Max's Night Off

Max's Night Off

By Mark E. Cotterill

A Mare Inebrium Story

Mare Inebrium Universe created by Dan Hollifield

Two small moons and three-billion inhabitants, this could have been the single line entry in Orfin's Guide to Bethdish, but it wasn't. Instead the guide book was an eight-thousand word treatise of the numerous attractions and places of interest on the planet. To be accurate the moons were in fact asteroids that had been captured and placed into satellite orbits and the population count didn't include the two-hundred million visitors on the planet at any one time, but Orfin's Guide was renowned for its inaccuracy. The whole of the section might also have been neatly summarised with the line 'if you want to have a good time on Bethdish, either win the annual Inter-Municipal Carnival one-billion credit lottery, get body enhancing surgery and then throw off all of your clothes in the City of Lights' main Mating Square or visit the Mare Inebrium', but sadly, again, it wasn't.

I had decided to pursue the latter option and had found the Mare Inebrium easily, or as easily as one could find anything on a planet whose idea of street signs was to place tall pylons marked in a hundred alien languages, including faintly odoured rocks with a corresponding 'scratch 'n' sniff' map, at the end of each street . The state of panic inside the establishment, I had discovered upon my arrival, was directly proportional to ones proximity to the bar, and as I drew closer I could see why. Along the entire length of the seventy-foot bar was a single individual, a wiry-haired young man juggling with three bottles and a soda-cannon whilst simultaneously operating a rib-roaster at the back of the bar. The patrons, meanwhile, were all waving credit-bills and calling out their orders,

"Gimme a Beer!" yelled a thickly set, balding humanoid with yellow skin,

"Two single-malt whiskies and one double of Grasty's Old and Mildly Tainted, barman," called a wizened old man with four arms who looked as though he'd had one too many doubles, or maybe even two too many single-malts, and,

"Three and a half litres of liquid nitrogen," this last from a pale blue alien who couldn't have been more than a couple of hundred years old if he was a decade.

To add to all this, orders were coming in from the vast sea of tables in front of the bar, brought across to the flustered barkeep by the tall and attractive nymph-like waitress whose name badge proclaimed her to be 'Trixie'.

"You'll have to excuse Larrye," said Trixie, "it's Max's night off."

"Who's Max," I asked, perhaps a little too salaciously.

"Max is the head bartender, and a close personal friend of the being who owns this joint." A straightforward reply to a straightforward question I thought. While I was on a winning streak I decided to ask another.

"So who's Larrye?"

"He's the guy who's standing in for Max." Seemed as though my luck was running out.

"He's just Max's errand boy," said the guy next to me, impatiently, adding, "where the hell's my 'Sunburst'?"

"Understudy," said then thirty-foot long scorpion-like creature sitting next to me, that I had only just noticed.

"Errand boy or understudy, he looks a little out of his depth to me." I sat on the stool that had just been vacated by the pale blue alien following his sudden and unexpected spontaneous combustion and tried to ignore the beer he'd spilled. The seat was still warm. Quite warm.

"Max wants someone who can run the bar for him when he goes away on vacation," said the scorpion, leaning a little closer, "he doesn't trust any of the other bar-staff to keep the takings in order."

"Sticky fingers huh," I quipped.

"Actually several of them are arachnids," said the giant alien, adding "barman, my usual please," his translator rose in pitch.

The jukebox started playing 'Low Frequency Loan Shark Radar Song' by Polythene, but the sound quality wasn't up to much, it sounded very much as though it were coming out of a biscuit tin and that the biscuits were still in it.

"Barman, where's my meal," cried another of the customers,

"Larrye, two more Zombies for table two-hundred and nine, and this time go easy on the deuterium, that stuff costs money!" yelled another waitress.

"By the way, my name's Kazsh-ak Teir, D'rrish Ambassador." I nodded politely,

"You'll excuse me if I don't shake, er, hands," I said, trying not to notice the guy over Kazsh-ak's shoulder, attempting to prise his hands from the container of freezing liquid that he'd just been given.

"So how's he doing?" I asked, figuring that this Kazsh-ak guy must know more about the place than I did, which I grant was not very much at all. A pale faced, green eyed man in a gold and black uniform stepped up to the bar and raised his voice above the din,

"Bartender, please supply me with a glass of your best semi-organic nutrient suspension in a silicon based liquid medium."

"I fear that Larrye is not doing well, he has a tendency to get confused." There was a gross unestimation of the situation in his statement. "In the last half-hour he's served a decayed Lipian frog to a Glaptroid minister who ordered a Regalian mineral water, a dish of sweet tea to a Mellonic carpet creature who had ordered a quart of finoplak, and a glass of Hive-Tree resin to the man who had come to fix the jukebox."

"I see,"

"I just hope he's a little more careful with my order," said Kazsh-ak, his translator following only a millisecond after the slicing movement of his mandibles.

I leant back as the large D'rrish moved to make way for the three-gallon tank of mildly radio-active sludge as it hovered past on its sled. "I believe that was mine," he said in an quiet, annoyed tone of voice.

"Here ya go Kaz," said Larrye, trying to catch his breath as he placed a small container of thick-green liquid in front of the giant scorpion.

"What is this?" Kazsh-ak muttered to the boy, who had already turned away to take another order.

"It would appear to be a semi-organic nutrient suspension in a silicon based liquid medium," said the pale faced man standing behind us.

"How odd," I commented.

"LARRYE!" Shouted the D'rrish,

"Uh-Oh," said Larrye,

"Aaaaaaaggggghhhhh!" said a party of Gloomice technicians at table two-hundred and nine as they forced open the spout of the container that was normally reserved for D'rrish only.

"That was my drink after all," proclaimed Kazsk-ak sadly in the sudden silence. "Trixie had better call for a clean-up squad."

The cries of the irradiated party silenced the bar, but not the jukebox. Trixie dashed over to the Emergency Containment Unit fixed to the wall behind the bar and pushed the large red button marked 'OOPS!'. I silenced the jukebox with the glass of silicon based liquid while a blue beam of energy cascaded out of the ceiling above table two-hundred and nine and sealed off the large container sitting upon it. One of the Gloomice stood up.

"It's nothing, I'll be fine by morning," he said, barely lifting himself from the seat and staggering towards the door. He made it a good two metres before he collapsed. Trixie and Larrye rushed over to the scene and checked that none of the upholstery had been marked.

"Well you've done it now Larrye, they're dead."

"Oh my Pan-Galactic God!" Larrye proclaimed, somewhat melodramatically I felt.

"Max!" said Kazsh-ak, shuffling over to the remains of the Gloomice who had tried to leave without paying and suddenly seeing his old friend.

Everyone turned around to see Max perfectly silhouetted in the doorway. He stepped into the room and surveyed the scene, then strode purposefully towards the four dead bodies.

"Larrye," he said, breaking the uncomfortable pause, "fetch my apron."

Copyright 1998 By Mark E. Cotterill

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