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Lance and Eskimo: Space Pirates
An Epic Adventure in Four Acts
The Space Port
When she got back from parking the ship, Taluki headed for the bar. She sat down next to a guy with no helmet on, but decided against removing her own helmet. Everyone else seemed to have theirs on... except the redhead behind the bar.
"Well well well, what have we here?" asked the helmetless guy.
"I'm an amazon who can kill people," Taluki introduced.
"Ooh, a feisty one," he joked, winking at the redheaded waitress. The waitress rolled her eyes and leaned over to Taluki. "Just ignore Bristol," she advised. "He's almost as big a fool as his pal, Buff."
"Yes, Buff is a rather dull blade," said the guy, Bristol, stroking a small black goatee. "However I more than amply make up for his lack of... how do you say... savoir faire."
"I'll tell you how you say it. You say it without that goofy French accent," Taluki informed him helpfully.
* * *
Lance, Taluki and Eskimo had paid their bill10 , they left the bar, leaving Ted inside drowning his sorrows in Bloody Brain Blasters, and went exploring about the base.
Taluki wandered off in search of a gym to keep up her trim Amazonian figure, and Lance and Eskimo walked to the repair shop across from the bar. There was no one there. Lance considered stealing a cool hi-tech power tool, but despite their neat-o appearance they were pathetically out of date.
They kept walking, past the docking bay and the credit accounts machine11 , to where a man stood in a shallow hole, surrounded by piles of moondust.
With a shovel12 .
The star setting behind our friends cast their shadows across the man's work. He looked up.
Upon seeing a female member of the species his brain went into Autopilot. "Well hello there. And you are?"
"Who, me?" Eskimo snapped back to awareness, having been too busy gazing in wonder at the shovel to notice the man's words.
Eskimo glanced at Lance. "He's worse than you are."
Lance said nothing. He was too busy giving the man the Evil Eye. 13
Eskimo turned back to the man. "I'm Eskimo Jones, Mighty Dread Pirate Who Hunts People Down and Hurts Them For Sport."
"I'm Buff. Buff's my name. I'm called Buff."
"I--" Eskimo began, but was interrupted.
"But you can call me Buff for short. Just call me Buff."
Eskimo nodded slowly. "I understand. Buff."
"Yeah, Buff. My name is Buff. But my friends call me Buff."
"That's my name."
"Yes. Um, how come you're... digging?"
"I'm looking for an underground space ship."
"I'm looking for an underground space ship."
"I got that. But, why?"
"Because I want to fly it off this rock."
"What makes you think there's an underground space ship?"
"Wiz said so."
"Yeah. He said if I could find space ship parts buried underground, he'd make me a ship. And then I could fly off this rock."
"How do you think an space ship would have got underground? With the amount of atmosphere here, it would have had to have crashed about a thousand years ago to be completely buried from sight. This moon hadn't been discovered thousands of years ago, this whole sector hadn't been discovered thousands of years ago, not to mention that even if a freak ship did get outlandishly lost and crashed on this planet thousands of years ago the amount of deterioration and sandlogging would render the vast majority of the parts to be scavenged completely useless!"
Allow a pause for Buff to look on, lost for words.
Then he smiled. "My name's Buff," he informed her.
"You want to know why they call me that?" Buff asked eagerly. "You want to know why they call me Buff?"
"No," Eskimo replied.
He told her anyway. "Because I'm so Buff." He flexed his muscles gratuitously, putting on a shameless display for Eskimo's benefit (although her reaction was little more than a look of disgust). "Yep, all comes from doing eight hundred push ups a day, I s'pose."
An observer might have fancied seeing Lance's complexion turn slightly more green. However an observer would not have noticed the flames of resentment burning in Lance's eyes, as he was wearing his cool shades.
Eskimo shook her head. "Let's go, Lance."
Lance nodded enthusiastically. "Great idea."
* * *
Meanwhile Taluki had failed to find a gym but had found a very interesting red trapdoor which was locked. There was a slot in the top big enough for a key card, so Taluki guessed you had to have proper identification to enter. She was sure they were hiding the good stuff down there.
She started hunting around for a crowbar.
