“There’s yer problem,” the repairman said, his head buried within a series of wires that surrounded the large, blue sphere. Howard glanced up at the empty, black ceiling, doing his best not to stare directly into the man’s butt crack, which was in full view of anyone within the next few thousand light years. He had to know his pants were practically around his knees, there was no way he wasn’t doing it on purpose. Still, he came very well recommended. Howard didn’t really mind occasionally glancing into the infinite void of the man’s bowels while he solved what had proven to be a multi-thousand year dilemma.
“What is it?” Howard said, his eyes locked up at the empty, black expanse overhead.
“You got humans in your system,” the repairman said. “Billions of them, climbing all over your hardware and doing who knows what on top.”
“Humans?” Howard said, glancing back down at the repairman’s overzealous butt crack before instantly swinging his eyes toward the wall behind. He’d never heard the term before. Perhaps he meant “hummus,” the disease-laden spread popular amongst the beings in Alpha Centuari? As far as he was aware, however, hummus was neither sentient nor active, although he had once heard a story about a man who had succumbed to a terrible bout of hummus.
“Yes sir,” the repairman said, carefully weaving his head back through the cables and turning toward Howard. “Take a look.” He leaned forward and handed Howard a pair of glasses, each lens appearing to magnify by hundreds of thousands of times. Howard grabbed them and put them on, immediately unable to see anything more than a massive blur of mostly black.
“I can’t see anything,” Howard said, his arms waiving out in front of him like a blind man. His palm brushed up against some sort of hairy crevice, which he hoped desperately was just a massive rodent with an axe wound.
“Here,” the repairman said, grabbing Howard’s hand and guiding him toward a slightly less black blur. It came into focus as he came closer, the outline of wires becoming visible first, followed next by a faint blue halo that grew in intensity like a planet appearing on the horizon. “There,” he said.
There were thousands of them: tiny creatures wandering to-and-fro across the sphere. They were ugly little things, each with two arms on their mid-section with two more that they walked upon. Their heads were covered in thick, messy rags, with their faces likewise laden with various pointed and sunken features. Howard did his best not to vomit all over the sphere, drowning them by the thousands in the process.
They seemed to have drilled holes into the sphere, building comparatively massive structures atop it while destroying and demolishing entire portions of it. They had swarmed it, made it their home and seemingly annihilated everything that had come standard upon installation. Some were huddled into massive, industrial hubs, while others were situated in the lush, greener areas. Vermin.
“Ew,” Howard said, tugging his head back out. “Where’d they come from?”
“Who knows?” the repairman said. “Possibly some sort of large explosion brought them to your little sphere here, or maybe it was some higher form of life.” He laughed.
“Well, they’re disgusting. Can we kill them?”
“No sir,” the repairman said, grabbing the glasses and placing them onto his own face. He leaned back into the mass of wires, head disappearing within.
“Why not?” Howard said, again averting his eyes from the man’s prominent butt crack. There was no way he could give up it, it would take hours to plug everything back in and move the data. Plus, leaving it be was simply out of the question. Who knew how long it would be before it simply became too unstable and lost all power?
“They’re very organized,” the repairman said, his voice slightly muffled. “I don’t want to have a protest on my hands.”
“I’m sorry?” Howard said.
“If we start exterminating them, they’ll protest.”
“I don’t see how that’s a problem if we just kill them all.”
“Well,” the repairman said, his head popping back out, “they’re unionized. I can see some of them on strike right now. Do you know what happens if my union finds out that I killed off another union?”
“No,” Howard said. He’d heard rumors about union conflicts, once even that the Interplanetary War of Ursa Major had been due to a labor dispute in which workers had not been allotted a full hour and fifteen minutes of lunch. Trillions died in the ensuing battles. Those were just stories, though. Old wives tales.
“Let’s just say both of us would be killed in an incredibly violent, but sanctioned, way. And then there would be strikes. Air strikes.”
“I see,” Howard said. “What if I do it alone?”
“I just don’t think it’s worth it for this little device,” the repairman said, pushing himself to his feet and brushing the dust off his blue jumpsuit. “You can just get a new one a few galaxies over for a few bucks, then you just let this one kill its own self.”
“Fine,” Howard said, sighing heavily. He’d have to unplug all the wires, re-arrange them, and then plug them all back into a new one. That would take hours, maybe even a whole evening. With how tangled it had become, who knew? Still, it was probably better than upsetting a union.
“What do you even use this one for?” the repairman said, scribbling a series of numbers on what Howard knew was the bill.
“It’s a hard drive,” Howard said, pausing. He decided not to mention that it had once served as his primary tool for storing his pornographic material, but—thanks to humanity—had broken down and become unusable. Now the majority of it was gone, useless. All he had left was what he stored on the seven other spherical hard drives nearby. It didn’t exactly seem like the kind of information he should share. “I used it to store stuff.”
“I see,” the repairman said. He leaned forward and handed Howard the paper, a series of astronomically large numbers written across it. Howard glanced down at it and slowly shook his head. For that kind of money, there was simply no way he wouldn’t at least try to fix the hard drive—he’d already paid for at least three more in the past twenty minutes. He’d just get some bleach that afternoon and see if he could exterminate the human infestation quietly.