Trae and Fergus rushed into the bar, both in Salorian combat armor.
Fergus removed his helmet and slammed it down on to the counter. “Hey
pal, will that get me a drink? I don’t care what it is--I just need
name’s Max, not Pal. I’ll be nice this time since I’ve never seen you
in here before. What are a pair of humans in Salorian combat armor
doing in these parts?” The bartender poured a light blue shot of liquid
into a small glass and slid it to Fergus, removing the helmet from the
Fergus slammed back the drink just as Trae took a seat next to him at
the bar, also removing his helmet. “I’ll take one of those too,” He sat
his helmet on the counter.
“What in the hells has you two so spooked?”
Trae laughed into this drink as he sipped slowly. Enjoying the odd
moldy licorice flavor of the light blue drink. “Oh man, you have no
“Listen up buddy. Let me ask you this,” Fergus knuckled his nose. “Have
you ever accidentally hitched a lift on a Salorian ship as a stowaway
and lived in a tiny janitor’s closet with your best buddy for over
“No, I haven’t…” The bartender stared strangely at the pair.
“Well I’m here to tell you right now that it freaking sucks rotten
zombie balls.” Fergus shoved his tongue into the glass, attempting to
lick it clean. “So there we were, minding our own business and
inspecting some Salorian weapons crates…”
“Hey man, check this out. This crate of rifles has one of those
gooification mods on them. That’s a pretty penny right there if you can
find someone to take them off your hands.”
“Well yeah,” Trae replied. “Who wouldn’t want to cause your enemy’s molecules to destabilize and lose their covalent bonds.”
“Does that qualify as pew pew on the Trae scale of guns?”
“Naw man. More like Goo Goo,” he mused. Trae opened a large shipping
container and whistled. “Would ya look at that, Ferg. Pure,
unadulterated destructive beauty. So simplistic and finite in the
details of the art.”
“Wipe your chin. You’re drooling,” Fergus joked. “The only downside to
those lasers are the damned power cells. You gotta pack too damned many
with you and they don’t work for shit if you get them the slightest bit
“True, but the way you can cut a man in half with one shot does have its advantages.”
“Hey, didn’t you say this bay had already been inventoried this
morning? That no one else should be in here before later tonight?”
“Yeah. Or at least that’s what the Luvarian up in the promenade bar told me. Why,” Trae asked quizzically.
“Well something's up, cause I can hear voices coming this way. Shit,
get in.” Fergus grabbed Trae by the sleeve and drug him inside the
container and promptly closed the panel.
“They must have made a sale or something, ‘cause we were stuck in that
container for hours while they moved things around. At some point numb
nuts over here,” he thumbed toward Trae,” started snoring and nearly
gave us away. And the last thing that you want to do is mess with a
Salorian gun inventory.”
The bartender nodded.
“So, we ended up being loaded onto a Salorian resupply ship.”
“The Br’Tka Ar’r,” Trae added.
“Yeah that was it! The Br’Tka Ar’r. Big beast of a transport. Four
fusion power plants with a jump drive configuration and fusion
thrusters for maneuvering the behemoth of a ship. The only real problem
we had was that the ship was on a one way circuit mission. A
three-month resupply tour around to their outer rim outposts.
“Yup,” Trae laughed. He sipped at his drink, then hurriedly removed the
arm guards and armored chest-piece of his uniform. “Give me whatever
this will get me for food and drink.” He reached down, removing the
outer armor. He unzipped the body suit and laid it across the bar with
the other pieces.
“Sure, sure, but you can’t strip in here. This is a bar.”
“Why not? Those Skoocoom don’t wear anything,” he pointed at the
sasquatch-looking creatures at a table near the back of the bar. “Are
you going to discriminate just because I’m not covered head to toe with
“Um... Well, I guess not…”
“Well shit then,” Fergus coughed and began to strip.
“You need to hurry,” Trae said, thumbing over his shoulder in the direction of the main entrance.
“Shit shit shit.” Fergus hurriedly stripped and placed the uniform onto the bar.
“Yup,” Trae sighed. “Hopefully they are just visiting the bar and not looking for deserters.
The bartender gathered the pile of uniform pieces and tucked it quietly away behind the bar.
“I’ll have something brought out from the kitchen for you two.” The
bartender tapped away at an order display mounted behind the bar. “So
then what happened,” the bartender asked. He poured another round of
the light blue drinks for each of the men.
“Well, after what seemed like hours of waiting inside of that container, we popped it open to get a lay of the land.”
“Dammit Ferg. I swear that I will cut out your gizzard if I ever catch you eating beans again. That’s just not right man.”
The access panel of the storage container swung slowly open.
“What the hell did you want me to do? It’s not like we’d planned on
getting trapped in there. Hey, at least we’re in the clear for the
Trae motioned for Fergus to be quiet. His eyes bulged and his head
tilted as he listened intently. “Right now, all I know is that I do not
want to trust you or your judgement. Because of you and your intel
we’re stuck here, bound for who knows where and we both know what the
Salorians will do with us if they find us. We need to hide.”
“Hey, wait a second. You’re the one that got the info from that Luvarian, not me.”
