The Harm Before the Norm

Garr observed the “Marster” with interest. The almost-lanky, blue-coveralled man was hunched over his desk, fiddling with something and muttering to himself. His hair was dangling forward, obscuring the focus of his attention from Bedge's line of sight. Curiously, his voice was 20% huskier than usual. The sim made out a few of the murmured words.

“I swear your lips are almost the colour of the roses that used to grow outside the boat house. They always made me smile.”

Bedge blinked in confusion. He'd not heard this Master say that kind of thing before. His words were normally blunt and cold - to him at least. He tilted his head and amplified his aural receptors for a better listen.
“Damn. These are gonna suit you, really show off your curves.”
The simulant was fascinated. “Curhhves?”

Alex nearly leaped out of his seat. He wheeled round, momentary panic in his eyes giving way to anger.”
“Christ, Bedge! What you doin' in here?”
“The door was open, Marster.”

Alex's eyes flicked to the entry panel. He slid the whateverhe'dbeenworkingon beneath the work mat on the desk, accidentally giving Bedge a glimpse of a small colourful display as he did so. “It's polite to knock.”
“I fought you wanted me to cuhm in. Is dat a PalmPuter?”
Alex ran a hand through his hair, flustered. “Not sure that's any o' your business.”

There was an odd silence during which Bedge stared at Alex who seemed to be having difficulty making eye contact.

A seductive, pouty female voice piped up from under the work mat. “Alex? Are you there? I was looking forward to getting my new underwear.”

The engineer's eye twitched.


When: Later.
Where: The promenade. Whiskers's Sawdust and Dinery.

The Dwarfers buzzed around the table like flies around a pavement-dropped four day old kebab. Nervous looking rodents scurried about them, occasionally bringing a cold beverage to the table.

“SILENCE!” Yelled Seymour, smacking the table, surprising even himself.
Everyone obediently shut up and sat down. Niples grinned, sheepishly. “Ahem. Yes, well, now I've got your attention, I'd like to point out that we don't have much choice. We either accept Ms. Monroe's mission or likely perish.”

Alex sighed drunkenly, as he sucked on his eighteenth Badger Beer of the evening.
He looked around at the rag tag bunch and groaned inwardly, wishing the whole crew were here. Aside from Jelena – who he didn't know that well – he doubted that the assembled characters would make particularly sensible decisions.

“Thissis errdiculous” he slurred. Seymour scowled at him, annoyed at the interruption. “What do you mean?”
“We-eellll! Look atchyooall.”

Seymour was in an inappropriately expensive looking suit, and grasped a thickly papered clipboard which he clearly thought made him appear very important. Justin was holding his crotch and leering at Jelena, who was leaning on her arm, staring into space. Garr was picking some unspeakable substance from his teeth while Jacky Kong was trying to polish a scratch from his goggles, which he kept knocking to the floor.
Cass would have been the saving grace, but for some reason she was asleep at another table. She looked kind of pale.
Jay and Phil would have lent at least some common sense to proceedings, but they were away doing something on the Raven. Efof, Davie, Phi, Tomas, Ryder and Given were AWOL. As for White Wolf, Alex hadn't seen him for days. If there were any others missing, Solvay was too drunk to remember. Point was, he didn't have much faith in the loopy bunch who were present.

Justin tore his gaze from Jelena. “Thanks, Alex...” - he accentuated the word like a grumpy teenager insinuating another were thick, tongue pushed below his lower lip - “... you're not making any friends by having a go at us.”
Alex scowled at him. “Don't need friends.”
Garr chucked his toothpick away. A large gerbil scurried over and cleared it up.
“No. Dat's right. Marster Solvay don't need frends. He's got a pretend computer gerl frend.” He said, defensively. “Ain't you?”
Justin perked up and smirked “You what?”
Seymour appeared quite disgusted “I beg your- Is this true, Mr. Solvay?”
Alex stared at them for a little too long before he replied. “Dunno what he's talkin' 'bout. Clearly... some sorta data issues.”
Jelena shot him a knowing look. “Uh-HUH.”
“Can I borrow her?” Jacky enquired, mid goggle-retrieve.
Alex heaved another sigh and, without answering, stood up, snatched his bottle from the table and another from the bar, before heading back to his quarters.
He heard Seymour's voice trail after him “Well! What a rude man he is!”


When: Later still.
Where: Alex's quarters.

Alex woke up with the world swirling around him. He thought it was just the Badger Beer but then Holly's voice penetrated his brain haze, letting him know it was something more serious.

“Emergency! Emergency!”
Alex tried to blink the fog from his mind “Wass goin' on, Hol?”
“The ship has just been thrown into an alternate time and dimension, as per Seymour's instructions.”
“Crap. How?”
“Marilyn gave us one of them snazzy STCP devices, din't she?”
Solvay blinked through his confusion “What's the emergency?”
“The emergency is the fact that the jump caused quite substantial damage to the hull. Oh yeah, and also we're currently surrounded by fifteen probably hostile craft.”
“How d'you know they're probably hostile?”
“Well they shot us. I'm no military strategist but that's quite a big clue if you ask me.”
“Can we see 'em?”
“On screen, now.”

A wavy image replaced Holly's face on the monitor, it was distorted but Alex could make out the ships. They hung in defensive formation around a large asteroid, on which sat a huge sign.: “LEAVE, HUMAN SCUM.”
To Alex's addled mind, it looked as though it may have been written in blood. A lot of blood.

He indulged in a few moments of make believe. He lie back on his bunk, arms behind his head. For a few precious, precious seconds he wasn't on a mining ship, lost in deep space. He was in a hotel, with room service. His thumping head was due to a great night with the lads. He'd probably work it off with a few lengths of the-

Seymour's voice screeched across the comms system like an enraged banshee “MISTER SOLVAY! DRIVE ROOM, NOW!”

Well, that was that.

They were about to be thrown into a world of pain, he just knew it. They always were.
He thought back to the short time they'd spent on a tropical island a few months ago. He missed those island mooching days. It'd been great, really great, right up until the moment another island tried to kill them. If they got through this latest scrape, he was going to suggest a vacation. He felt around in the semi darkness for his cigarettes.

The ship rocked as they were hit again. It woke up the PalmPuter which bounced off the desk.
“Mmm, I felt the Earth move. Do it again, big boy. Press my buttons!”
“Oh shut up.” He booted it across the gunmetal floor.

< Prev : Slow-motion nipple shark Next > : Stiphalis silk