taking a drink, he sat with his eyes riveted to the neuro-tape, almost unable to move.
" "There." The doctor blurted out and the tape froze.
"MC was unaware of the stopping of the tape.
" "Chief?" Cortana called, but the chief couldn't turn his gaze from the image on the screen.
"In silent wonder Cortana, the doctor, and the lab technician watched as the Chief bit his lip and ever so softly uttered the words, "Mmmmmm.....ham."
"The viewscreen showed the Chief as he removed his helmet - in the middle of the firefight - pulled open the kitchen refrigerator and forced several large pieces of ham into his mouth.
" "Chief?" Cortana said again, then she yelled, "Chief, snap out of it."
"The Chief shook his head and looked at the group around the table.
" "What?" He said incredulously.
"Cortana tried to explain. "You were watching the tape and when we got to the part with the ham, you froze. Do you realize that you actually said, 'Mmmm..ham?'"
"The Chief didn't fully understand what the problem was.
" "So what? I can't resist a good ham." He replied.
"Everyone in the room grimaced and looked at the Chief utterly confused.
" "So I like ham." He continued to justify his stance. "Hell... I love ham. In fact, I can't get enough ham. Which reminds me...whey the hell don't you ever serve ham on these ships? That's what the UNSC needs is a little more good ham!"
"The doctor shook his head. "Don't you realize that you can't eat ham!"
"The Chief was shocked. "Can't eat ham? What are you talking about?"
" "Genetically modified pigs," the doctor explained, "carry an enzyme which interferes with the metallic substrate in your bones. If you eat ham, your body won't absorb it, and it tries to purge it as violently and quickly as it can."
"This explained the diarrhea.
" "No ham?" The Chief asked sheepishly.
" "I'm afraid not." The doctor replied.
" "What about bacon? Because bacon is dam good stuff."
" "NO!" They all yelled in unison.
" "Alright fine." The Chief huffed. 'You'd think with all the sacrifices I've made for humanity that I could get a decent friken ham or slab of bacon once in a while."
" "I am sorry chief." The Doctor lamented. "I guess you can chalk it up to the law of unintended consequences.....of ham."
" "That's not funny." He growled, but he could hear Cortana laughing.
"He left the meeting room and vowed to himself that someday, when the time was right, he would have ham again. A nice honey baked ham with pineapple glaze.