“Well right now that’s beside the point.”
“There’s bound to be somewhere that we can hide until the next port,” Ferg said.
The heavy metal sound of thick latches being removed echoed throughout the cargo bay.
“Shit, over there.” Trae shoved Fergus further back into the cargo bay,
behind a stack of ration pack cases. Fergus reached inside of a
partially opened case and pulled out the prepackaged meal. “Oh sweet,
Tritium baked beans.”
Trae scowled, pointing an accusatory finger at Fergus.
“What,” he defensively whispered. “It was a joke.”
Trae motioned once again for Fergus to be quiet.
“I don’t understand why the Captain insists on wasting so much of our
supplies on one meal,” a deep raspy reptilian voice hissed. “It does
nothing but cause us more work to prepare and then to stretch out the
remainder of our supplies for the rest of the voyage.”
“It’s his futile attempt,” a second voice replied, “to earn grace with
the crew and hope they do not decide to cook him instead. Here it is,”
the voice said and grunted. The sound of metal scraping metal and
something heavy dropping to the floor decking echoed through the bay.
“In his defense, if you let the Laon’ie die or become lethargic from a
long voyage the flavor is horrible. Better to eat them when they are
fresh and still squirming.”
“True, you do have point. My mother never could afford fresh Laon’ie.
She fed all twenty of us on freeze dried dinners until the day we moved
out. They were soggy and chewy at the same time. I’ll never touch
another one of them.”
The two voices grew distant and then silent after the whoosh of a bulkhead hatch opened and closed behind the cooks.
“That was freaking close man.”
“Yeah,” Trae agreed. “We need to find a data terminal and see exactly what we’ve gotten ourselves into.”
“Well, there’s a door right here,” Fergus thumbed over his shoulder,
then turned and made his way toward the hatchway. “Enie, meiene, minie,
mo,” Fergus sang then tapped a button on the control display on the
wall next to the hatch. The hatch whooshed open initially, but ground
to a screeching halt. The hatchway door shuddered as it settled into
the guide track slightly off kilter and leaning outward.
“What did you do Ferg?”
“I didn’t do shit, man. Wasn’t me. I just pushed that blue button right
here,” he pointed to the location on the display panel. “But,” Fergus
peaked past the partially opened door, “there is a maintenance terminal
in here.” He quickly squeezed himself through the opening.
Both men’s head swung round to look in the direction of another
hatchway opening. The distinctive whoosh and hum resounded throughout
the large bay.
“Shit, get in here.”
“No shit Sherlock,” Trae said. He sucked in his muscular chest as flat
as he possibly could and forced himself through the opening.
“Close the door man. Hurry up.”
“How?” Trae shrugged. “You broke it, remember?”
“Hell, I don’t know. Hit the button and see what that does.”
“What did you say you hit before? The blue one?”
“Yeah man, hit the blue one. Hurry up, sounds like someone is singing.
Dear God that is horrible,” Fergus dug a pinky finger into his ear and
Trae pressed the blue button on the display. A grinding sound followed
by the smell of burning insulation wafted into their nostrils.
“What’d you do man,” Fergus blamed. “Just pick it up and close it. Hurry.”
“You actually think I can move a structural bulkhead with my bare hands,” Trae huffed.
“Yeah, I do. Use those Jedi mind tricks of yours. Now come on, hurry up, someone is coming.”
“Fine, just so I can prove you…” Trae easily lifted the door in the track and slid it into the closed position.
“See, told ya,” Fergus laghed.
“Move,” Trae said, pushing his way past Fergus in the cramped space toward the maintenance terminal.
“I’m kinda busy at the moment, numb nuts.” Trae tapped away at the terminal, ignoring Fergus.
Fergus opened his flight suit, tying the sleeves about his waist, he
then rolled up and tied a knot in his undershirt so that the knot sat
just below his right man boob. “But Trae,” Fergus whined with a high
pitched lisp. “We’re both in the closet now, don’tcha know,” he said,
followed by a valley girl hiccupped squeak.
Tears streamed from Trae’s eyes from the haughty laughter that he
barely contained inside. He gasped for a real breath. “Oh my God man.
We’re suck aboard an alien ship, Salorian of all aliens mind you, and
you wanna screw around like that? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“You love me and you know it. Don’t deny your feelings pappa bear,”
Fergus lisped as he cupped a man boob and puckered in Trae’s general
Trae coldly turned back to the maintenance terminal. “According to
this, we are on the Salorian heavy hauler Br’Tka Ar’r, which roughly
translates to, Space Slug.”
“Dammit, fine,” Fergus huffed. “You’re no fun sometimes, you know
that?” He untied his shirt and pulled his flight suit back over his
shoulders, zipping it closed. “You know, you don’t have to be such a
serious stick in the mud all the time. One of these days I’ll get hold
of that stick up your ass and I won’t let go until I wrench that
Trae turned, glared at Fergus, his fingers still working the terminal
without missing a beat. Fergus peaked around Trae’s broad countenance
at the maintenance display. “Whatcha dooin’,” Fergus cooed.
“I’m trying to find out just how utterly screwed that we are.”
