One lucky token and a little blarney goes a long way
|1st place win - February "Science Fiction Short Story Contest" Fantasy Newsletter Editors Pick 2/28/18
Prompt listed inside first paragraph quotes.
"It was a thing of beauty. Sleek and yet bold, the cruiser bore its scars proudly. It boasted pock-marks earned from micro-meteor storms that had overcome even the best shielding in its class; they whispered of its pedigree in deep space exploration. A blackened and bulging vent near the aft spoke of its heroism against the most deadly pirates of the coreward rift. In that moment, it was mine: the finest little ship in the cluster. Oh, the adventures that awaited me, when I was young! For your ear and a Tilaxian brandy, I'll gladly share them all. Lean close, my friend." I'd collected a strange menagerie of space adventurer's to my table. I checked my empty pockets coming up with only an Icanian token chip kept for good luck. An empty tankard was set before me. I waited breathless with anticipation for it to be filled.
The Melvanian bartender cocked an eyestalk my way. "Not until he pays his tab." It pointed a tentacle at the Rolly Polly guarding the bar door and I found myself rolled up into a partial ball, kicked into the half 'G' air to slide along on my face eating astroid dust. Laughter from several space-faring species followed me out the door. "One more minute and I'd of conned a drink off that sultry Venusian waitress." I spat the words out along with a mouthful of dust.
"Are you Captain Edward Brandy?" A tall shadow asked with a squeaky voice. It sounded vaguely familiar. I had narrowly escaped so many vindictive partners in various past enterprises it was hard to guess which one this was.
"Uh. Hunting for a contact lens. Be right with you." I pawed a moment longer against the ground, regaining my dignity, before rising to greet whoever owned the shadow. "By the nine moons of Reisa, Is that you Barkley?"
Sarah Barkley shook a finger at my nose. "The only other Earthling in this galactic sector and you don't recognize me?"
I grabbed her elbow, took one backward glance at the bar, and escorted Sarah towards the safety of the astroid junkyard where my ship lay unclaimed. "What on Earth are you doing here?" The last time I'd seen her Sarah was fainting with what I hoped was passion in the clutches of a slavoring, green-eyed Bonk, complete with mating scales in full reddened display. I had taken advantage of their intimate embrace to say a hasty goodbye, boarding our co-owned and well-prized spacecraft.
"I had no idea why you left me behind back there. At first, when I came to my senses and you were gone, I thought you the most cowardly, despicable example of a man I'd ever met."
"I can explain everything." My mind searched for a way out. This time I couldn't even escape in my super speedy spaceship. It was in hock until I paid for storage fees and fuel.
"Oh. I already know." Sarah batted her long eyelashes at me. "You are so shy, you've managed to stay one step ahead of me, although there certainly are a lot of strange folks wanting to pay you back as well. I had no idea you were that famous." She paused long enough to gasp a startled, "Well hello. Is that our spaceship? I heard you'd sold it about twenty times the same day to twenty different owners. Some kind of bidding war?"
I nodded numbly, wondering at the way the fates played with a man's life. Carney, the junk shop owner wandered over, chewing on his Balka weed. "She found you, huh? Got the ship ready to go. She paid up. Never thought I'd see the day." He'd rolled out the red carpet service. I accepted a bottle of Maruvian Ghost Wine, wondering if I'd been knocked over the head on my way out the bar and was dreaming this all up.
"So. We're spacing to the outer limits to test our wits against the deadly pirates of the coreward rift?" I managed to keep my balance as Sarah tugged me towards our waiting ship.
"Oh, how you do like to kid and make things up. I know there is no such thing." The lock opened and there stood the slavoring, green-eyed Bonk waving us forward. His toothy grin looked a little more slap happy today than it had last time when he looked ready to eat me up.
"What's this all about?" All the fanfare of having paid my bills and filled my cargo holds had brought out the whole asteroid. When it was noticed I was leaving freely and not as a beaten down captive, an angry roar announced vast disapproval. My other creditors began storming the junkyard fence.
