Written by Jim Perry

Edited by David Davis

Illustration by nicodrawn

The spaceport’s bar was as inviting as a cold shower. Little effort was put into decorations and even those that were on the wall dated back to before the spaceport was even built. The bar itself was well kept – possibly the only thing within its walls that ever received so much as a wet rag atop its surface.

“Gimme another!” Came the call of the trenchcoat clad purple repton whose hat could cast a shadow for two.

“I think you’ve had quite enough,” came the relaxed, condescending tone of the female repton with flame-red hair, dressed in high heels and a matching red number that had attracted quite a few eyes from the bar’s normal patrons, visitors, and staff alike.

The purple scaled repton glared back at his would-be nagger. “You don’t get to tell me what to do, Crystal.” The woman frowned at her drunken compatriot.

“Listen here, Buster! I could be with any guy here, doing anything and instead, I’m stuck with you.” She said with a chilled glare as Buster frowned at her and waved his arms at the barflies.

“Then go ahead! Take yer pick! I ain’t gonna stop you! Not anymore! This repton is off the hook!”

With the sudden outburst, Buster downed his shot of Ionfire and stormed out of the bar, leaving his over-dressed femme companion alone.

With a sigh, Crystal sat herself at the bar and crossed her arms atop the bar counter.  Minutes passed as the bartender watched her quietly before offering her something.

“On the house. Didn’t know the little purple guy couldn’t hold his liquor.” The bartender said as Crystal ran her index finger in a lazy circle in front of her.

“It’s not your fault. Buster’s a loser. Never really got anywhere in life.” She said in dismay as she looked down at her dress and bit her bottom lip.

“Just like me!” She exclaimed before she bursted into tears and buried her head into her arms. The bartender took a second to console the woman with two pats on the wrist before turning to his other patrons, in hopes of dealing with someone less volatile.

There was a voice that came to Crystal’s side, asking “S’matter, sweety?”

A larger, grey repton bellied up to the bar. He was larger than Buster in both height and girth as his weight class far surpassed that of the hat-clad purple repton.

Crystal glanced at the man who was trying to console her. Atop his head was a captain’s hat and within his inner breast pocket, she spied an entry pad for a cargo manifest. There was a hesitant pause as she glanced at the overweight Repton before finally she stifled a sob and straightened herself on the barstool. She tugged at the dress which had rode up her form a bit too much, wiggling for emphasis as she did so.

“It’s nothing,” she said as she used her wrist to wipe at the tears that had run down her cheeks. The larger repton adjusted his position and leaned himself on the bar counter. He put a boot-clad foot on the foot-bar. The boot was polished with silver adornments. It was hideous.

“Sweet little thing like you cryin’ in her arms? That ain’t right,” the captain said as Crystal sniffled once and cleared her throat.

“It’s what I deserve,” she said painstakingly before taking the drink before her and kicking it back in one gulp.  The captain’s eyes widened at the gesture, but as she slowly put the glass down, his expression returned to a softer one.

“Nah. I seen little Reptons like that before. All gums, no teeth,” he said with a smile before extending his forearm to her.

“My name’s Burman, Captain Burman.”  

Crystal glanced down at the arm and took it firmly at the elbow, as he took hers. They shook it once before she gave a weak smile.

“Crystal – You said ‘captain’?” The repton in the red dress, yet again, smoothed out some of the fabric as to ensure that she was on the best display for her new acquaintance. Captain Burman gave a smile as he adjusted his hat for the lady to see it better.

His tone was mockingly skeptical, “You ain’t ever seen a captain in the starport?”

Crystal sniffled and wiped her nose gingerly with a napkin.

“Buster only comes out here t’gamble. He told me he was gonna stop, but I caught him. Blew all the money I made at… the club.” She said, her eyes darting away from Burman as she obviously felt uncomfortable speaking about her employment.

“Girl like you in a dress like that?” Burman scoffed with a wink, “I’m guessing you work at the Ridged Tail, lookin’ pretty up on that stage…”

Crystal’s eyes widened. “How did you know?” She asked quietly before looking around, worried by the chance that her day job might become known to some of the patrons.

“Friend o’ mine runs the place. Helped him get it off the ground, so to speak.”  Burman seemed more proud of this accomplishment than he should have been.

“Wow. You’re the real deal!” Retorted Crystal as the captain shrugged at the compliment.  Crystal scoffed and looked away. “Not like that no-good for nothin’ Buster.”

“Hey now, let’s not talk about that ‘loser.’ Hows about you and I talk about how we can make you a winner?” Burman said. Crystal smiled and turned her head away while still watching the older Repton.

Burman stepped out of the bar with Crystal under his arm. His large frame dwarfed her tiny form. The two were laughing together as they walked down the street from the bar. The acrid smell of fuel and starship fluids filled the air and few stars could be seen in the sky from all the lights in the area. Crystal glanced up and tapped her new suitor on the chest.

“Let’s take a shortcut to a motel,” she said as she motioned down the alleyway. Burman glanced down the alleyway and looked down at the little lady in his arms with reticence.

“H-how about my sh-ship? I have quite the captain’s cabin. S’just a few blocksh. We could jusht walk and… get t’know one another a little better?”

