by Dan Rice
Liberty Station isn’t the largest outpost in the vast expanse of
vacuum we call space, but it’s my second home after my ship. Electronic
music booms in the dimly lit dive bar that, on many of my visits, gives
me access to the most avaricious rogues from across the galaxy’s three
known spacefaring species. On the dance floor, the mostly human crowd
gyrates to the thumping beat (aliens dance, not just to human music).
Waiters and waitresses skillfully weave between dancers and pass
tables. Usually, I’d be negotiating contracts with starlight
missionaries and tentacled drakonusians to ferry their contraband off
the station to the upscale black markets of the United Planets where
millions of humans are happy to spend small fortunes to sate their
fetishes for anything transgressively alien.
“I’m going to kill her, Mona, I swear,” Lizzie, who sits across the
rickety table from me, says.
“That’s extreme,” I say, talking fast since I’m anxious for this
therapy session to end. I like Lizzie, but if I’m not settling
contracts, I’m not pocketing money. “Back in United Planet territory,
okay, killing ain’t so bad. You get caught, then what? Five years
rehabilitation. But, out here, honey, you get caught, you breathe
Lizzie snags her condensation covered beer bottle from the table and
takes a long swig. She is slender despite the beers she chugs by the
dozens every time I see her. Makes me jealous. Even twenty years ago I
didn’t have the metabolism to match hers.
I pick up my drink and take a sip. Lizzie thinks it’s vodka, but
it’s really water. As a rule, I never drink. Starlight missionaries
won’t work with drunks on religious grounds. Ironic considering those
polka-dot covered freaks are the most vicious criminals I know.
“That ship,” Lizzie says, leaning forward until her face is over
the center of the table. “Is my livelihood.”
“Backup, honey. Someone stole your ship?”
Lizzie’s eyes bug out of her head. “You seriously haven’t heard?”
I shake my head. “Should I have?”
“This is unbelievable,” Lizzie says and gulps beer. “It’s Toni,
Mona, your daughter. She stole my ship. That’s why I’ve come to you.”
My glass nearly slips from my hand. I quickly set it down. “My Toni
stole your ship?”
“That’s right,” Lizzie says and drains her beer and bangs the empty
onto the table. She waves to a waiter. “Give me another.”
I rub my temples, trying to get a handle on this revelation about my
wayward daughter. I recall earlier in the conversation Lizzie used the
words I’ll kill her. Not something you want to say to a mother
regarding her child, Liz. A waiter drops off a beer.
“What do you want me to do?” I ask. The truth is I rarely know my
daughter’s whereabouts. She likes her privacy, and I don’t pry.
“I want you to help me get my ship back.”
“You said you want to kill Toni.”
“Come on. I didn’t mean it. I’m emotional. Hell, I’m drunk.”
“You sure you didn’t mean it?” I say, smacking the tabletop with a
meaty mitt. The table rocks. Lizzie snatches her beer bottle before it
overturns. “What kind of mother am I if I allow you to leave this bar
alive knowing full well you plan to kill my daughter?”
Lizzie sits up straight and licks her thin lips. She glances
nervously around the dive, maybe considering to make a run for it.
Given her inebriated state, I don’t think she’ll make it beyond the
“Well, Lizzie, what do you have to say for yourself?”
“I’m drunk. I’m pissed. I misspoke.”
“Good. How are your kids?”
“They’re good. Live here with their grandma.”
“Your ma works, right? Legit work.”
“Yeah, she’s a teacher at the primary school.”
I crack a smile. Lizzie looks nervous. I wonder how a schoolteacher
ended up with such a screwed up daughter. Not that I can claim to have
done much better, my kid steals spaceships.
“I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you a berth on my ship as the third
“I don’t want charity,” Lizzie whines. “I want my ship back.”
“Ain’t charity. Just so happens I need a third mate. Mine quit
yesterday,” I say with a shrug. “Left me in a bind. You signing up is
doing me a favor.”
“Okay. My ship?”
“As soon as I run across my daughter, I’ll see about getting your
Lizzie smiles, showing yellow teeth. “Thank you, Mona, thank you.
I’m so grateful to have a friend like you.”
I stand, and we shake hands. “Come on. We’ll see to the contractual
details on my ship.”
Lizzie chugs the remaining beer and staggers behind me out of the
dive through the labyrinthine hallways of Liberty Station to my ship.
The airlock cycles and we enter my cargo hauler, upgraded to have an
engine capable of outrunning most customs inspectors. Lizzie is so
drunk she uses the bulkhead to steady herself.
“Through here,” I say punching the button to open a different
airlock leading out into the vacuum of space.
Lizzie is too drunk to notice and stumbles inside. I punch another
button to close and cycle the airlock. When Lizzie realizes what’s
happening, she bangs on the door and screams. I can hear the dull thuds
of her fists pounding the door, but I can’t hear her cries. When she
sucked out into the black, I shake my head, feeling a brief pang of
sadness. I can’t help thinking I did Lizzie a favor, she was either
suicidal or too stupid to live. You don’t go threatening my child
unless you’re desperate to breathe vacuum.
© 2019 Dan Rice
Dan Rice writes speculative fiction while not slaving away at the
9 to 5 or entertaining wee lads who have a penchant for a bit of the
ultra-violence. You can find his thoughts on writing and his complete
bibliography at his website https://www.danscifi.com/.
Find more by Dan Rice in the Author
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.