"You knew Harry and I would be a match made in heaven, didn't you? Just as you knew he was the richest merchant this side of Earth, and what a lover." The Bonk growled a greeting at me, slapped me on the back hard enough to make me leap inside. I caught my balance and the three of us waved to the excited hoard disappearing from view behind the closing ship entrance.
A higher pitched growl erupted from the control room. Floor plates trembled with the advancing sound of heavy steps. "We have so much to thank you for. Hubby wants you to meet his sister. We'll be spending a lot of time together until we reach Borkland. We have high hopes for the pair of you."
A titter accompanied by an unladylike belch welcomed me aboard. A female version of the Bonk lifted me over her shoulder. Slavoring drool dripped down her overly developed chest as green eyes blinked at my upside down face. I yelped weakly as she carried me like a sack of wheat towards her open compartment. "This isn't the sort of space adventure I had in mind."
Sarah giggled and hugged her Bonk's trunk sized arm. "Aren't they just so cute?"
I made the universal sign and clutched myself signaling a need for the freshener in a madcap last attempt to delay the inevitable. "Be right back, sweetheart." I heard her bed quiver and groan under the creature's weight. Her gullet pulsed red with excitement. Even if I managed to get free, there was the mass of creditors waiting backside for me.
I heard the warp engine engage. There was nowhere to turn. It was too late for the escape hatch. My new date was calling, not quite breaking the sound barrier yet, but coming close. "Almost done." I wailed. In despair, I leaned against the bulkhead rubbing my forehead with one hand and my lucky token with the other.
Every sign was in Bonk, but a new one appeared on the wall before me where none had been when I made my last trip. I didn't care if it was a storage room or a janitor's closet. I swiped at the pressure plate and fell inside just as the clomp of female Bonk feet approached. "Whew..."
The sound of footsteps went past. "Hidey, Seeky. I'm going to find you." Trilled my mammoth sized lover.
Lights flicked on a small control panel. A warm robotic voice whispered. "Be calm. Emergency escape sequence is in process."
"How nice. They installed a new escape pod just in time for me to try it out." The hiss of air leaving the hold met the pounding on the sealed doorway by my promised soul mate. I flipped the switch on the con speaker. "It might take a little longer playing hide and seek than we thought."
An enraged snarl evoked my sympathy. "I'm just too excited for words, my dear. Let me calm down a year or two and I'll get back to you." Sobbing slowly replaced the anger. It turned into a hopeful whine before I said my final adieu as I asked the control panel to set us in the direction of the closest farming asteroid. "What can happen to me there besides having to sell my pod for a ticket back to Earth? Surely the authority will have forgotten my innocent mistakes."
Robot control helped me find and disengage the tracking beacon. "Wish they'd put something besides old Tang and energy bars in this tub." It was nothing like my fancy spaceship.
A scant eight hours and I landed on a farmer's private spaceport. The energy shield engaged overhead. "Welcome stranger." A hick's voice drawled. "What's news?" The farmer looked Martian enough. It was his wife and daughter that took me off guard. "Venusian's." I groaned. The race was renowned for romancing and draining all energy out of any poor Earthling chancing to cross one's path. Martians seemed inured to their charm.
"Don't be feared none. The wife is taken and we'll chain the girl to the floor come nights. Who knows, she may grow on you, stranger, and we could sure use some help shoveling Plenna manure into the recycler."
Digging up and spreading B.S. I knew how to do well. I might get out of this latest predicament yet. The farmer was eyeballing my space ride with innocent interest. "I'm your man." I began my spiel as the farmer's daughter snuggled against my side, winking and showing me she had a key to the lock that would be used that night. My blood ran cold with this new heightened crisis now upon me. Clearing my throat I warmed to my task. "It was mine: the finest little ship in the cluster. It was a thing of beauty. Sleek and yet bold, the cruiser bore its scars proudly..."