Hard Ticket to Zaladon IV
The escape pod tumbled through space.
Here’s the thing about space pirates: They’re not an especially fastidious lot. They tend to keep their ship operational, but not necessarily in peak condition. Quite a bit of attention is paid to the guns and the armory, since pirates generally enjoy blasting things, but other systems often take a back seat to plundering, making plans to plunder, thinking about what to do with all their hypothetical plunder, and booty.
Booty here meaning butts, and sex, and sex with butts.
So to say that the escape pod was not well-maintained is an understatement. Most of the pirates forgot it even existed and those that did remember it knew that it could only hold two. Three if one of them was a Kwadillian, since they tend to be a fairly small race, but the last Kwadillian on this particular pirate ship had died two years ago after being used by a rampaging Gug as a melee weapon in a particularly nasty brawl, so really two was the accepted number. And because the captain had the key to the escape pod everyone knew he’d be one of the two, and really it just seemed too damn hard to attempt to stay in the captain’s favor when he could be killed at any time. It was much easier to just ignore the escape pod maintenance in general and accept being killed in the cold reaches of space.
Which, coincidentally enough, is what happened to most of the crew of this particular pirate ship.
Still, there is little doubt that Covalent Blonde and Princess Tasmin would have appreciated if the pirates had made an occasional maintenance check just to make certain that the pod, which they were at the moment rolling around in like hamsters in an out-of-control ball, had functional retro rockets to keep them from crashing into Zaladon IV at several hundred miles per hour.
Inside the pod, Covalent Blonde still held Gug’s massive arm. Both she and Princess Tasmin were sprayed with dark blood from the severed appendage, which flopped to and fro as they fell toward Zaladon IV.
“Get rid of that thing,” the princess demanded, holding up her still-manacled hands in a futile attempt to ward off the blood spray.
“Right,” replied Covalent Blonde. “What do you want me to do? Open the door and toss it out into space?”
The escape pod rocked as a single retro-rocket finally ignited, sending the craft spinning in a circle as it sped toward Zaladon IV. It was like a tumble dryer set on high, as the women rolled around inside. Covalent Blonde crashed against the wall and lost her grip on Gug’s arm. It spun across the pod, spattering blood everywhere. A ribbon of blood splashed the princess in the face and she made a sputtering sound.
“Gross!” she cried. “This is disgusting!”
“Yeah, right,” said Covalent Blonde as she got hold of the pod’s single bench. “I’m sure you’ve had worse things all over you.”
With an angry cry, Princess Tasmin grabbed Gug’s arm with both hands and launched herself across the pod at Covalent Blonde. The pod shifted mid-leap, however, and the princess inadvertently somersaulted. Her single garment, a white shift, fell over her head leaving the princess a blood-spattered tangle of light green limbs, bouncing boobies and flowing dark green hair as she bounced unceremoniously off of the wall above Covalent Blonde. Bouncing once off of the floor, she ricocheted off the ceiling and was heading for the opposite wall again when Covalent Blonde took pity on the princess and grabbed Gug’s arm. Her momentum stopped, Princess Tasmin landed on the floor with an indignant squeak. Letting go of the arm, she pulled down the shift and brushed matted hair out of her face.
“I didn’t ask for company, you know,” said the princess pointedly. “I was escaping just fine on my own.”
In response, Covalent Blonde jabbed Gug’s arm at Tasmin. A dead finger bonked the princess in the middle of her forehead. She started to protest, but Covalent Blonde jabbed her with the arm again.
“Shut up,” Covalent Blonde said, shaking the arm threateningly. “One more word and I’m gonna bitch-slap you with this thing.”
The princess opened her mouth to protest, but Covalent Blonde raised an eyebrow and pulled Gug’s arm back, readying it for a swing. Wisely, the princess closed her mouth again. She glared at Covalent Blonde poutily.
“And another thing,” said Covalent Blonde, pointing at the princess with Gug’s arm. “Wear some damn underwear, girl!”
Zixtik, the king of the crabmen, was enjoying his stay on Zaladon IV. He had not had a vacation since he had become the king several years ago. Truthfully, he had never had one before that time, either. Crabmen tended to live their entire lives on their home planet of Ksskyrr, which was full of warm, salty seas and sandy beaches. They rarely ventured off of it as crabmen were not by nature an intrepid lot. But sitting by the massive pool under the pleasant sun of Zaladon IV, Zixtik had to admit that he was having a good time.