* * *
"So do you think there's anything worth pillaging here?"
Eskimo shook her head. "The government's obviously not too interested in keeping this base well-equipped."
"Well, yeah, it's in the middle of nowhere."
"Not exactly a key point for invasion, anyway."
For some reason this made Lance and Eskimo laugh uncontrollably. Every time they calmed down they would look at each other and burst out laughing again. When they finally calmed down for good, Eskimo brushed a tear from her eye.
"We are really starved for entertainment," she observed.
* * *
Eskimo's opinion that there was nothing worth pillaging was upheld as they passed the power generator and computer core, where there was just one poor little cadet working frantically. Sitting next to him at a computer console was an enigmatic bicycle wheel14 ; the mystery was cleared up, however, when a single-wheeled bicycle was found a few feet away. This must have been the pathetic cadet's way of preventing anyone from stealing the bicycle, but, as Eskimo pointed out, that wouldn't have been a problem even with the wheel.
Eskimo's opinion (the one that stated that there was nothing worth pillaging) was still upheld as they passed a sloppy line of still-training cadets, led by their armless trainer who introduced them all. There was Pooper Scooper McGee, who was too lazy to walk on his own two feet so he had a giant bucket on wheels to lie in; P.S. McGee's friend the basket case who didn't have feet so he rode in the bucket with P.S.; Jojil, who had a propellor growing out of his head; Borfy, who sat on top of Jojil's head behind the propellor; Greyshirt, the drudge who had to push P.S. McGee's bucket for him in the parade, difficult with no arms and hair growing all over his face; Rambo, who had comical features; Salin, who had a long wooden neck as a result of a head injury; and finally, last but not least Otto, whose head was cubical, and who spoke with a thick accent.
However Eskimo's opinion changed when they reached the crystal field.
They found Fred, the tall marine, guarding it, and they asked him what it was.
"That? That's just the crystal field." He yawned.
"It's where we grow the power crystals to power this whole base," he explained, his words having a peculiar drowsying effect. "The energy from the crystals is harnessed through underground wires which send the energy to the generator where it can be distributed throughout the base through an intricate underground framework of wires and circuitry." His eyelids sagged.
"Aren't you afraid Buff, the man with the shovel, will dig up the wires and block out the flow of energy to certain parts of the base?" Eskimo asked.
"Eh." Fred shrugged.
Eskimo eyed the giant pulsating power crystals hungrily. They stirred up an emotion in her... a raw hunger for all things sparkly that dated back to childhood...
A child sat at the bottom of a huge hollow crystal, surrounded by greenish images of herself. She looked about in confusion. A moment ago she had been waiting for impending and fiery doom... now she was staring at her bewildered reflection, trapped in a green diamond.
She ruled out the possibility that this was the afterlife. When she disappeared from the village, the meteor hadn't yet hit. And she couldn't have fainted. She wasn't the type to faint just because everyone was about to die.
Despite her primitive-village upbringing, she knew that the air would run out soon... then what?
She screamed. The noise bounced off the crystalline walls in an earshattering effect. She covered her ears with her hands, her eyes shut tight, wondering when this hellish noise would end.
When it did finally end her ears were ringing like crazy and she wondered if she would ever hear correctly again. Screaming, she decided, was not the answer.
She sat down as best she could on what could be considered the floor of the hollow diamond, but was actually just the point where the many walls came together. She turned slowly, feeling the cold, smooth walls. She decided to try another experiment. Nothing to lose. She tore a piece of her shirt to cover her fist and punched through the glass wall.
Much to her surprise, it worked. It was amazingly easy.
She tumbled out into a bizarre gravity-devoid area, freefloating among thousands and thousands of colored crystals as far as the eye could see. She wondered if there was a child in each one. She decided to find out.
She figured out how to control her movements in free float, using swimming movements. She thanked Whoever for her upbringing near the ocean and the emphasis on water sports for fun in her village.
She went to a red one, made sure the cloth was secure around her hand and punched through the crystal wall. It was completely hollow, nothing in it. The shattered fragments floated around her, threatening injury. She didn't really mind if she got cut, no big deal, but villager instict kicked in. She could just here her mother scolding her: "You don't know where those crystals have been!" If she ever got back, she didn't want them to be too busy being mad at her to listen to her story. They would think she made it up to cover up the fact that she'd been fighting again. This, she thought, would be a typical thing she'd make up as an alibi. No one ever believed her though. They knew her too well.