“Okay, so are we like, the boss is pissed and shit rolls down-hill
kinda screwed, or O, M, G,” he spelled out in his best valley girl
accent. “We’re like, so pregnant with baby number five! Or is it more
like, holy crap, we’ve just been abducted by aliens and their cold hard
probes are lubed and ready kinda screwed?”
Trae stared blankly at Fergus, turned back to the terminal and exploded
in self-contained convulsions of laughter, collapsing to the floor in
fetal position. He jerked and twitched with every new bout.
“Aw hell.” Fergus stared worriedly at his best friend. “You haven’t
done your worry laugh like that since Ogden, Utah man. This has got to
be serious.” Fergus crouched down next to Trae as he convulsed on the
floor. “So if I’m reading your body language correctly, we are in a no
lube, shaft is coated with salt, glass and secretes lemon juice kinda
screwed scenario, aren’t we?” Fergus sighed. “Well, we’ve probably been
in worse jams than this before.”
Trae loudly breathed in slow, deep breaths. “When,” he growled at Fergus.
“Naha port, Okinawa.”
“Really Ferg? We could have gotten away from those Yakuza goons in our sleep.”
Fergus snapped his fingers. “South Quay, London.”
Trae stared at him with disappointed eyes. “So helping a few Mic’s move
a few things through a few slightly secured and booby trapped areas is
supposed to be worse than this?”
“Titan outpost beta! Back in 74’.”
“What? No man. That was a piece of cake. This is literally the worst
situation we have gotten ourselves into, to date.” Trae regained his
feet and pointed to the terminal. “These goons are bound to the outer
rim on a three-month resupply mission deep in Salorian territory.”
“Oh,” Fergus gulped.
“No shit, oh, you dipshit!
These guys hate humans to begin with and they seriously hate the two of
us. I’m honestly not sure how we’re going to get out of this one,
“Hey barkeep, how’s about that food you mentioned? What I wouldn’t give
for a thick, bloody, still mooing steak.” Fergus loudly smacked his
“Patience,” Max replied. “Perfection takes time.”
“I couldn’t care about perfection,” Fergus snorted. “I just want something besides Salorian gruel and ration packs.”
“Salorian gruel,” Max asked.
“Think of the most cardboard and rat poison tasting oatmeal mush with
the consistency of a rubber bouncy ball that is as dry and juicy at the
same time as a bite from your grandaddy’s chaw.”
Max grimaced, “That does not sound appetizing at all.”
“Oh,” Fergus laughed. “Trust me, it’s not.”
“But it is proof that enough hot sauce, even Salorian hot sauce on anything will make it better,” Trae added.
“That’s it; I gotta get out of this closet.” Fergus scrambled to his
feet from the makeshift bunk he had haphazardly thrown together on the
floor of the maintenance closet.
“It’s only been four days, Ferg. We’re not even sure if they are done
with acceleration maneuvers yet. Twelve G’s acceleration that slam you
out of nowhere and last for hours could kill or at least hurt the hell
out of us. Twelve G’s are the max the human body can withstand and stay
conscious but only if we’re in the optimal position. It’s not like we
have acceleration couches in here, so just chill and make do with what
“They haven’t accelerated in two days. They aren’t gonna again for
weeks at least. You said yourself that we’ll have to coast for a few
weeks between slip jumps before they flip us around and fire the retros
to slow our approach to the next stop.”
Trae uncovered his eyes and looked up from his quick-and-dirty bunk on
the floor at the back of the maintenance closet. “Just relax. We have
enough fat stores to keep us alive for another week or two at least.
There’s water right there in that sink and according to the maintenance
logs, they haven’t used this closet in years just because of that
busted ass door. The ship is in bad enough shape that none of the
internal sensors work and only two cameras have any picture at all. If
that wasn’t bad enough, we are running on a secondary life support
system because the primary crapped out months ago and the Captain was
too cheap to buy a new controller card.”
“Yup, still don’t care.” Fergus turned and started rummaging through
the storage lockers and cabinets within the room. “Cleaning supplies,
brushes, a few hand tools here and there,” Fergus mumbled as he
rummaged through the cabinets. “Oh,” he gasped. “Well now, what exactly
are you?” Carefully he slid a bundled black something from one of the
lockers and sat it down on the small work bench next to the terminal.
Not knowing what the wrapped item was peaked Trae’s interest enough
that he propped himself up on an elbow and watched as Fergus unrolled
the bundled thing. Wrapped neatly within the black, silken fabric was a
large, shiny black tear drop shaped helmet that he lifted from the
“Is that a full containment suit?”
“It sure looks like it. Suit, gloves, helmet, but no boots though.”
“Is that them in the bottom of that locker?” Trae scootched himself
across the deck to the locker. “Yup, here ya go,” He said, handing the
boots up to Fergus. “Now what brilliant scheme have you cooked up
“Oh hey, maybe this is edible,” Fergus reached into the locker, retrieving a foil wrapped bar shaped thing.
“Ration pack or maybe a power bar?”
“I guess,” Fergus shrugged. “Only one way to find out though.” He
eagerly ripped away the packaging and bit down onto the almost
“Hey, did that Salorian go away or is he still in the bar,” Trae asked without looking around.