Crystal bit her lip and slid away from Burman. A playful smile crossed her face as she turned around slowly and walked into the gloom of the alleyway, her hands untying the strap in her back as her frame disappeared into the shadows.

“Ohhh, a dirty girl… Daddy likey.” Burman looked down street before slapping his hands together and rubbing them in anticipatory glee.

The Captain walked into the darkness, finding his prize leaned against the wall with a coy glint in her eyes. He moved forward to catch her in his embrace, but before he could reach his goal, the sudden sensation of plastisteel on the back of his head and the loss of consciousness overtook him.

“Ugh. About time,” Crystal said, with a disgusted look on her face as she pulled off the wig, revealing herself to be none other than Illyana Mordon – strategist and first mate of the Thruster Spear’s crew. Well, more to the point, the former Thruster Spear. Even more towards the point… the Thruster Spear, Mark 2.

“If I had to take one more leer of that oversized beer-barrel, I think I would have gagged,” she stated to the Blassnaught figure who stepped out from the shadows. Brik used his foot to roll the captain onto his back.

Taking no time for a breath, Illyana knelt down and dug her hands through her mark’s pockets. With practiced fingers, she extracted his mobile, docking papers and cargo manifest.

“Quell,” she called out to the dark before tossing the mobile into the shadows. Three tentacles reached out from the darkness to snatch the item in mid-air. He tossed the mobile between various limbs throughout his ambulation out of the shadows, finally catching it between his two longest-primary tentacles. The tentachild’s furious typing could be heard as Illyana stood up to look at the rest of the crew.

“I need to get out of these heels. They’re killing me.”

The bridge of the newly acquired ship was kept, but only in a cursory way. Day old cups of coffee lay strewn about the trash disposal and the instruments looked about four generations back, but a ship was a ship.

Seated on the oversized captain’s chair, Vid Seng grinned in a machiavellian way as his fingers were steepled below the brim of what was formerly Burman’s hat. To his side was Illyana – little red dress lacking and more disgruntled than ever.

“I told you it would work!” Vid said with glee.

Illyana shook her head. “I told you it would work, Vid.”

The reptons glared at each other, but their unheard argument was cut short by Miria who glanced back at the two from the helm.

“Where did you get that wig and dress, Illyana?”  She asked as she dropped yet another discarded ration bar wrapper into the large trash bag she had half-filled already.

Illyana’s cheeks turned red, as did Vid’s. The two glanced at each other silently before both of them yelped out the first thing that came to mind.

“Stole it!” Illyana said with her hands on her hips.

“Found it!” Vid said, one finger raised in the air as if to supercede the conversation before quickly correcting his version of the story to match Illyana. Vid smiled nervously and Illyana couldn’t help but facepalm at his flub. He flicked the brim of the hat upwards.

The door of the bridge opened and Brik wandered in, dusting his hands off ceremoniously as he looked at the awkward silence on the bridge with a raised eye ridge.

“Brik! Good! You’re here! All done?” Vid flailed about in his chair, forcefully trying to swivel it to turn and view Brik, but only managing to get it to rotate a little. He adjusted the new hat.

“All done, boss.” Brik said before spying a half-eaten ration bar, smiling and popping it into his mouth, much to the disgust of the crew.

“Still don’t see why we couldn’t have killed ‘em,” Quell complained. “Why leave witnesses?”

Miria wrinkled her snout. “That’s your solution to everything… ‘just kill ‘em’.”

Quell gave a faux-salute. “You know it, baby.”

Miria grabbed a crumpled wrapper and chucked it at Quell, nailing him square in his eye. He flinched. “Fark!”

“All in all, not a bad ship.” Illyana quipped as she examined the weapons layout, her hands tracing over the targeting system and energy readouts. “Turns out they already modded a few guns into this thing. I bet they were into some ‘less than legal’ stuff.”

Brik was still chewing stale rations, but he let out a muffled “Score!”

“We’re finally back on track!” Vid proclaimed as he forced his seat back to the front-facing position.

“The Thruster Spear Mark 3, everyone! Breathe it in!”  Not a single member of the present crew complied with the statement. Moreover, they all seemed to be holding their breath a little bit.

“Right. We’ll clean it up and then we can bask in our victory. For now, Miria, set course for Teslovia!” Vid exclaimed as he adjusted his new captain’s hat, yet again. He finally gave up and put on his reliable, previous hat.

“Aye-aye.” Miria stated as she flicked a few switches and started up the ship’s engines. The hum of the drive kicked in and the ship took off, disappearing into the sky with a roar.

The sound of a ship taking off woke Burman from his slumber in the alleyway. He peered around as he cradled his throbbing skull before picking himself up. Lumbering his way to the lowdocks, Burman walked to the spot where he had last parked his ship, only to find his crew tied up and struggling.  

They were trying to shout cusses or some form of insult, but their bound mouths muffled too much of the sound for the ex-captain to make out, and frankly he didn’t care at the moment.

Shuffling his weight to look skyward and follow the trail of disappearing condensation in the sky, Burman wrinkled his brow in confusion to what had just happened.