The Thargoid and Fer-de-Lance

Sven turned the holotelly channel from the Sexy News Show to the zero gee cricket

Frank protested "Hey I was watching that!"

Sven replied "I don't know why you watch that news show. It's just full of lies and conspiracy theories", he twisted his mouth in derision, "The Dark Wheel, pah! They're supposed to be some sort of secret society, but they're listed in the directory of spacestation factions"

"Raxxla's out there someplace, and the Dark Wheel are the folks who'll find it. Okay I don't believe everything the Sexy News Show tells me. I don't believe what Alec Smith said about the treeoid frogs. But the Dark Wheel, there's something there, and there's something happening"

"Have you ever been a member of any shady secret societies, Frank?"

A smile passed over the old man's lips, "Well when you've been in this galaxy as long as I have you do tend to rub up against everyone eventually" The smile faded, "A long time ago I was a member of an anti-slavery group, covert operations. We had plans to rid the galaxy of all slavery. We started with the worst offenders first. The freedom fighters didn't want any lilly-livered types. They wanted folks who wouldn't freeze up whey they had the slave traders in their crosshairs, so they had an initiation test. They made me kill my dog. The worst part about it was the gun they gave me was out of charge, so I had to bludgeon it to death with a chair instead"
 
Phong slams down Pynchon's Mason & Dixon , signals for a refill (slow. water and a straw).
'He only watches it for that Fay Knuse.Well i hae some noos for tha. She's been poached by 0GS.
Rumouir has it she did a life swap with Sidney Sider.It's a rum do all round..'
Sven unplugs his dust-buster and re-connects the juke-box. Slowly it staggers through it's boot-up sequence, which he watches warily, occasionally giving it the odd thump to help it on it's way. Soon the stentorian bellowings of Marlon Dirtrack's aria 'Ma, LLily's Same' is cascading through the speakers, and he throws himself into a frenzy of air guitar,the air around him seeming to shimmer and ghostly glimmering forms appear within the writhing coils of swirling backlit clouds of steam arising from the thermal vents.
Frank stares gloomily into his drink.
'Shame,' he mutters.'It was a nice piece of Chippendale.'
 
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The galaxy contained uncountable stars. Around many orbited countless satellites, some that could support life in one form or another, and others that would remain barren. Around those there orbited stations, artificial structures that could also house life, where ships entered and exited on a regular basis. Focus on one star, a star named after Bernard. Focus on a station orbiting Bernard’s Star. Now focus on a ship parked in the station. Don’t mind the damage to this particular ship, one Cobra Mk3 named Redemption, its had a long, hard journey. Focus inside the ship, on a man. On the floor. Unconscious. With blood congealed around his head. Notice the shift in breathing. The twitch. The slow coming to life again.

Now notice the PAIN. He does. He moans with the onslaught as it renews its hold, jabbing at areas that had at least been in peace during the involuntary rest. A hand slowly feels the wound on his head. Bad idea. More pain from the crusty gash. The fog clouded his mind. There was only fog as he struggled to his feet. A large spanner lay on the floor near the dried, dark red pool. It shifted from one, to two, to three spanners, then back again as his vision tried to see in the low light and through the pain. How long had it been? Where was he? He stumbled through the door towards the ramp outside. He doesn’t notice his soiled clothes, even though others can’t miss it. Med-bay… That sounded like a good place to go. It filled what little of his thoughts that were not filled already with pain.

Now just for a moment, focus, just a little time before, while the blood was still congealing around the man’s head, on a blonde, gripping a package tightly, smiling to herself aboard a shuttle leaving the station. The moment is up, for now…

Focus back on the man, stumbling through the pain into the medical bay. Those staring see how pale he is, that his body continued to function while unconscious, and they stare as medical personnel rush forward with one taking charge. A voice he doesn’t recognize echoes through the fog. “Mike, what happened?” She seems to be talking to him, but he doesn’t register the words. Instead, he falls to the floor, overcome again by the pain. Minerva called orders to prep the operating room as they hauled the limp body through the double doors. Focus lost...
 