“Still there, near to the door,” Max answered.
“What’s he look like?”
“Are you sure it’s a he?” Max asked.
“Yeah. It has to be because they don’t allow females on any of their
ships,” Trae stated matter-of-factly. “If you see one off of their home
world, it’s a male.”
“Alright, that’s something good to know,” Max replied. “He’s large,
leathery like a crocodile with one large green eye and it looks like
his right antenna stalk may have been bent or broken at some point.
He’s staring at the stage band and kinda rocking on his heels and looks
kinda uncertain about something.”
“Bob,” Trae and Fergus sighed in unison with a glance at each other.
“Well, not really Bob,” Trae admitted. “That’s just what we called him.
His name is actually more like Bobrobobo, though that still doesn’t get
the clicks and hisses in there. We just opted to call him Bob.”
Fergus sniffled. “Ya know, I’m actually going to miss the big lug.”
“Me too Ferg, me too,” Trae sipped at his drink.
“I can tell there’s a story there, boys. No holding back on me now,”
Max said as he refilled both of their drinks. “Why are you going to
miss that one out of a ship full of Salorians?”
“Are you sure you don’t want to wait,” Trae asked over their implanted
mastoidcomms; tiny communications devices good for short range and
completely unheard by anyone but the recipient. Transmission is
completed by bearing down on a set of molars where the device is
implanted and subvocalizing the words so as to be stealthy and not be
heard speaking by anyone else that may be around.
“I’m tired of waiting, I’m hungry and I’m bored.”
“Alright, but if you get caught I don’t know you bro. You’re on your own,” Trae warned.
Fergus took slow, shuffled steps through the cargo bay, trying out the
grossly oversized containment suit. Sized for a fully grown Salorian
male, the suit was designed for a six foot tall, thick legged, wide
hipped, no necked crocodile roach looking alien thing that slouched
with horribly bad posture.
“How does the movement look? Realistic?”
“We may need to add a little more stuffing to the legs. They look
nearly empty and there’s not a Salorian alive that doesn’t have legs as
thick as a howitzer barrel.”
“Alright, what about the helmet,” Fergus asked.
“We may need to pad your neck at bit, also. It’s leaning a bit to the left.”
“I bet it looks like one of those derpy soldier guys from that Spaceballs movie or something.”
“Naw, more like one of those dopey monster muppet things from that ancient kids show.”
“You wanna give this thing a test drive?”
“Nope, no way in hell am I climbing into that getup,” Trae pronounced.
“This crazy idea is entirely yours and yours alone. I’d need a few
beers to at least take my inhibitions offline long enough to pull off
this insane stunt.”
“Oh, you mean like the goat down in Bordeaux, France?”
“What? No,” Trae huffed. “And still, no, you can keep that suit all to yourself.”
“Suit yourself,” Fergus replied over the mastoidcomms. “Hey, I just had
a thought. Do you think you can wire this external speaker on the suit
to translate directly for me? That way they think I’m actually speaking
Salorian if I run into any of the crew?”
“Well,” Trae fiddled with the speaker module on the front chest piece
of the suit. “There is an adapter port here. It’s probably for the
suits software updates and such. Bring it back to the closet and I’ll
see what I can do.
“Damit man, there are only a handful of cameras still working on this garbage scow. What do you see Ferg?”
“I just reached an intersection. Left or right to the Galley?”
“Alrighty then. Going right. Beep...beep...beep,” Fergus shuffled
around the corner, partially dragging the overly large Salorian boots.
“Why are you beeping?”
“Because I’m a wide load. Why do you think? Duh.”
“Wide loads don’t get beepers. Those are supposed to be for trucks and such backing up.”
“What are you doing?”
“What’s it sound like? I’m beeping.”
Trae groaned. The sound of grinding enamel grated inside of Fergus’s inner ear through the device’s receiver...
“Why are you beeping still?”
“Easy, because I want to...beep.”
“Alright, just shut up and find the freaking galley. It should be three doors down on the right.”
Fergus whispered to himself. “Um...hi.” He awkwardly waved at a
motionless Salorian that stood in the doorway, two doors down from the
“Were you just talking to yourself and beeping,” the Salorian asked.
“Oh shit,” Trae groaned through the comms. “I told you this was a bad idea, Ferg.”
“Yes, yes I was,” Fergus stated proudly in his best announcer voice. “I
was beeping though, because it’s just a fun thing to do. I have such a
wide ass in this suit that I thought it would be a good idea to warn
anyone around me to watch out for their own safety.”
“Beeping isn’t for turning, it’s for backing up,” the Salorian stated blandly.
“Oh my God, Ferg. What are you doing? He heard you. Don’t talk to him.”
“I did not think the speaker on this suit worked. I thought I was
enjoying my own company, all alone to my...self,” he unsurely said in a
“That’s it Ferg. Love you like a brother from another mother, man, but
you’re a dead man now. Been nice knowing you brother,” the sound of
something metal and thrown loudly transmitted over the comms. “And why
in the hell are you talking like that? It didn’t work for the Cowboys
talking to the plains indians, now did it?”