If there was any irony in Zixtik leaving his world to sit by a heated saltwater pool at a secluded resort in the middle of a desert, he didn’t notice it. Besides, Zixtik was catered to here. On Ksskyrr he might be a king, but being a crabman king was a pretty thankless job. It was mostly listening to grievances and organizing the occasional raid on the giant clams who also populated the planet.
The raids were generally lackluster since the clams merely closed their shells and ignored the crabmen’s attacks, but tradition was tradition.
Zixtik drained his glass of purple alcoholic liquid and gestured at the blue-skinned waitress with his pincer. Smiling, she walked over and took his empty glass.
“That was delightful,” said Zixtik. His native language, which consisted primarily of clicking sounds, was rendered into Intergalactic Standard by the translator that the resort manager had affixed to his chest-shell when he arrived. Zixtik had spent the first day of his stay just uttering random crabman phrases and being amused by the sounds the translator made.
“I’m so glad,” the blue girl said. “Would you like another?”
Zixtik considered. He was not a heavy drinker, but then again, he was on vacation.
“Maybe something with slightly more…kick?”
The waitress smiled and gave Zixtik a knowing nod.
“I know just the thing,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”
Zixtik waved a pink pincer at her as she walked off, then reclined back in his chair. It was good to be a king.
The waitress went back inside the bar. The resort was fairly quiet this time of day, as most of the guests didn’t wake up until the early afternoon. Which is exactly what she had been counting on.
The waitress went behind the bar and mixed a fruity, icy drink for King Zixtik. She poured in some Deluvian ale, added a shot of Vapidian brandy, and then detached her left pinky finger. Tipping the finger up, she poured a milky liquid from it into the glass, then used the artificial digit to stir the drink. Satisfied that the poison was well-stirred, she reattached the finger, put the drink on the tray, and walked back out to the pool with a smile. She was mere yards away when a shadow fell over the crabman king. They both looked up to see a ship’s escape pod rocketing down. It was heading directly for King Zixtik.
The king had a brief moment of surprise.
“Oh, dear,” he said.
The waitress (who was really an assassin) realized with no small amount of satisfaction that she was going to get paid without even having to carry out the job, because the king was about to get squished like a bug.
Just twenty feet from the ground, the second retro-rocket finally sputtered to life. It shot out a streak of flame and the escape pod spun an unlikely ninety degrees, arcing away from King Zixtik and directly toward his would-be assassin.
“Oh, shit,” she said, right before the escape pod smashed into her.
The king watched as the the blue woman disappeared beneath the pod, then shuddered at the intensity of the crash. He ran over to the crashed pod, pincers clacking with anxiety. Zixtik ran right by a drink glass, which rolled out from under the escape pod and left an acidic, smoking trail the whole way.
Covalent Blonde forced open the hatch and saw the approaching crabman.
“Keep your pincers where I can see ’em,” she said. “You’re not the first crabman I’ve ever met.”
“Are you all right?” the king asked. She was covered in dark blood, but he couldn’t see any sign of an injury.
“We’re fine,” Covalent Blonde replied as she exited the escape pod. “I’ve had bumpier rides.”
“Well I haven’t,” complained Princess Tasmin as she forced her way past Covalent Blonde. Like the other woman she was covered in blood, but also seemed to be uninjured.
“This is terrible,” said Zixtik. “You squashed my waitress!”
Covalent Blonde glanced toward the escape pod. It did look like someone was under there.
“Yeah, I don’t think she’s gonna make it,” she said. She looked over towards Princess Tasmin, who was at the pool’s edge and trying to wash off Gug’s blood.
Then she heard the creak. The escape pod moved, just a little. Covalent Blonde backed away a step. The pod moved again. It rolled back as a figure stood up from underneath it. Blue skin hung in tatters off of a shiny metallic skeleton. The assassin (who was really a cyborg assassin) had glowing blue eyes, and she turned them toward King Zixtik.
“All right, she said. “We’ll just do this the hard way.”