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The man looked uo into the face of the doctor as sweat beaded on her face and dripped down onto his. “Hey, that’s unsanitary!” She looked down and saw his eyes open staring into hers. “That’s not right!” she remarked, and promptly hit him on the head with a hammer. He felt himself falled down through darkness for what felt like an eternity until he hit solid ground. He could feel the grass under his hands now. It felt comforting. The scene focused slowly as his eyes adjusted to the light. He raised himself up on an elbow and was relieved to not feel the pain. In the distance a cozy red house sat on a small hill. Kids played on the swing in the yard, sounds of joy coming from their lips as they challenged each other to jump further than the last.

Alerted by his movement, a woman stirred beside him and also propped up on an elbow. “Oh, you’re finally awake! It seems like I’ve been waiting forever to head inside. The kids are busy, we could…” She smiled coyly, her lips framed by her long blond hair. She was thin, but with attractive… The man rubbed his temples, feeling confusion aching his brain. “I, ummm.”

“Shh, it’s ok, just relax, I’ll umm you the way you like. Come on honey, let’s go and take advantage of the time.” She pulled at his arm and it gave way easy to her leading, along with the rest of his body. As they passed the children he could see two boys and two girls, all blonde, laughing and playing. He looked at their faces, but the ache returned and his vision blurred. He couldn’t get a good look at any of their features. He felt the puling against his arm again. “Come on… Before they get bored. I know we won’t.”

They neared the house, at the door now, plain white framed by the blue of the house. He felt that ache again as he looked at the house. Yellow. Yes, it was yellow. The door a gunmetal grey. Familiar door… He pushed it open at the urging of the blonde woman and went to step inside. A figure blocked his path.

“Couldn’t have one, so you thought you’d take the other? You BAST…” He caught a glimpse of the blonde woman in the doorway just before her fist made contact, sending another blast of pain through his head as he fell back into darkness onto something solid.

This time the pain remained a slight throb as vision returned. Lights glared down from the ceiling, causing him to keep his eyes narowed. A voice pierced the throbbing. He turned his head and opened his eyes further. A doctor filled his view. Female. “Do you know me?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No. Sorry.”
“Ok, do you know your name.”
“Of course I do! It’s…. My name is…” The throb intensified, drowning his ability to think, to recall even the most basic of things, a name. He looked up into her eyes. “I don’t.”
“You took quite a knock on the noggin. I’m not surprised. We’ll try and jar your memory by visiting some familiar places on the station. I’m sure it’ll all come back in time. Don’t worry.”

Worry hadn’t really been on the top of his mind. Throbbing, yes, but worry… He actually felt a sense of calm. His mind should be racing, but at the same time, any pressing concerns he might have had we forgotten. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad, if the pain would subside…

“Got anything for the throbbing?”
“The doctor smiled. Yes, take these, two every four hours should keep your headache down. It should subside naturally in a couple days. You’ll need to come back and have the stitches removed. Let’s give you a bit to come out of anesthetic and then take a walk.”
He nodded his agreement and slammed the pills back with the glass of water she offered waiting for the pain to dull.
 
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"I don't believe you!"

All the worried faces on the bridge of the Anaconda exchanged glances before Jim looked down at the holomonitor at the crying girl looking back up at him. Her face was stained with tears where she'd wiped away the little balls of water. "Sandie, you can do the maths. The Seal Rats are six hours away. You don't have the air. We've all done the training; hyperventilate, protect your eyes, blow the airlock and for God's sake don't push off the bulkhead. The computer's predicted where we can catch you if you don't bump into anything. It's a long shot but that's better than no chance at all."