“I do that at times as well,” the Salorian said, then turned and slowly
lumbered down the corridor toward the galley. “If we are lucky the
glurb will not be overly burned and soggy today. The captain took the
only cook that he could find on short notice for this voyage. We’d have
been better off cooking for ourselves in my opinion.”
“What happened to the last cook?”
The Salorian stopped and turned, looking at Fergus. “You do not know?
Wait,” his eye squinted at Fergus. “Why are you in a full containment
“I am new aboard,” Fergus stammered hesitantly. “The safety counsel
sent me on this cruise to help catch up the ship’s lack of maintenance.
Do you know the number of inspections and scheduled maintenance items
that has been delayed or pencil whipped over the last year? A few dozen
times already, at least. The captain is lucky that they let him leave
port with all of the violations he has accrued. As for the suit, it’s
for your own safety. There was a reactor accident on my last assignment
that I survived, but I am still too radioactive to be around anyone
else without a containment suit. Since I am the most qualified service
technician in the sector and this is by far the junkiest flying heap of
scrap in the sky, that’s where I was assigned. You can check the
records if you’d like.”
“Seriously Ferg,” Trae ranted over the comms. “Brilliant, absolutely
brilliant. But now I’m supposed to produce a full Salorian crew record
in the main computers within, what? A few minutes? What the hell am I
here? Do you think I’m a miracle worker or something?”
“Ah,” the Salorian grunted. “I feel pity for you and your task.” He
turned and continued down the hall toward the galley. “If there are
items that need attention, should they be submitted directly to you or
listed elsewhere,” he said over his shoulder.
“There...there is a ship’s discrepancy list that you may add items to
on the ship’s maintenance mainframe,” Fergus nervously replied.
The pair continued in single file to the right, through the hatchway
and into the galley area. The stench of something similar to a burnt,
moldy dish rag that had been left buried at the bottom of a sink full
of dirty dishes for over a week assaulted Fergus’s sense of smell. The
Salorian breathed in deep and exhaled with what sounded like a
self-satisfied happy sigh.
“That does not smell as bad as I feared. It reminds me of my mother’s
own cooking.” The Salorian approached the serving area and took a tray.
“Nothing better than to start the day with a full belly of delicious
food. I am happily surprised,” he turned and slapped Fergus on the
shoulder. “We are very lucky that the rumors were very much wrong.” He
breathed in a deep, satisfied breath and held out his tray. The
Salorian behind the counter scooped a large helping of a bluish green
mush that jiggled and bounced as if it were a steaming congealed mass
of fat and collagen. “Yes,” he said sniffing again. Just like mother
use to make.”
“Yup. Smells wonderful,” Fergus said sarcastically. He held up his tray for the cook to fill.
“What’s with the suit?” The cook glared suspiciously at Fergus.
“Abort Ferg, Abort,” Trae begged over the comms.
“Radiation from an accident on his last assignment,” the first Salorian
answered. “He can’t be around anyone without wearing it.”
“Yes...exactly. Hehe,” he nervously chuckled. “I wouldn’t want to get
the rest of the crew sick with radiation poisoning. It’s bad enough
that I glow in the dark. Think about how bright it would be in here if
everyone were glowing,” Fergus joked and punched the first Salorian in
the shoulder. “Am I right?”
The first Salorian turned and punched Fergus back, heartily laughing at
Fergus’s attempt at humor. “You are funny...hum…” He shrugged. “I do
not know your name.”
“My name? Oh right, my name,” Fergus fumbled.
“Say ‘ōkina oppai o misetekudasai,’” Trae shouted over the comms. “Tell him ‘ōkina oppai o misetekudasai!’”
The Salorian starred, curiously at Fergus.
“Fergus,” Fergus answered.
“You are suicidal, aren’t you? That doctor lied to all of us,” Trae
shouted over the comms as something heavy clanged against something
Both of the Salorians exploded in haughty, fist pounding laughter. The
helmet of Fergus’s suit turned to the cook, then back to the first
“Your parents did not love you as a child, did they my friend?” The
Salorian slapped Fergus on the shoulder again, nearly knocking him to
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Fergus,” he giggled under his breath. “I
am Bobrobobo and this is CaytPowluhr,” he nodded toward the cook.
“Welcome aboard, shipmate.”
“So that’s how you met Bob,” Max asked, sliding plates of some sort of steaming meat in front of the nude men.
“Shit,” Trae grumped. He reached over the counter and fumbled in the
pocket of one of the uniforms. “There it is. Can’t do without that
anymore.” He sat back on his seat, bottle in hand and liberally doused
his plate. Some sort of chartreuse colored sauce with a highly acidic
and pungent odor resembling fermented horseradish splashed from the
“Oh, hell yeah! Pass that this way,” Fergus begged, reaching for the bottle.
“Get your own man.”
“Don’t bogart the sauce, Man.”
“Then tell me how we’re supposed to get more now that we’re out of the Salorian merchant service?”
