Aphelion Issue 203, Volume 20
February 2016
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Captain Quasar 

and the Carpethrian Bully


Milo James Fowler

When one saw a Carpethrian, one knew the Carpethrian was a Carpethrian and could be nothing else. Surly by nature, resembling something between an Earth sloth and a four-armed orangutan, Carpethrians were known throughout the quadrant as a species who kept to themselves.

Hank—Captain Bartholomew Quasar's helmsman aboard the Effervescent Magnitude—was a Carpethrian who broke the mold. The only non-human aboard the Magnitude, Hank was not only Quasar's ace navigator. He was also the captain's confidant and friend.

Lank, Hank's cousin, had also broken the Carpethrian mold. He was a pirate—the only Carpethrian buccaneer in the history of the galaxy. Serving aboard his vessel was a crew of ill-natured, muscular renegades—a band of outlaws worthy of their one-eyed captain.

"Captain Quasar, we meet again. And Cousin Hank, always good to see you." Lank's furry face leered full-frame on the Magnitude's viewscreen, consuming the fore wall of the bridge. His fangs flashed. "Now begone. We found this planet first."

Quasar stood with fists on his hips, boots planted shoulder-width apart, chest inflated, chin raised. It was a pose he called the Confident Starfarer, and someday, somewhere, a statue would be made of him. He just knew it.

"Lank, I had hoped we'd left you light-years behind us after our last encounter. State your business here."

"None of yours," Lank growled. "You've got ten seconds to change your heading and be on your way, far from Cordovia 7 at full power. Got that, Hank?"

"I don't take orders from you, Cousin." Hank grunted, all four hands hovering over the helm console.

"Good man," Quasar said with a grin. "Carpethrian. You know what I meant."

"I mean business," Lank said. "This Amazonian cruiser I've commandeered is equipped with a full array of incinerator cannons, as well as a tractor beam. Neither of which came standard on your fancy little ship." Lank narrowed his one eye into a malevolent slit. "When I give the word, we'll slice your vessel to pieces, deck by deck, sending your crew flying out into the cold depths of space to freeze to death as they rotate end over end in the black, preserved for all eternity."

"Poetic," Quasar admitted. "But you talk too much, Lank. While you were giving us your play-by-play, I was giving my first officer a complicated series of hand gestures—"

"Yeah, I saw that," Lank said. "Thought you were suffering from a spasmodic episode."

"Regardless, thanks to my first officer's razor-sharp instincts, we now have a plasma torpedo headed straight for your vessel!"

A sudden blast sent a shockwave reverberating through the Magnitude's hull.

"You mean that torpedo?" Lank chuckled, sounding like gravel was rattling down a rusty drain pipe. "My first officer caught sight of it soon as it left your port tube. Took it out with an incinerator beam."

"Well, I doubt you can shoot down everything we've got."

Lank clucked his tongue. "Captain, there's no need for you to waste all your precious torpedoes on a fight you can't win. What do you care about this planet, anyway? The Cordovians are xenophobes, sitting on mineral riches they have absolutely no use for."

"They may be xenophobes and technophobes, but they are peace-loving xenophobes and technophobes," Quasar countered eloquently. "And those minerals sit directly beneath ancient cities where they've lived for thousands of years."

"Time for a change of scenery, methinks."

"I can't let you get away with this. It's not right."

"That's right. You can't." Lank grinned, and the expression was his most hideous to date. "You've got three seconds before we start carving up your ship, Captain."

The screen switched to an orbital view of Cordovia 7, an arid desert world.

As much as Quasar hated to admit it, the Magnitude was no match for Lank's Amazonian ship. And while Quasar's crew may have been able to take Lank's in a fistfight on the surface, there was no guarantee the Magnitude's transport pods wouldn't be shot down by the pirates while en route. Besides, Quasar didn't want the peaceful Cordovians to be caught in the middle of this conflict—not if he could end it before it even began.

"Alternate course laid in, sir." Hank sat slumped over his console, just as unhappy with the situation as the captain but not doing as well at hiding it.

Cursing under his breath, Quasar leapt into his deluxe-model captain's chair and clutched the armrests. "Take us down, Hank. Into the atmosphere!"

With a quizzical frown directed toward the captain, Hank adjusted the Magnitude's trajectory, his very hairy hands moving across the display of his console as if with minds all their own. The orbital view of Cordovia magnified exponentially as the Magnitude plunged toward the planet.

"Captain, we're being hailed," said Commander Wan, Quasar's first officer, gripping the console at her station.

"Ignore him," Quasar said. "If Lank chooses to follow us, he won't risk firing. Incinerator beams will ignite the atmosphere and destroy both our ships. Lank may be a fool, but he's not a complete idiot."

"If you say so, sir," Wan said. "But Lank is not the one hailing us."

Quasar blinked. "The Cordovians?" Had they evolved beyond their technophobic ways? "Put them through."

The expressionless, toad-like face of a Cordovian filled the viewscreen. "Alien vessel, you are not welcome here. You have ten seconds to depart. If you fail to comply, we will be forced to destroy you with our atomic missile battery."

The screen returned to a view of the planet's fast-approaching surface.

"Did Lank get that message too?" Quasar glanced back at Wan.

"His ship is breaking orbit, sir."

"Then our work is done." Quasar smiled broadly. "Get us out of here, Hank."

Moving faster than he ever had in his life, Hank set a new course, and moments later, the Magnitude was headed far away from Cordovia 7 and its well-armed xenophobes, never to return.

Captain Quasar hoped Lank would have the good sense to do the same.

Or not.


 Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day and a speculative fictioneer by night. His work has appeared in Cosmos, Nature, and Shimmer.

E-mail: Milo James Fowler


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