Station Games (A Pod and Planet Story)

 The Pod and Planet contest  is beginning to heat up. Below is a rousing tale of what happens when a would be capsuleer drinks matari liquor with…well… I don’t want to spoil too much. Just know that it is a true story, and it all happened just 23,330 years from today…

“So, tell the story again, he hasn’t heard it yet!”

I shake my head, denying the request, and look around the room. The X-Sense Bar is alive with all of the scum of Low Security Space. Pirates, Back alley traders, general miscreants, and a wing from the Aideron Robotics Corporation.  Two tables down, a squad from the Federal Defense Union (FDU) plinks quarters of ISK into a shot glass.

“I don’t want to tell it.” I state flatly, taking a sip from my glass.

“ C’mon, Ski, what  have you got to  lose.”

“My dignity…again.”

As my party continues to berate me, I notice in true pessimistic fashion, that my glass is now half empty.

“Buy me another drink.” I demand.

“Will you tell the story then?”

“Maybe.”

I see some brows begin to furrow. I get the hint.

“Ok.” I cave too quickly. “Make it something other than that bottom shelf Matari sludge, and you’ve got yourself a story”

Nothing but smiling faces surround me, all eagerly awaiting just one more shameful tale of my life. My full glass of… Matari… spirits, arrives.

“I said no sludge.”

“That’s all they have. “ My friend says, grinning. “The pirates already bought the entire top shelf.”

“Well isn’t that about right.” I say, taking a sip. I gag.  “This will have to do then… “

I rest the Matari concoction on the table and lean back in the hazardously cobbled-together bar chair.

“This slurry of a drink reminds of a vital lesson I learned… about fifteen years ago.” I look around the table, sizing up my audience.

“What lesson is that, ski?”

“The lesson is,” I pause overdramatically. “Never drink warm Matari Spirits, and never, under any circumstances, trust a Matari woman…”

*******************************************************************

I check another Identification tag.

Pierre. F.  Federal Defense Union. Lt. Commander. 89721-T.

“Welcome to the Jolly Drone Sir, have a safe night”

I watch as the Capsuleer reclaims his Identification Tag and disappears into the animated crowd. It’s ladies night at the Jolly Drone Bar and a generally good night to be a bouncer.

“Can you say something else? I hear that same line, every night, over and over again.” Jesse, a tiny Matari girl, Cashier, and the second part of “The Drone” entryway operation, starts the banter later than expected.

“Yes dear.”

“I’m not your dear. It’s just that I have been working across from you for a month now, and I would like to hear a new welcome line. I know you have it in that cave-man skull of yours.”

Another Capsuleer walks through the entryway and hands me his I.D.

Jones. I. Federation Navy Customs Sergeant. 40012-P.

“Welcome to the Jolly Drone Sir, have a safe night.”

I grin at Jesse. She groans and accepts the patrons entrance fee. There is a loud buzz as the doorway to the bar swings open. The Capsuleer stumbles through.

“When do you get off tonight?” I query.

Another patron hands me their ID.

Mittani. T.  Interbus sanitation engineer. 27889-F.

I pitch my usual welcome line and look at Jesse. My eyes attempt to coax an answer from her.

“In a half an hour.” She says, “And I know you get off at the same time. The answer is no.”

I pretend not to hear the last part.

“No. I will not be going on a date with you.”

“That’s presumptuous.” I reply, “I’m just going to grab a few drinks at the Bar, then take a shuttle to Old Man Star.”

She looks horrified. “But those are my plans!”

“Well then, a date it is.” I grin and take another ID. She stares at me, mouth agape.

*******************************************************************

 “Wait a second. That guy was a janitor?”

I shrug, ignoring the question, and motion to my friends that my glass is empty again.  The noxious spirits are poured and I take a healthy gulp.  A pirate, a few seats over, sings a moving rendition of “The Scolding Wife”.  He bows to raucous applause and quickly loses his attention as one of the Bar call girls tempts him from his soap box.

“So what happened with the girl?”

I shrug again, take a swig of the drink, and continue the story.

*******************************************************************

The bartender is a ginger. A red head. His name, or rather what we call him, is Opie. He is a friend and he is also trying to kill me again.

From my bar stool, I motion to Opie that I am done for the night. Jesse, sitting beside me, does not like this.

“You Gallanteans are all the same.” She snorts.  Opie grins.

“What is that supposed to mean?” I don’t think I am slurring my words…yet.

“It means…” She flirts “That you cannot hold your spirits.”

My pride is wounded, however, the liquor is making it too difficult to form a proper retort.  I am definitely slurring my words. Opie sees this, and steps in on my behalf. He grabs a microphone.

“Ladies and gentlemen, a challenge has been issued.” A crowd begins to form around us.

“A drinking contest, between our resident bouncer, Ski, and the Drone’s very own cashier, Jesse!” The crowd grows even larger.

I see ISK begin to exchange hands as Opie lines up twenty-five modern Gallantean shot glasses.

“The rules are simple, there are twelve doubles for you.” He points at me. “And twelve for you.” He points at Jesse. “First one to the center glass, wins.”

More ISK exchanges hands; I feel slaps of encouragement on my back when I see a hairy paw wrench the microphone away from the Bartender.

Allons, or Al for short, is the Jolly Drones other Bouncer. He puts the microphone up to a thickly bearded mouth.