“We?” Fergus growled. “We? Who has been the one working his ass off day
in and day out for the last three months while someone spent the entire
trip hiding out in their bunk because they were too scared to come out
of the closet? Who has been the one risking their neck for months just
to put food on the table?” Fergus glared at Trae. “Do you see this Max?
You do everything you can for the ones you care for and then they
really show you how much you mean to them.” Fergus snatched the hot
sauce bottle from Trae and doused his plate. “I earned every drop of
this. Every one of these drops is a drop of my blood, sweat and tears.”
He pointed at Trae with a shaky finger. “You remember that, now, ya
Max stared at the pair as they shoveled the gravy and hot sauce covered
meat into their mouths. “I thought you were just stowaways?”
Trae snorted a laugh. “Oh we were.” He proudly leaned back with a
glowing smile aimed at Fergus. “That is before this guy got out there
and made a name for himself in the Salorian supply services.” Trae
slapped Fergus on the back. “You are looking at the recipient of the
Salorian battle cross, the Salorian meritorious service award and the
Br’Tka Ar’r crewman of the month for three months running.”
Max looked up in surprise. “Your Salorian friend just nervously ran over to the stage.”
Trae and Fergus turned in surprise. Bob tapped the karaoke screen, picked up the microphone and cleared his rumbly throat.
“Oh God Trae. He’s doing it. He’s really going to do it.”
Trae wiped away a stray tear from his cheek. “He’s made me so proud. He did it. He’s fighting off his demons.”
“I know. I am too,” Fergus sniffled. “You got this little buddy. Stay strong and follow your heart.”
“Why are you even bothering Ferg? I mean, these guys don’t exactly care
about the state of the ship in the first place. Look at it? It’s
falling apart at the seams.”
“Dude,” Fergus huffed as he climbed a ladder. “This bulb has been
flickering for weeks. I gotta change it before it drives me bat shit
crazy, man. You know how this messes with me.” He removed the diffuser
and detached the existing bulb.
“And on this ship, that is an exercise in futility, my friend. You may
fix one thing but three others will fall apart in front of you.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m bored and anything is better that hiding out in that closet with you.”
“At least hiding out in the closet doesn’t leave a chance to be
discovered by very violent aliens that would kill us, at minimum if we
were found out.”
“Good morning Fergus. You are up and about early today.”
Fergus looked down from his perch on the ladder to see Bob, standing
below him. “Oh hey Bob, old buddy old pal. How’s it hangin’ man?”
“Uh...things are, um, alright, I suppose. I should probably go,” Bob hurriedly said as he shuffled away down the corridor.
“Hu, I wonder what’s up with him,” Trae asked.
“I don’t know, but I think I need to go find out.”
“Fergus, do not go find out. Minimal exposure, remember,” Trae fussed.
“Yeah yeah, I know. But it’s Bob man. I mean, he’s become like our third wheel these last few weeks.”
Trae audibly sighed over the comms. “Why do you insist on constantly
testing our luck and survival on your need to be occupied? Tell ya what
then. If it’s really bugging you that much, just go ahead and throw
yourself out of an airlock. Go ahead and save the Salorians the trouble
so that I might live to breathe another day.”
“It sounded like Bob needed a shoulder more than you need to breathe,
you selfish bastard. How could you think of yourself over Bob? He’s our
only friend here.”
Trae began to laugh, sucked in a deep breath and forced himself to stop
laughing. “Fergus, he is a Salorian. Salorians hate humans and we are
on their most wanted list. Do you really think that it’s wise to make
friends with one of a few dozen others that reside on this ship that we
are trapped on for the next two months?”
“Yup.” Fergus reached the bottom of the steps and trotted after Bob as
fast as he could in the bulky and cumbersome suit. Fergus heard the
loud clunk and bang of something heavy being beaten against a bulkhead.
He trotted around the corner, skidding to the right just as Bob
disappeared through a hatchway. “Is the helmet cam still working?”
“What is that compartment that Bob just went into? I don’t think I’ve been in there before.”
“Hold on,” Trae grudgingly sighed. “Oh hey...go in there.”
Fergus stopped in his tracks. “Wait? Just a second ago you didn’t want me to chase down Bob. Now you do. What gives man?”
“Um…nothing, just go in there. We haven’t been in there yet.”
“Wait...no.” Fergus crossed his arms. “Why is it that all of a sudden
you changed your tune and decide that it’s a good idea for me to follow
Bob and go into that room?”
“Because that room just happens to be the ship’s defense control.”
“Oh, well shit. Why didn’t you say so?”
“I just did, dumb shit.”
“Not originally you didn’t.”
“Just shut up and go in there. I want to see how they have it set up.
I’ve never seen a dedicated core compartment for a defensive network
“What the hell kind of friend are you? What about Bob? You’d really
rather just check out the room than see how he’s doing? What is wrong
with you?” Fergus continued to the hatchway, his helmet bobbed side to
side as he shook his head with disgust. The hatchway opened with a
whoosh that barely covered the sound of sloppy burbled sobs.
“Bob?” Fergus looked around the dark and very empty room.
“What the hell,” Trae wondered. “Where could he have gone?”
