At the Sign of the Wobbly Asteroid

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on January 13, 2012 0 Comments

[This is an excerpt from my comedy sci-fi novel Space Command and the Planet of the Bejewelled Concubines. The complete novel is available on Amazon:]

Burl Stagmite slumped over the bar, his tattered work shirt, the shade of the polluted and muddy water of Burlington Cove on a murky autumn sunrise, drooping onto the faux-marble surface, which was damp with droplets of nutmeal grog and red currant vodka.  He lifted his scraggly head, its chin covered with the thick results of five shaveless days, and tried to locate the bartender with his dark, bleary eyes.

“Another triple-shot of cariboc,” he croaked in the general direction of Leslo.

The Melvarian bartender, with the dark-orangish squat head and stubby ears characteristic of his race, looked up from drying grog mugs.  “You mean besides the one next to your elbow?”

Burl drew back and, maneuvering his upper chest carefully into a more-or-less upright position, glanced in a downward angle at the compact glass at his side filled with a pungent, reddish-oak liquid.  With a practiced, impressively efficient move, Stagmite grasped the glass and lifted it the short distance to his mouth, tilting both glass and mouth back in a coordinated diagonal and quaffing the bitter, woody liquor in one gulp.  “Yeah, besides that one.”

Leslo put his bumpy, four-fingered hands, also characteristic of his race, on his hips, turning to fix Stagmite with a disapproving, maroon-lipped look.  “Look here, Stagmite.  I didn’t take this gig to scare off my own customers, but why don’t ya give it a rest?  You’ve polished off four bottles of cariboc since Jidday, and that don’t count all your nut grogs and Musty Walnuts.”

Stagmite took his shot glass and threw it at Leslo, missing the bartender but hitting a large, decorative decanter of brugloc on the shelf behind him.  The decanter cracked violently and the light purple liquid inside ran down the wooden shelf in a lackluster trickle.  “Stay off my case, you Melvarian busybody.”

“Damn it, Stagmite.  You can sit here and drink yourself to an early death for all I care, but don’t go smashing up my imported booze decanters.”  Leslo grimaced.  He barked for the busboy to clean up Stagmite’s mess, using the rough and charcoal-hued vocal tone characteristic of his race.  “Hector!”

“You gonna pour that cariboc or do I have to come back there and get it myself?” groused Stagmite.

Leslo shuffled over to Stagmite’s place at the bar, his rectangular feet making the trip in a few stubby motions.  “Like I said, Stagmite, it ain’t no skin off my noggin, but it ain’t right that a damn fine Special Intelligence Space Command Officer like yourself spends day after day in this grog pit getting himself speckled.”

“Pickled,” said Hector, as he arrived with a bunch of rags, correcting the Melvarian’s verbal slip, the slight tweaking of an idiom which was so characteristic of his race.

“Whatever,” grunted Leslo.

“Make that a former damn fine SISCO,” Stagmite slurred.  “Or did it slip your Melvarian excuse for a brain that I got my SISCO status revoked?  Is that some kinda faulty memory bank that’s characteristic of your race or somethin’?”

“You were hittin’ the bottle too hard even then,” Leslo growled, reluctantly pouring another triple-shot of cariboc for the inebriated mercenary.  “Why else’d you show up stuck naked to guard Toggin’s daughter?”

“Buck naked,” revised Hector.

“I’m warnin’ you,” burbled Stagmite, sliding off his barstool and pointing a hairy finger at the Melvarian, “don’t bring up the past, bastard.  You don’t know what it’s like.”  Stagmite lowered his tone, his eyes trying to focus on the mosaic of glass shards that made a pattern behind the bar.  “Holdin’ a dame like Felissa Slinksainen in your arms, then lettin’ it all slip away, like a dried squid lubricated with fish oil.”

“Don’t I, though?” huffed Leslo.  “What kinda stories you think I hear, mixing Musty Walnuts and Throbbing Black Holes all day long?  Look, Stagmite, you ain’t the first guy to get your precious, little heart tore out of his chest and tossed in an automated cheese grinder by some broad.  But throwin’ the rest of your life away ain’t the answer.  You still make a damn fine bounty huntin’ mercenary.”

“Mercenary,” spat Stagmite.  “Even the word reeks of ignoble money grubbing.”

“Look at the brine side.  You can be your own boss when you’re a subscriber of fortune.”

“Bright side.  Soldier of fortune,” said Hector.

“Shut your tramp!” yelled the Melvarian, throwing a shot glass at Hector’s elbow.  “It’s my Wobbly Asteroid and I’ll say what I want to.”

At that moment, Leslo’s arm phone rang.  But it wasn’t the Prime Commander.  It was just Captain Lubber’s Cariboc supply man scheduling another delivery.

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