“We have the contest, we have the contestants, we even have the odds… but what… is the prize?”

The crowd roars. I hear suggestions about mutilation and scarification. One persons suggests flowers and is quickly quieted. Al hushes the crowd. In the silence, I recall that AL owns a small tattoo parlor next door; I instantly know what is coming.

“Winner chooses the loser’s tattoo.”

I groan and Jesse claps her hands together in excitement. I attempt to raise a hand in protest but am quickly stifled. To my horror, Opie has filled twenty-five double shot glasses to the brim with the nastiest rot-gut Matari beverage on the bottom shelf. I am in trouble.

Al gives the microphone back to the Bartender. Again, a hush falls over the crowd.

“Three. Two. One…GO!”

We both reach for the first drink.

*******************************************************************

“You were already drunk right?”

“Of course I was, I get more inebriated every time I tell this story.” I say wryly.

“It’s true. The last time he told this story, there were only nineteen shot glasses.”

“Speaking of glasses.” I glance at my cup and it is instantly filled. Magic.

“Where was I… Ahh yes…”

*******************************************************************

The lights feel intense. I hear laughter, screams and whoops. I look at the playing field before me and see four glasses. Jesse is writhing on her stool, head slumped onto her forearms. She has one glass left, I have two, and the middle glass lays between us.

I reach for my shot. With shaky fingers I slowly raise the grog to my lips. No matter how much I try, the drink won’t enter my mouth.

“I can’t…do… this”

Jesse lifts her head up and reaches for her glass. I try to lull her back to sleep, but can only muster slurred speech and groaning.

Jesse cocks her head back, and the amber liquid in the shot glass disappears.  Finding the motivation I need, I quickly down the pen-ultimate shot.

“Two left, darling, I don’t think you have it in y…”

My brain doesn’t comprehend what I see. Jesse, the tiny cashier, grabs the winning shot glass, and my own, and drinks them both.

Jesse had won the drinking contest.

I am slowly fading in and out of consciousness, but I am thankful for my inability to comprehend the humiliation.  I feel a hand with a vice like grip, grab my shoulder.

Too inebriated to protest and continuing to fade in and out, I submit to the crowd dragging me. I see Jesse smiling at me. I think I love her.  I catch glimpses of the crowd following, grabbing, pushing me, my feet dragging around a corner, the crowd laughing and pointing. I squint my eyes and think I see Al prepping his Tattoo Tools.

Jesse’s beautiful… and… evil face fades in and out of view. I think I hate her.

“Stand him up, and bring him over here.”

A sea of hands hoist me off of the floor. I stumble over to the bearded bouncer and tattoo artist. He pushes a button and a table protrudes from the floor.

“Drop’em”

Because I am incapable of saying no, or because I am just too curious, I do as he commands.

I feel an enormous wave of laughter and shouts wash over me from the crowd. I turn around and wave to an adoring audience.

“What’s it going to be, ski?” I look over my shoulder at Al. I see a big grin of white teeth beneath his gnarly black beard but before I can answer, the world begins to spin violently. To the sound of guttural, distorted laughter, I black out.

*******************************************************************

“The next morning, I wake up…”

“Arr, what do ya mean the next morning?”

I notice that the pirates have joined our group, as well as the Federal Defense Union boys. Considering I do not want to get stabbed, I decide to tread carefully.

“I blacked out. The time period between the tattoo and the next morning, would only be pure speculation.”

“Arr.” Is the only response.

“Pirates…” I say under my breath.  “ Are you singing pirates, or stabbing pirates?”

“Arrr, we be singing pirates!”

A pirate breaks out into a song.

“Nothing like this pirate life,

Stabbing people with my pirate knife!”

Strangely impressed by the pirates ability to come together in a chorus, I gulp, and continue the story.

*******************************************************************

The next morning I awake with a start. I feel a violent pounding in my head as I search for clues as to where I am. Recognizing the underwear on the floor, and the ugly posters on the wall, I am in my quarters. I don’t understand how I arrived in Old Man Star, or more importantly, who had tucked me in. Or where the rest of my clothing is. Or why my head hurts.

Slowly, the memory of the drinking contests floods my brain pan.

“Oh yeah… that” I say to myself as I roll out of bed and begin a long trudge to the quarters shower facility. I don’t know it, but the bed sheet is following me into the shower. I send the signal from brain to hand in hopes of ceasing the sheets’ pursuit, however, I am not holding the bed sheet with my hands. Perplexed, I detach the cloth from my body and step into the shower.

The water feels good as it hits my face; a natural headache remedy. I am in a state of relief when I turn around and let the water hit my back. The water trickles down…

I immediately leap forward and let out a shriek that shakes the very foundation of the Old Man Star Station. I look down where the water is sending shooting pain through my body, and see something that should not be there.

To my horror, I realize I am the proud bearer of a tattoo of “I love mining” on my left butt cheek.

 

*******************************************************************

 

The original crew is laughing hysterically. One of the FDU rookies vomits. Another privateer falls out of his stool. An old, grizzled pirate nods his head in understanding. All of them request to see it.

I take one last gulp of spirits and stand up.

“My only consolation, is that I don’t ever have to look at it…” I say unbuckling my pants.

To the sounds of laughter at my own expense, I drop my pants… and show them.

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