She moved to a blue crystal and broke through the wall. It was filled with water, which entered free float in an odd droplet effect. She realized she was thirsty, and thirst won out over caution. She drank as best she could in null-G, and the water didn't seem to have any unpleasant effects.
She moved to a green crystal much like the one she'd arrived in. Maybe only the green ones have people in them, she thought, pulled back her arm, and...
"We've got to get those crystals," Eskimo said to Lance when they were out of earshot of Fred. Not that he'd care much anyway...
"Whoa, whoa, you wanna steal their only power source? They'll all die!" Lance was a lot of things, but murderer wasn't one of them. "I'm a lot of things," Lance added, "but a murderer isn't one of them."
Eskimo blinked, chasing tears out of her eyes. "But they're so... they remind me of..." Suddenly she remembered something else. She stared at Lance. "Don't you remember?"
... the green crystal fragments scattered, and a kid tumbled out of the crystal and entered freefloat.
"Hi," said Eskimo, amazed at the sound of her own voice. This was not her native language, she was sure of it. Yet she understood what she was saying. She hadn't thought about the actual word, just the meaning. She tried saying the greeting in her native language, concentrating on the individual sounds, and she could do that. Then she repeated herself again, thinking only of the meaning. Again the strange language which she hadn't known she knew came out of her mouth.
"Hey," the kid replied casually. It wasn't Eskimo's native language but she understood it. However the other kid seemed surprised. "Hey, what's going on, anyway?" He wasn't just amazed at his words-- he was looking all around, at all the crystals.
"I don't know. There was a meteor coming at my village, and we were all gonna die, then I was here-- well, not here, I was in one of those crystals. But I smashed it and got out here. I think I got it figured out. The green crystals have kids in them, the red ones are empty and the blue ones have water in them." To illustrate, she broke a water crystal and they drank.
"Where are we?" the kid asked when they were done.
"I have no idea. I told you, I was in my village, about to die, then I was here."
The kid nodded. "I was, too. My village was being torched by bandits. They--" he blinked, obviously fighting back tears-- "they were k-killing everyone and burning the village, and then I was there. In the crystal. And it was just my reflection, over and over, and you know what?" The kid had got a grip on himself now, the danger of tears was over.
"What?" Eskimo asked.
"I have really nice eyes."
Eskimo nodded agreement. It wasn't opinion-- it was a fact.
The kid looked around. "I guess we have to figure out how to get out of here. What's in the yellow crystals?"
"I don't know. Let's find out."
They swam over to the yellow crystal. The moment Eskimo punched through the crystal wall, their entire field of vision was filled with blinding light...
Suddenly the sound of static interrupted her thoughts. Eskimo dug a portable comm-link-thing out of her pocket. "Talk to me."
Taluki's voice filled the air. "You guys done scouting out yet? Skippy and Riverboy aren't exactly the most entertaining company around."
"Since when are you onboard the ship?"
"Since I got bored waiting for you two clowns to come back. Come on, guys, there's nothing here. Let's go."
"It's not exactly the most exciting place around," Eskimo acknowledged. "But they have these energy crystals to run the place, and... Taluki, you ever see something and know you just had to have it?"
"Well, that's the way it is with these crystals," Eskimo went on, ignoring the unsatisfactory answer. "I need them."
"But they run the whole base. Without them, everyone here will die, and I don't know about you but I don't want their blood on my hands. Besides," Lance continued, grinning, "that waitress was pretty cute."
"I think the solution is simple," said Taluki. "Load all these moon base guys on the ship, take the crystals, dump off the moon base guys at some port somewhere, swearing 'em to secrecy of course so we have less of a chance of getting caught by the authorities, keep the crystals for yourself and treat us all to ice cream."
"Brilliant!" Eskimo stared off into space, the details of the plan forming in her mind. "Taluki, prepare the guest rooms and get out the extra silverware. We're having company!"
To be continued…
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