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Old Oct 8, 2006, 03:41 PM   #1
Splendiferous
Old One Pikeman
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3,132 flights since Mar 2002
Location: Dreaming in plush R'lyeh
Splend's Scribblings

Just a thread for me to dump anything I write/have written, so I can go over it and rewrite it if needs be, or just look at it and go 'Look, I wrote that!' - nobody has to (re)/read these if they don't want to, nor would I reccomend doing so

First story : Confessions of an Infinitely Prolonged Insulter - a H2G2/Predator crossover

Dutch Schaefer crouched in the undergrowth of the jungle. He was not happy. A strange creature had hunted down and murdered his squad. He was covered in foul-smelling mud that seemed to hide him from the Thing. He had just spent several hours putting up traps in the jungle to catch the Thing, or at least slow it down – and he now had at least five splinters in every finger.

And now he was crouching in the undergrowth, waiting. And just where the f**k was that Thing anyway? A man could die of pneumonia covered in cold mud like this. Still, it would be worth it to see the look on It’s face when that tree trunk came down and – except no, wait, the creature was wearing some kind of mask, so Dutch would be denied even this small satisfaction. Well, f**k.

Suddenly, a movement in the sky caught Dutch’s attention. He craned his neck to see what had caused the movement, and was surprised by what he saw. A long silver ship was descending quietly and gracefully, sprouting long legs to perch upon as it landed.

“What the f…?” he whispered in awe. Was this the Thing’s ship? Did It come from outer space?

A ramp extended itself slowly from the ship. Light streamed out of the open hatchway, and a tall alien figure was silhouetted in the hatchway.

The alien walked down the ramp with the stately air of one who knows one’s job and knows it well. A glance around the immediate surroundings was enough to assure the alien that this was indeed Dutch Schaefer’s location. It spotted him in seconds and started to stalk toward him.

Dutch was paralysed – not with fear, but with confusion. ANOTHER Thing? This one was totally different to Dutch’s hunter. It was about the same height, but had a flattened head and slitty eyes. It wore golden robes that nicely complemented its pale grey-green skin.

Dutch boggled at it.

The alien, whose name was Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged, consulted its clipboard.

“Are you Dutch Schaefer?” it rasped. Dutch nodded mutely, and shook his head to clear his muddled thoughts.

“Uhhh … yea,” he said. The alien nodded efficiently.

“You’re a jerk, Schaefer,” it said, “a complete *******.”

Dutch stared in shock. Was this really happening? Had he just been insulted by E.T.’s ruder older brother?

Wowbagger nodded again, and ticked something off on his clipboard. Then he turned around and stalked toward his ship. He didn’t get very far before Dutch, with a furious battle cry, slammed into him. Gosh, but these Earth-creatures have bad tempers, he thought, can’t they stand criticism?

Dutch slammed his fists into Wowbagger’s face and body over and over as he sat on his alien chest, pinning him to the ground. Wowbagger didn’t really mind. It hurt like hell, but he couldn’t exactly die could he? This was the source of his bitterness, the reason he made it his job to insult every living creature – in alphabetical order.

After some time, and a thoroughly good beating, Dutch rolled over, exhausted. All those traps, all those punches – they had taken their toll. Wowbagger simply stood up, dusted himself down, and hobbled back to his ship. He paused at the doorway, turned round.

“Fag!” he shouted to Dutch, adjusted his clipboard appropriately, and entered the ship, which took off slowly and gracefully.

Dutch sat up. At least that was taken care of, he thought, as he looked down at himself. He noted that most of the mud had slipped off his body during his ass-kicking session with Wowbagger. What had the mud been for again? And what were those three little red dots on his chest?

“Oh F – ”

BANG
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Old Oct 8, 2006, 03:48 PM   #2
Splendiferous
Old One Pikeman
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3,132 flights since Mar 2002
Location: Dreaming in plush R'lyeh
Re: Splend's Scribblings

Second story : Who Knocks Without?. I like this one a lot, though I say so myself Ending's a bit silly, though. - Now rewritten, slightly longer, slightly better


The old man sat in the run-down shack, nursing his lobol-weed tea, and cursing the bitter cold wind outside. It was hard enough for him to pry his living from the ground at the best of times, let alone with this wind and the incessant downpours. He'd lived in this shack for the past 50 years, had buried two sons and his wife in his own garden, had seen his neighbours disappear one by one, victims of hunger, of frustration, of apathy. He had been alone for the last 5 years, his little shack like an island surrounded by his ailing crops. He winced as something banged against his roof, blown by the wind. Probably one of his chickens, escaped from the pen and picked up by the gales. Well, damn.

There was a crash of thunder, followed by a crack of lightning, which the old man found odd, but strange things often happened in this field. Like survivial. A very strange thing, it crops up everywhere, survival - especially odd when it happens to an old man, on his own, farming for his life. Odd. Like the ground shuddering momentarily. Like the pounding footsteps. Like the banging at the door.

The old man sighed, and wearily stood. His joints cracked painfully, but he paid them no mind - they did that a lot recently. It's the price we pay for a long, relatively happy life, and it was a price he was content to pay. His body may be failing him, but he still had his mind, his memories. Supporting himself with an old wooden cane, he hobbled to the door, fumbled with the bolt - and stopped. Can never be too careful. He called out weakly into the howling darkness of the unseen outside world.

"Who's there?"

There was a muffled reply. The old man sighed and shrugged. 'Que cera cera,' he thought, finding some small comfort in the old old saying. He could vaguely remember his mother saying that to him, oh so many years ago. With a wistful smile, he slid back the bolt and admitted entrance to his visitor.


