We five, the four crewmembers of the Red
Barracuda plus our new acquaintance, sit in an uncarpeted room whose main
feature is a table, track lighting, and a whiteboard. I don't understand why
the Captain put us in here. It's cold and the light does not flatter the
Not that any light would. Betelgeusean strippers
may be attractive to Ramon but they don't meet my standards of beauty. Alright?
I said it. I don't actually appreciate Betelgeusean appearances. I don't care
what they think of that, I don't care what anyone thinks of that, it's not
I have no idea WHY I went into a strip joint on
Betelgeuse-9 that one time, and the only thing I remember there is this one
stripper with a nice, uh...mandibles don't exactly smile but you know what I
mean. And wouldn't you know it, the ONE Betelgeusean who I remember from there
is across the table from where I'm sitting.
"Small galaxy," clacks the
"How do you even remember me?" I say.
"Not very many humans wander into a Betelgeusean
strip joint. Were you drunk or something?"
"I was drunk," says Ramon. "Maybe
I dragged Robin in. Ah, but that was five years ago. Here you are, my lovely,
looking no older than when I saw you...although the scorch marks on your
carapace are just a little distressing."
"Well, I certainly didn't choose to make
them. I'll admit it's a fair price of my failure to capture you. Talking of
which, why exactly do you not have me in handcuffs or a cell? I don't feel like
a prisoner of war here."
I lean forward and rest my elbows on the table.
"Well, my fine multi-legged friend, you seemed overly willing to tell us
you were working for the Student Loan Company. So it's not like you're some
kind of cover agent. You didn't try to eat poison when we captured you, so
you're not a fanatic. And, most important, I think you were set up to be
"How do you figure?"
"They sent you out alone."
"No they didn't. They said they were right
behind me. Maybe they got lost."
"Sounds like a snipe hunt to me," says
Aristede. "But more to the point, consider all the cars I had in the
garage. I had a Bugatti Veyron, and I had a Bentley, and I had a VW bus, and an Aston Martin DB5, and a Porsche Spider, among many, many vehicles...and they
let you drive the Aston Martin Lagonda? How hard did you have to jump up and
down and wave your hands just to get them to notice you in the first place?
You're like the kid who can't play the game but they're still on the team so
they get put in the position that does the least amount of damage. What
exactly were you sent to do?"
"Attack the Space Slug."
"They deliberately sent you on a suicide
mission," I say. "They wanted to get you and the crappy car out of
the way, preferably both at the same time."
The Betelgeusean steps back from the table and
draws a sword. "They shan't get away with it!"
"You're going to take on the Student Loan
Company," says Aristede, "With a drawing of a sword."
"You're right," says the Betelgeusean,
and draws another five swords on the whiteboard.
"I'm sure the Student Loan Company is real
scared of your drawing skills," says Aristede.
"They ought to be. " The Betelgeusean
thumps the whiteboard. Six swords clang as they clatter to the ground.
"Impressive," says a voice from the
I turn. There's a silhouetted figure, a tall and
broad man with big hair, wearing a cloak with a high collar.
I restrain my urge to lunge at him. It's not Captain Bones, after all. Just his doppelganger.
"There's a good reason most humans don't go
into Betelgeusean bars," says the captain. "You never know what
you'll find in there."
"Well, I know what I shall find in
here," says the Betelgeusean. "I shall find a crew of brave fighters,
willing to stick it to the galactic government. The Student Loan company has
slighted me, and by extension the Galactic government. Your enemies are my
enemies. What say you, sir? Shall I join your crew?"
The captain shakes his head. "I imagine most
of my crew would be worried about having you on board, dear, erm...remind me
what your name was?."
"My dear Sword Lesbian. We like to know that
we can safely turn our back to someone. You could draw a weapon right out of
thin air! That could cause significant tension among my crew. I trust you, of
course, but I cannot be certain I would be able to reassure my crew.
"I suppose I should go with my
captors," says Sword Lesbian. "Their enemies are my enemies, now."
"Could you even fit inside the
Barracuda?" says Klunk. "Maybe Captain here could lend a starfighter
so our friend could fly alongside us."
"Ah," says the captain,
"starfighters. The galactic government has the resources to spend on such
things, but we on board the Space Slug have more limited resources. The whole
concept is rather inefficient, and impractical compared to just having a gun
mount and a targeting system. Mace Heads are for intimidation. We do not
intimidate until we're certain our quarry is too close to escape. No, I'm
afraid there are no starfighters on board this vessel."
"Shuttles?" says Sword Lesbian.
"Those are under repair."
"Sounds like you're on a shoestring
budget," I say. "Piracy isn't as lucrative as it might be, hm?"
"We are rebels," says the captain,
"not pirates. We have resources coming in from our own government. But
they seem to have dried up lately. Tell you what, why don't you four go out to
Rigel-8 and see what the holdup is with our Spelunkium mines? I've been getting
fairly garbled reports from that sector and it sounds as though they were under
attack the last time we heard from them."
"And me?" says Sword Lesbian.
"What shall I do?"
"We can attempt to repair your Aston Martin
and send you on your way," says the captain.
"Nothing doing," says Klunk. "That
thing is a piece of junk. If my people couldn't fix it then nobody could."
"I know what I shall do," says Sword
Lesbian. She grabs the marker. "I believe humans have a particular concept
regarding, what do you call them, 'clowns'..." she draws a miniscule VW Beetle on the whiteboard.
With a well-applied thump, a miniscule VW Beetle falls out of the board and
hits the floor with a heavy thunk. Before I even understand what is happening,
there is nothing of Sword Lesbian visible but a limb being withdrawn into the
interior of the tiny car.
"Couldn't she have drawn a larger
vehicle?" says Aristede.
Sword Lesbian sticks her head out the window.
"Drawing objects uses up a lot of ink," she says. "I couldn't
fly a half-finished ship, now could I?" She draws her head back into the
"Does that thing even work?" says
The tiny car starts up with a tiny roar and hovers
in front of Klunk's face.
"It appears we have a plus one," I
say. "Welcome to the crew, Sword Lesbian, and may our goals always be
parallel. Alright, folks. Time to check on a mine."
We depart the room towards the vehicle bay, the
miniscule car following close behind.