"Chance? Luck? I know why the girls call you Jim Lovell. You're a jinx. You're Apollo 13. Four of your girlfriends, Jim! I'll be the fifth girlfriend of yours to die in a space accident

Erica worked a dead-end haulage job. Her circulation fan failed and suffocated in her own breath.
Rita left for Hutton Orbital and never showed up. It's assumed her guidance system failed.
Monica takes the biscuit; your first girlfriend.", Sandie wiped her face and scowled, "She'd never even been in a spaceship. Her colony was hit by an asteroid."

"This is 3305. Nobody believes in superstitious nonsense anymore. Pull yourself together. You're an Elite pilot. We need to do this now.

Besides, even if this jinx was true, you're different. All those other girls had already split up with me when those things happened. You're still my girlfriend. The curse wouldn't apply even if such a crazy thing existed"

As he was talking, Jim looked up from the monitor to see Mary staring at him, and they both looked away immediately.
 
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Sven looked around as he heard the jukebox start playing Lou Bega's Mambo No. 5. He glimpsed some shadowy figures disappearing into an alcove...or did he just imagine it? Whether they existed or not wasn't important as they weren't ordering anything. Sven slowly turned back to the cricket. He had a feeling that it was going to be one of those days...
 
"I don't believe you!"

All the worried faces on the bridge of the Anaconda exchanged glances before Jim looked down at the holomonitor at the crying girl looking back up at him. Her face was stained with tears where she'd wiped away the little balls of water. "Sandie, you can do the maths. The Seal Rats are six hours away. You don't have the air. We've all done the training; hyperventilate, protect your eyes, blow the airlock and for God's sake don't push off the bulkhead. The computer's predicted where we can catch you if you don't bump into anything. It's a long shot but that's better than no chance at all."

"Chance? Luck? I know why the girls call you Jim Lovell. You're a jinx. You're Apollo 13. Four of your girlfriends, Jim! I'll be the fifth girlfriend of yours to die in a space accident

Erica worked a dead-end haulage job. Her circulation fan failed and suffocated in her own breath.
Rita left for Hutton Orbital and never showed up. It's assumed her guidance system failed.
Monica takes the biscuit; your first girlfriend.", Sandie wiped her face and scowled, "She'd never even been in a spaceship. Her colony was hit by an asteroid."

"This is 3305. Nobody believes in superstitious nonsense anymore. Pull yourself together. You're an Elite pilot. We need to do this now.

Besides, even if this jinx was true, you're different. All those other girls had already split up with me when those things happened. You're still my girlfriend. The curse wouldn't apply even if such a crazy thing existed"

As he was talking, Jim looked up from the monitor to see Mary staring at him, and they both looked away immediately.
(God, that reminds me of this one OC I wrote some time ago...for South Park of all things. He too had a strange curse where the ladies who made contact with him would drop off the face of the earth...and his one near-perfect match, that happened literally.)
 
Admiral Golden-Knight, after downing a shot of sucrose laced dual-hydrogen oxygen, put a particularly special disc into the jukebox, with the disc made out of old-fashioned vinyl. The song playing was titled "Excuse Me For Scribblin'". Not too many patrons had been tending the bar at the time, and nobody wouldn't known or cared who this weird long-haired kiddo was.
 
The man followed Doctor Minerva along the hall. She swept her black hair to the side, making her slight scar on her cheek easier to see. He wondered what had happened, given her bedside manner. She had hit him on the head with a hammer to knock him out…. Or had she? The more he tried to focus and recall, the more the pain threatened to come back, so he just let it be.

“Let’s see if visiting some familiar places will help bring back your memories. We’ll try the Thargoid and see what it brings up. Well, stay away from the food and maybe it’ll just be memories coming back. If you’re feeling adventurous I guess we can always head back for a quick stomach pump.”

The man gave her a quizzical look, but didn’t push it. He had a feeling some backwater stations could serve a killer dish, literally. They approached a flashy sign that read “Thargoid and Fer-De-Lance”. “Shall we?” Minerva asked as she motioned the man inside. He stepped through the door.

