Twilight Surprise (Part VI of SkiFi)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 5th October, 2012 by kal

Remus Piddleberry is not one to be trifled with. And he told me so.

“Remus Piddleberry; is not one to be trifled with.”

One does not trifle with Remus Piddleberry.

“One; does not; Trifle; with Remus PIDDLEBERRY!”

I could tell he was getting angrier by the tone of his voice and the dramatic pauses.

“AND ONE; DEFINITELY; DOES NOT; WIPE; HIS; DIRTY; STINKING; PARIAH’N; FACE; ON; REMUS; PIDDLEBERRY’S; SKIRT!!”

This proclamation was choreographed in sync to the sound of Remus Piddleberry slapping me senseless.

* * * *

I felt an ocean lap at my feet. I was draped by nothing but the dim light of two red giants near the horizon. There was that cool early evening breeze in the air, the kind that signalled it was time to stop drinking beer, and move on to something with a little more kick (vodka) and a little more energy (tonic). I could tell I was mostly alone, except for maybe a hundred scantily-clad living goddesses from all over the galaxy. Some of them I recognised: The Foxy Four-Five from Vulpa, Bella Tinkup of Neversea, most of the Heavenly All-Star Beauties Choir (I wonder why Penny Cuckoo was missing, she’s my favourite); additionally, there were Ashens, Genelians, a couple of Ranis, one particularly curvy Baloneer, and some other sweet treats from the far side of Andromeda.

What struck me as interesting through all of this was that they were all being quite nice to me. Making eye contact, even smiling at me. Some walked by me, and brushed their hands gently across my shoulders and cranial scales. Based on this stimulus, I deduced I was probably sitting on something, a chair of some kind. It was all very exciting, and I wondered if the setting and all these beautiful women were a prelude to a surprise birthday party, or a private viewing of “The Universe’s Hundred Hottest Stars”, in the flesh.

I decided I must try to talk to them; so I did, but couldn’t hear the sound of my own voice. That’s about the same moment that I realised I couldn’t hear anything. I looked about in horror to try and get a sense of what was happening. And then I saw her again. An unreal angel, in a silver skirt with a scrappy face mark. I suddenly became aware of the dull throbbing in my head; the suns, the ocean, the beautiful women all melted away as if in a dream.

* * * *

I felt a cold splash over my naked body, which was now draped in the dim light of what I assumed must be the cargo-hold of Remus’s ship. The angel had thrown something at me again; I licked my lips, hoping it was a vodka-tonic. It wasn’t. It stung my eyes too; I thought it best to keep them shut for a while, trying not to let the Foxy Four-Five fade from my retinas.

I felt another cold splash, stinging a little harder this time. Apparently my closed eyes gave them the feeling the first one didn’t do the job well enough. Unbeknownst to my slight, albeit impostering, attacker, the freezing liquid was cleaning me up after my grimy, sweaty job; I thought to myself, “Hey, Free Bath from a pretty broad!”, and kept my eyes shut.

“Is he conscious yet?”, said Remus Piddleberry’s charcoaly rasp.

“I’m not sure, but he should be”, replied an auditorily scintillating female alto.

This sent me for a loop. If the angel isn’t Piddleberry in some sick disguise using a Personal Space Manipulator, does that mean she’s real? My heart spun out of control.

“His vitals are fluctuating.”

She sounded like the cocaine-coating on a stick of dynamite. Another bucket of cold-as-dead-space whatever-it-was struck me.

“How do you know he’s up?”

“When I was monitoring his dream activity, he asked me for a vodka-tonic.”

Fame Blues (Part V of SkiFi)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 5th October, 2012 by kal

Being a minor celebrity isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Oh sure, you get a mad lot of attention, and all the stalkers that come with it. But no respect from any of the big stars. So when Remus Piddleberry made a pitstop at Suro Grafity and saw my show, something bad was bound to happen.

It all began when I walked off the bridge amid the burning wreckage of what used to be Freddie’s ‘safe place’. I spat on some bar napkins being stuck in front of my face – I am told many of these are now framed in fancy homes all over the galaxy – and, as had become my custom, I lifted the edge of the skirt of the prettiest bystander around, and wiped my grimy, sooty face on it. Occasionally, this was followed by her sighing and collapsing into my waiting arms, but more often than not I felt the refreshing splash of a Choconilla Spritzer being thrown in my face.

Today, surprise surprise, it was a Flaming Pagan – a villainously acidic concoction which stung my eyes, and proceeded to set my tunic afire in a bright blue plasmic haze. I fell back, heroically resisting the urge to scream like the lithe beauty that had just doused me in hellfire, and rolled around a few times till it went out. Two eyes were now readjusting to reality, and I took a closer look at my assailant.

She was stunning.

While stumbling out of my ship I’d only caught a general glimpse of her, being in disdain of all the attention and all. I’d just walked up to her, casual like, grabbed her skirt, and mashed my face in it. On autopilot.

