300 days of “Tom and Freddie” (Part IV of SkiFi)

My estimate of a year was a little off; I hadn’t factored in the replacement cost of the weapons I was using up. Thankfully, being docked at Suro Grafity for so long made me a bit of a minor celebrity in the region. After a couple of weeks, word got out that this mad Pariah essentially spent his time on the space station chatting up random strangers, and when he got bored of that, he’d return to his ship, take it apart, and put it back together. Legitimate traders and travellers were forced to dock their ships for days, even weeks, waiting for repairs, because rebuilding Freddie kept the inventory of Parts-R-Us thin. Not like the good barkeepers of Suro Grafity minded this; their economy boomed due to the increased footfalls. After a while, I even allowed them to project my nightly escapades vs. Freddie on their Holo-Imagers, for a cut of course. Their business acumen being some of the sharpest in the galaxy (I heard they were humans from a territory called Gagrat), they immediately went about branding the entertainment, and so was born “Tom and Freddie”, as tribute to some weird ancient earth thing. Sentimental beings, these humans.

Tom and Freddie’s format was simple. I (‘Tom’, apparently) would go over to my ship sometime in the evening, and Freddie, in true style, would have laid out a new set of obstacles to keep me from waking him up. Everyday, patrons of Suro Grafity would pay a flat fee to watch from the bar, and sometimes run a betting pool. I would take a cut from the flat fees, and of course, from every one who bet against me, because I never lost. A few months into this, Grafity could no longer support all the people who wanted to watch me kick my diabolical computer’s ass, and so had to up their prices, and to make it even more interesting, began offering tours of my ship while I was running this crazy gauntlet. Soon the betting pools placed odds on the ship-board spectators as well; those who survived the tours got very rich, and, I’m told, were catatonic from the exhilaration for months.

Every night, after rebuilding Freddie, he and I would have a little chat. I would tell him why his puzzles were too easy, and why they failed. He would beg me to stop destroying his components over and over again. I would tell him that he still wasn’t the most secure starship in the universe – “Because if I can break you, what do you think the Armageddon Knights are going to do to you?”. He would grumble and complain that he didn’t have the facilities to set up better traps for me. So over the last six months I’ve got him laser grids, pressure pads, hover drones, mobile droids, holo-screens, molecular transducers, mobius floors, gravity distorters… and countless other little things, thanks to the generosity of the clientele at Suro Grafity.

One day, on my way into the ship, a Hanger (that’s what we called the ship-board spectators), grabbed me by the arm, turned me around and said that he was a very important man, and he had a paid a lot of money to see me wreck my ship, and that he didn’t expect to die on this tour. “You make sure of that,” are the words he used.

“Not in the contract,” I said. “You’re on your own.”

“Now listen here,” he said, gripping my arm tightly. “Listen here, you pariah’n scum. You keep me alive in there, you hear me?”

“If you want to get off the ship, sir,” I said, shoving him back, “door’s that way.”

Reeling, he stuttered, “No, please… I have to do this.” He thought for a moment. “I’ll pay you… half my winnings from tonight.”

I stopped, turned to him, and smiled. “Three-fourth.”

“Done.”

I shook his hand, grabbed his shoulder, and pushed him to the floor, just as Freddie fired an array of laser bolts at us.

* * * *

“THAT.WAS.AWESOME!!”

We were walking off the ship while Freddie wailed behind us. This Hanger was besides himself. Through the tour he told me he was some minor politician from the Rarara system. That he was here on a dare, and if he made it out alive, he was going to become the next High Lord for the Ministry of Debris Disposal. Which was worth much much more than what he would make as a survivor on Tom and Freddie.

“thatwasabsolutelythemostfuniveeverhadinmylifeicantbelievethatjusthappenedohmygodithinkijust wetmyselfalittleaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhthiswassoooocoool.”

He was delirious. Poor guy. At least he’ll die happy.

“My share.”, I said, as he collected his winnings.

“Oh yes, of course,” his hands still trembling as he gave me enough dosh to buy Freddie a partner to sleep with.

“Thank you. And good bye.”

I leveled my blaster between his eyes. I saw terror in his face for the first time that night.

“Why?”

“Nobody tells me what to do.”

BZZT!

I turned around and told the barkeep to contact Rarara.

“Tell them they need a new High Lord for Debris Disposal.”

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