His first thought as he passed through the door was the passing of light. Not that light moved past, but that light just seemed to flee from the room. He wasn’t sure if this was intended, but he caught sight of a quick motion skittering across the floor out of sight and figured it was part of the atmosphere. Atmosphere designed to help patrons visually is what atmosphere is all about. If that included keeping you from seeing the bugs, that was a positive, right?

He walked up to the man slowly wiping the bar down with Sven on his nametag. There was a look of instant recognition as he looked up and started with a hearty “Welcome back! Can I get you your usual Mi…” It was at this point Sven’s face contorted as Minerva frantically gestured for Sven to be quiet.

“Excuse me, what was that?” the man replied, “You trailed off there.”

“Nothing?” Sven replied in a questioning inflection as he looked towards Minerva to make sure this was the correct course. He didn’t want to damage his relationship with the good doctor - his bar, or more importantly, his patrons depended on it.

“That was more of a question!” the man complained. “You said something about a usual. I’ll take that. I’m no fool, clearly you know me, even if I don’t know myself. I’m sure the good doctor was hoping I’d have to do more thinking about how I know this place. So far I’m afraid I don’t recall anything Minerva.”

Sven wasn’t sure what to say in this awkward moment, but self preservation won. “It wasn’t my food, was it?”

“Not unless it can put a bump on my head.”

“Well, there was the thorian mudcrabs last month. They were bigger than advertised and put up a fight.” The man shook his head. Sven smiled slightly and disappeared into the kitchen with a “Be right back.” Shortly he presented the ‘usual’ as the daily special and a tea. Today’s special was haggis. The man cut in and took a bite as Minerva looked away from future visions of a full stomach transplant. “Delicious!” he exclaimed. Sven looked at him in surprise. It was a rare compliment heard in the bar. Someone in the back alcove dropped a glass and Sven glared.

The man was remembering something - that he was hungry. He cleaned up everything on the plate and went to take a slip of tea. Tea sprayed across the bar and covered Sven. “Oh yuck, this is horrible. The long haired person two seats down the bar sniggered, but drew Sven’s glare and quickly looked back down into his glass. Sven quickly glanced at the tea packet in the garbage. Nope, date was ok. He breathed a sigh of relief. The jukebox skipped a beat and started crooning “you don’t love me, anymore…” Somewhere, galaxies away, a star went supernova.

Sven looked back to the man in horror. “You don’t like the tea?” The man shook his head “Can you bring me something else. This just isn’t rich enough.” Sven pulled the tea away slightly shaken. Where would he go with all the tea he had stocked up on for Mike? He replaced it with another mug and waited.

The man took a sip and smiled. “Now this is good!” Sven shook his head as he wondered what would be next. From tea to coffee… How could this be? Minerva motioned him further down the bar and he took up a quiet conversation with her as Mike turned to the long haired stranger, which described everyone now in his mind, “Do I know you?”
 
The man stared at the long haired kiddo for some time waiting for an answer, matching stare for stare. Nobody can know what happens in the spaces of time that seem to stretch out like an eternity while watching for something to happen that you expect, but what seems to take longer just because you are watching it. For instance, while an elderly lady was watching for a kettle to boil, the focused area time dilation effect allowed for an entire race of lizard people to evolve and take over an entire continent on a world in a galaxy far away. Had she simply sat down and waited for the whistle the continent would have been safe, and the population would have cured cancer and broadcast it to the universe. Sometimes it’s good to be patient.

Time dilation due to stare isn’t as intense as that caused by willing water to boil with your mind, and so the effects are mostly limited to the quick drying of water from the eyes - that’s why you are forced to blink against your will once you start to force your eyes to stay open. In this case the stares were so intense that other things were affected. The fizz dissipated from the long haired one’s drink and the man’s coffee accelerated into his bladder. Blinking finally the man said “I can’t recall you, but I have memory issues, so that’s not your fault. Keep thinking on it kid, I’m heading to the bathroom.”