“Right there,” Fergus said, shuffling his way over to a small storage
closet. He tapped the touch screen control panel on the side of the
door frame and it whisked open with a hiss. Bob sat curled with knees
to his chest at the back of the tiny, even by human standards, storage
closet. He sobbed with heavy bursts of emotion, barely a breath between
each body racking sob.
“Since when do Salorians cry,” Trae grumbled. “That just totally ruins
the whole crocodile cockroach cold blooded devour your soul badassness
that I always associated with them.”
“Shut your pie hole,” Fergus demanded over his mastoidcomm. “This isn’t
just any Salorian. It’s Bob, man.” He flipped on his external speaker
and slid down the wall next to Bob. “Hey buddy, what’s going on? You’re
gonna be alright man. I’m here for ya if you need it.”
Bob looked up from his sulking ball. Tears streamed down his face from
his one large eye. His lower, leathery lip quivered and bounced as he
sucked in breath with each sob.
“She left me,” Bob wailed.
“What the fuck? I didn’t know that Bob was married,” Trae said over the comms.
“I guess so,” Fergus replied, questioningly. He scooted closer toward Bob.
“I’ve got nothing that needs to be done right now, Bob. Would you like to tell me what happened?”
“We passed within range of a communications relay station during third
cycle, while we slept. When I awoke, I looked at daily duty assignments
and saw that I had a message. I was surprised. I have never received a
message while on a cruise. Unsure, I opened the message. It was from my
mate.” Tears welled up in Bobrobobo’s single, large eye. “She has filed
yet another grievance against me with the Salorian reproduction
counsel. She stated that my passion to sing was the limit of her
“Reproduction counsel? Um…,” Fergus said. Unsure of what else to say
without giving himself away.
“She said that I was unfit breeding stock and has requested to be
reassigned,” Bob wailed. “All of our hatchlings have been recalled for
testing and reassignment.”
“Holy crap Ferg, Bob is a father. I never even thought about that. I wonder how many kids him and her have had?”
“I had no idea,” Fergus transmitted to Trae silently over the mastoidcomms. “What will they do with them all,” he asked Bob.
The big crocodilian skinned roach alien took in a calming breath. He
breathed slow, steady breaths as he thought on Fergus’s question. His
one large eye darted back and forth in deep, processing thought. “The
most likely result,” Bob began slowly, “is that nothing will happen to
them. They will be called for testing, and if no serious issue is found
then they will be left where they are. If their genetic makeup will
cause an issue with the job they have been assigned will they then be
reassigned. Only the genetically inferior are destroyed in any case. My
offspring will survive.” Bob sucked in a happy, ragged breath and
smiled a wide, toothy grin. “They are from good stock,” he proudly beat
a fist against his chest.
“Okay, so the kids will be good. What about your mate?”
“I will be free of her oppressiveness,” he squeaked. “Since I came of
age, I have not been without a mate. It is odd and empty feeling. But a
good kind of empty feeling,” Bob admitted.
“Well hell Bob,” Fergus fussed. “Why are you getting yourself so worked
up over this then? Sounds like the kids will be fine and you’ll be
happier in the long run without her. It’s simple man. Move on, enjoy
life, get assigned to a new chick, have lots more hatchlings with her
and never look back.”
“Yes…,” Bob hissed. “Yes, I think that I will be happier.” He forced a
smile and wiped the tears away from his one large eye. “I do not need
her. All of the cycles that we have spent together, even before the
first hatchlings appeared, she was mean.” He blinked in thought. “She
was mean and cruel and berated me almost constantly,” he realized.
“Welcome to your release from captivity my friend.” Fergus stood and
offered his hand to help Bob up from the floor. “Come on Bob, let’s get
you out of that closet.”
The ship shook. Sudden violent impacts reverberated throughout the massive frame of the Salorian heavy transport.
“Oh shit,” Trae blurted over the comms.
“What the hell is going on Bob? Are we under attack?”
“Yes,” Bob plainly stated. His eye narrowed and he took Fergus’s hand.
“That felt like an impact from a missile on the outer hull plating.”
An alert Klaxon screamed to life as warning lights around the
compartment flashed. Bob ran over to a control console on the far side
of the room, plopped into the seat and strapped on a five point
harness. He powered up the monitors, flipping switches and activating
control panels all over the station with practiced ease. “Fourteen
GrisV'ril attack raiders have surrounded the ship.”
“I’ve got nothing down here Ferg,” Trae said. “If Bob is right and it is GrisV’ril, then we may be screwed.”
“GrisV’ril attack raiders? There has to be a cruiser out there somewhere. Aren’t we out in deep space?”
“No,” Bob said plainly. His display showed a hard lock on one of the
raiders. He squeezed the trigger on the right control stick mounted to
the arm of the seat. Dark marks appeared across the hull of the raider.
“Come on,” he growled. “These Vog class raiders have thin armor. The
maser turrets should be sufficient to defend the ship.” Bob squeezed
the trigger again and the image of the raider exploded in a gout of
flame and debris as the port drive nacelle sheared away with energetic
force. “We are passing through a system that contains twenty gas giants
that are used for refueling purposes. But this system is also a perfect
place for pirates to hide in the extensive debris fields waiting to
ambush unsuspecting ships.