Now that I could see her better (the other two eyes decided they wanted a look too) I could tell that there something not quite right about her. Her image was mesmerising, it was spell-binding. It was perfect. It just didn’t seem real. It would take the best mind and the best computer in the universe to design her. The only bit out of place was a Pariah’n face-blotch on her shimmering silver skirt. That, and an odd metal bracelet which didn’t quite go with the rest of her. It looked a bit like a Personal Space Manipulator.

“How dare you touch…”, she began, in a shrill tone of female outrage that I was altogether too familiar with by now, as she pushed a button on the metal bracelet. Her image blinked out of existence.

“…Remus Piddleberry”, concluded the baritone of the tall, skinny, heavily armed visage of the Heir to the Universe who now stood in her place.

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

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on 2nd October, 2012 by kal

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.”

Enter Remus (Part III of SkiFI)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 1st October, 2012 by kal

Destroying parts of one’s own ship and putting it back together were a significant drain on one’s resources – that is, of course, unless you were Remus Piddleberry, Space Pirate Supremo and Heir to the Universe, whose personal wealth was fabled to be somewhere between the worth of all the diamonds on Traxon IV, and the value of the planet Augous itself. You could pluck out diamonds from Traxon IV’s sandy beaches by the fistful (if you wanted to get your fist chopped off by the Traxi Protectorate), and Augous’s crust was made of pure gold, running 2 miles deep into the planet’s crust. The values of these two worlds was so mind-bogglingly high (as per the base prices set at the start of the Galacto-economic age), that no one knows exactly how much either is worth, or indeed which is higher. Which makes Remus’s actual worth even more difficult to determine, and hence, utterly meaningless to our story.

Another reason why it is utterly meaningless to our story is because I’m not Remus Piddleberry.

I am, however, a former noble from the Pariah* system, one of middling wealth, which gave me the means to regularly fry the circuits of my errant but entertaining shipboard computer, Freddie. At last count I calculated that if I never took another trip around the galaxy again, I would have the means to probably destroy and rebuild Freddie every day for the next year or so.

(To be continued tomorrow: Day 300 of “Tom and Freddie”)

*Pariah is one of the few systems that is more frequently known by the name given to it by outsiders – ‘Pariah’. Besides the fact that its true name is unpronounceable by mostly all sentient beings in the universe, it is also cursed to cause instant death to any of the natives who speak it. Since ‘death’ for the Pariah people essentially means reverting to a state of pan-dimensional omniscience and boredom, something truly more frightening than conventional death, the regulators of Pariah reconstructed the curse so that it operates only within the bounds of their solar-system. Weak-willed Pariah’ns are free to leave the homeworld, with the understanding that they never return. There’s a AstroPub just outside the bounds of their solar-space, which is the first stop for the newly off-worlded, where droves of drunks scream the homeworld’s given name over and over and over again, just to get it out of their systems. From there on out, it doesn’t make sense to explain to others that they are from Gy$Okw@fanB/qSx]ll[oP – noone else can say it, spell it, or remember it. It’s just easier to say “I’m Pariah”, and everyone knows exactly what you’re talking about.

Sleeping Machines (Part II of SkiFi)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 30th September, 2012 by kal

Not that Freddie the Shipboard Computer was ever supposed to sleep, although I had caught him napping a number of times. Waking up from his slumber is a particularly unpleasant experience – for him. I, of course, take immense interest in whacking the side of his Fluronic Fermerators – the only bit of him that cannot be force-sheilded because of the laws of exophysics – with a solar umbrella. This more often than not did the job; but just to be doubly sure, I had an AyKay Pain Receptor 3561 installed there, which, according to the advert, “guarantees to shock awake even the most ancient rusted robots of KahKha-One”*.
Now, Freddie wasn’t one to take this, so to speak, lying down. Once, I was just getting back to the ship from Suro Grafity (after socialising with those nice whiskered cat-ladies), I found Freddie sleeping once again. Only this time, before his nap, he’d reconfigured the entire engineering deck of the ship, so I had no idea where anything was. I got lost for 4 hours following circuitry around the ship, and mapping out the rejigged mainframe. I didn’t have schematics of the place, well, because Freddie was sleeping and couldn’t print them out for me. I eventually found the fermerators tucked neatly into the Space-Goo Collector, under the Stardust Bin, and the room was barricaded by a previously unknown piece of equipment. My Ablazing Flamethrower made short work of the whole section, and I smiled while I lit a cigar to the soundtrack of Freddie’s electronic screams.

(To be continued)

*KahKha-One is fabled to be the first civilisation ever to create artificial intelligence. To protect themselves for the possible dangers of sentient machines (Hawnip Zubzible would only write “Root Ethics Code for Living AI” billions of years later; indeed, at this time, the star system of his home planet was only a twinkle of in the eye of its mother space gas cloud), they’d developed an ingenious failsafe. No machine could be more intelligent than the smartest being on their planet. Things went on smoothly, till the day came when the smartest being on KahKha-One was also xenophobic and nihilistic. Within days, the AI wiped out the entire dominant race of KahKha-One; they then adopted the intelligence of an Astroant Queen, and proceeded to do nothing for the remainder of time.

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