“Ok.” the kid replied, taking a sip from the drink on the bar, making a face and spitting it out “Sven, I need another, this one’s gone flat already!”

Closing the bathroom stall door, the man stared at the back of the door as his business transaction concluded. A big poster had been taped up that read “Akashi Repairs! No job too small, unless it’s not worth our time! Come see us to make an appointment and ask about our nearly free laser hue adjustment. Miyako Jenner - Proprietor” Huh, he’d have to go check it out. He couldn’t remember when the Cobra last had a checkup, which meant it probably needed one. Well, unless it was recently, but since he couldn’t remember, it was best to check it out to make sure before heading back out.

One his way back to the bar he passed an older patron. From the way he positioned himself on the shady barstool he figured this was a regular. He was also nursing an empty glass. “Have a drink on me, old timer. Sven, refill here!” The old man looked up while Sven looked to Minerva who nodded and threw some credits across the bar. “Thanks M..” The old man entered a coughing fit and then continued. “My friend.” “No problem.”

I walked up to Minerva. “Let’s go to Akashi Repairs.”

She perked up and asked “Why?”

“Oh, there was a poster in the bathroom. Thought I should make an appointment to get my ship looked at. I’ll get to use it sometime when my memory comes back, right?”

Minerva gave a smile, “That’s the spirit! Ok, let’s go, maybe you’ll find something there to jog your memory.”
 
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Patience was NOT a strong trait here. But since there was always some new adventure to embark upon...or just rest from those chapters of excitement (such as chilling at a low-key bar), there was usually never any significant risk of falling to insanity inflicted by boredom. That all said, hanging out here beat trying to bang away at the emptiness of the digital void. So many great stories to tell, but the audience of none would keep all efforts futile. So, an audience of 1 was better than the audience of 0.

He looked at how his beverage went flat, and had a subtle jolt, not just from the fact that so much time had passed in what felt like only a minute...but because it was strangely nice to not have the bite at the throat such a concoction would usually cause. And with just barely a hint of phosporic acid, the flavor came out surprisingly well.

When the odd stranger came back, he just answered that question. "Commander Golden-Knight, reluctant Admiral, hero of Danger Star, aspiring for Triple Elite..." Then with a comedic beat, said, "And still all-around nobody." But by then the eccentric character had already left to spruce up a Cobra.

All that was left had been a depressed sigh as he just slowly sipped on a refill of soft drink.
 
Frank held his empty glass up to the barman with a look of hope in his eyes. Sven returned the look with an evil stare. He turned to a blackboard behind the bar which had been turned horizontal to accommodate a massive number written on it. With the number of digits it might have been something like the distance to Hutton Orbital in millimetres. Sven scrubbed out the lowest digits to replace them with a smaller number. "That generous donation goes to paying off some of yer tab. Yer still cut off until you can put a dent in...", he gestured at the blackboard and stopped for a second to marvel at the sheer size of the number, "...that!"

"Hey Sven." The old codger held his hand out for the bartender to see the nanostitching across the fingers. "Did I ever tell you the story about when I lost my hand? That wuz years ago; before Garthyre hired you. Minerva did a great job sewing on another one. Pour me a Janx. Get a drink fer yerself. Just put it on my tab. The bar ain't busy. I'll tell you what happened."

Sven had been standing there polishing a glass in his hand, looking at Frank. He continued doing that in the silence which followed; him staring daggers at Frank, and the dishevelled old codger staring back at him hopefully.

With a sigh of self-loathing Sven put down two glasses in front of Frank and filled them with Janx. He brought one of the glasses to his lips "This better be good!"

Frank smiled and took a swig of his drink, "Well...", his grin widened as he emptied his glass. He looked at the stitching on his hand before blankly staring upwards for inspiration on how to begin the tale, and then his head hit the bar. Frank was unconscious
 
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