“Is there anything that I can do to help,” Fergus anxiously asked. “I
mean, you have three stations in here, where is everyone else?”
Bob unstrapped from his seat and quickly stepped to the next station.
“There is no one else. I am the ship’s only gunner at the moment.” The
smell of rarely used electronic’s ozone permeated the air as he flipped
switches and powered up the station. He hastily returned to his station
and secured the restraints. “Take that station and shoot them out of
the sky,” Bob ordered.
“Hell yeah,” Fergus chortled and trotted over to the overly sized
gunner’s station and strapped himself in as best as he could. “That’s
what I’m talking about!”
“I hope that you two aren’t the only ones manning the defenses,” Trae interjected over the comm.
“Hey Bob,” Fergus shouted. He tracked one of the Vog class raiders on
his screen as they circled around for an attack run, leading ever so
slightly ahead of the target. “How many other gunner stations are
aboard the ship?” The raider lined up on its attack run and presented a
nose on profile. Fergus squeezed the trigger and held the targeting
reticle centered on the nose of the raider. The small ship exploded on
the screen. “Booyah! Head shot,” Fergus boasted.
“You have never served aboard a T’ragre class freighter before, have
you? There are no others my friend, Fergus. This is the only gunner’s
station aboard the ship,” he said regretfully. “We will most likely
perish in the cold vacuum of space. But we will die a valiant, hard
“Well shit,” Fergus sighed. “Maybe someone upstairs will be watching over us and lend a much-needed hand.”
“Already on it, Ferg,” Trae shouted into the comms. “I now have remote
control of the third gunnery station in that room from here. I might
make a difference and I might not. But he’s right. We’ll go down
“I do not understand,” Bob said.
“Luck Bob. Pure and utter luck. Kill ‘em all!”
“Kill ‘em all,” Bob and Trae replied with isolated fury.
“So, you obviously survived the attack,” Max curiously stated.
“Yup,” Trae said through a mouth full of the gravy slathered meat. “And
because of his quick action and skill at defensive gunnery, Fergus here
received the Salorian battle cross and the Salorian meritorious service
“Don’t forget about the twelve percent bonus earned for the overall
voyage pay because of the number of attackers that the two of us blew
out of the sky. Which actually,” Fergus fussed as he reached over the
counter and rummaged through the uniforms. “I sure as hell don’t want
to forget this. That’s three months’ worth of pay, even if it is just
Salorian credits. I’m sure that I can convert them to some other
currency while we’re here.” Fergus looked about his person, unsure of
where to place the data card. He shrugged, then leaned left and placed
the card under his right butt cheek.
Max glared suspiciously at Fergus. “You had cash the entire time?”
“Yup,” he smiled, then continued to chew the previously shoveled mouthful.
“Then why didn’t you use your card?”
“You didn’t argue,” Trae responded.
“No take backsies either,” Fergus added. The two quietly continued their meal.
“Fair enough I suppose. I did accept the armor as payment.”
“And as fun as this has all been, Max. I think it’s time that we moseyed along and found ourselves a lift home.”
“You’re probably right, Trae.” Fergus wiped his mouth across the backs
of his arms, then hopped from the barstool, peeled the card from his
right butt cheek and stretched. “Thanks for the grub, Max. Wasn’t too
bad at all.”
Trae slid from his seat, scratching his backside where it had stuck to
the seat covering. “Yeah, Max. Thanks for the grub. That was some
pretty delicious mystery meat.”
“Thanks,” said Max. “I’ll tell Blanche that you enjoyed it. And that
she might want to import a barrel of that sauce for her condiments
collection.” He grinned. “She does tend to update her ‘toolbox’
whenever she learns about a new opportunity.”
The nude duo got up from their seats by the bar and proceeded toward
the main exit of the bar, and paused near the stage. Bob wailed and
sang an ancient Skoocoom love ballad in such a low, minor key that the
floor rumbled from his vocal vibrations.
“Follow your heart little buddy,” Fergus said, then held aloft a
devil’s horn sign in homage of Bob, and snuggled his head against
“Oh my God will you get off of me!” Trae shoved Fergus, then stomped out of the bar.
“Adios, little buddy.” Fergus saluted, and then followed Trae out the door.
© 2019 by William Joseph Roberts
Bio: William Joseph Roberts...
My short story, “When
Vulcans Cry” was published earlier this year in
the Sha’Daa: Toys
anthology from Moon Dream Press/Copper Dog
In a previous lifetime, William Joseph Roberts was an
F-15 mechanic and Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. He has
traveled the world and experienced many things in his few years. During
his tenure in this lifetime, he has been called a Jack of all trades, a
Renaissance man and insane squirrel wrangler by his peers. Since his
enlistment ended, he has perused careers as an industrial and
architectural designer, design engineer, and now, eclectic writer.
William Joseph Roberts currently resides in the quaint southern town of
Chickamauga, Georgia with his loving wife, three freaky smart nerd
children, and small pack of fur babies.
My current web links are:
Facebook author page:
Amazon Author Page:
Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum
Return to Aphelion's Index page.