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


It was cold on the ship, but Captain Harris didn't notice. He was too busy trying to stop his blood, his life, from seeping through the gaping wound in his chest. It wasn't particularly deep, or close to a lung, the heart, or any particular major organ, but that didn't stop it from hurting like hell. He staggered down the corridor, clutching a sodden rag to his injury. All around him, red and yellow lights flashed, and klaxxons blared. The ship's computer was simply doing it's job, informing the crew of an escaped cargo, a breached hull. Being a computer, it didn't realise that there was no crew left to take notice. Only Captain Harris was left. Out of fifty men and women, there was only one survivor. Commander Harris swore under his breath as he lurched down the corridor, his feet occasionally slipping in puddles of stuff he dared not look down at. One doesn't like to think of stepping in the remains of one's crew.

'When I get the ... thing ... that did this ...' he thought - but there was no time for thinking. He'd reached the breach.

There was a huge gash in the hull of the ship, made where the creature had left. It was as if the creature had taken hold of the ship's walls and torn them apart like tissue-paper. The strength of the thing ... Harris stood in awe of the sheer brutality of it. The creature was clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Captain Harris took a deep breath, and jumped through the hole.

Immediately, he hit the ground, his feet sinking into the sodden mud up to the ankles. Rain drops plummeted around him, smashing into the ground like miniature warheads. This was a planet that took it's rain seriously. And here he was without an umbrella. Go figure.

The first thing he noticed were the footprints. Well, that's not entirely true. The first thing he noticed was the blinding rain, and the second thing he noticed was the run-down old shack not far away. But the third thing? The third thing he noticed was the set of - huge, misshapen, ALIEN - footprints leading towards the shack. Squaring his shoulders and wincing in pain, he trudged in their wake. It was hard going, and the mud slowed him down to a crawl. His quarry had feet shaped something similar to a camel's foot, allowing it to keep it's footing without being slowed down too much by the cloying mud. Captain Harris did not have the benefit of that luxury. He lost a boot, but didn't notice. The prints ended at the door of the shack. Harris feared the worst.

Arriving at the door, he considered his choices. He could knock, politely ask to come in, sit and share a cup of tea with the inhabitants and ask if they'd happened to see a hideouis slavering creature covered in slime and blood and gore and could they point him in it's direction please? Alternatively, he could kick down the door, or smash through a window. Of course, if nothing was amiss inside, he'd look a bit silly, lunging through a window. Common sense prevailed, and he began to bang on the door.

"Let me in! Let me in!"

There was a sound of movement, and odd grunt, some shuffling. He tensed, cold and wet and afraid. Then, a voice called weakly from within.

"Who's there?"

"Captain Harris, Spacecorps! Let me in! It's a matter of life and death!"

There was some more shuffling, and the sound of a bolt being driven back. The door swung slowly open, revealing a wizened old man inside. The old man smiled nervously, and beckoned Harris inside.

Harris stepped in, shaking himself like a dog. It caused shooting pains in his ribs, but at least he was slightly less damp. He looked around in growing amazement. How could the old man live in such squalid surroundings? The place looked like a bar after a particularly impressive brawl. There was a chair - smashed. A table - destroyed. Books - all over the floor. A lump of rags in the corner - bleeding.

Bleeding? That's not right, surely?

There was a horrific roar from behind him, and he spun round to find the old man, his face cracking and splitting at the seams, lunging forward. The old man-thing's hands were stretching, sharpening, becoming claws, his face elongating, forming a sharp-toothed snout. The man's eyes were rolling back in his face, sinking into folds of flesh. Claws raked across Harris' chest, and a long sinewy tongue slithered out of the creature's mouth, wrapping itself around his throat. Harris pawed weakly at the creature, but the fight was over. There would be no vengance for the crew of the ship that had been carrying a deadlier cargo than anyone could have guessed.

The creature tore up the captain's body, finsihing the job it had begun in deep space, dumping the remains next to those of the being it had mimicked. It chittered contentedly, it's hunger and bloodlust sated. Crouching on the ground, it studied the remains carefully, going over the handful of strange new words it had recently learnt. Briefly, it pondered the meaning of 'Help!' and 'No!', wondering why it heard them so often.

With one clawed hand, it ripped the insignia off of Captain Harris' supposedly indestructable uniform and stared curiously at the writing, its lipless alien mouth struggling to form the word it saw ... and to comprehend it's meaning ...

"Eeeeeartttth ..."

Last edited by Splendiferous : Oct 16, 2006 at 06:53 PM.
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Old Oct 8, 2006, 03:53 PM   #3
Splendiferous
Old One Pikeman
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3,132 flights since Mar 2002
Location: Dreaming in plush R'lyeh
Re: Splend's Scribblings

Story Three (currently a fragment) : Captain's Log 1. The plan for this was to have a series of these posts every now and then in the fanfiction thread giving updates on the adventures of the characters. This will need editing. Lots of editing. And possibly end up deleted anyway


In a similar vein, and yet entirely different :

Captains Logs - Log 1

Captain's Log, January 8th, 2065. This is Captain Jake Mantell of the SS Bucket-of-Bolts, and this is my log. Diary. Type-thing. Bugger, does this thing delete? Ah, f*ck it, I'l see if I can edit this out later. Ahem. This is our maiden voyage - we're ferrying blow-up dolls and other 'toys' to the IEAIAEIO system - a bugger to pronounce, but I'm told it has very nice holiday resorts and beaches and stuff.

I have to say, I'm really looking forward to this mission. I've never captained a ship before - well, not counting my first actual command, but that was an intergalactic golf cart, this is my first actual COMMAND command. I just wish they'd given me a slightly better crew ...

Commander Harris is ... worrying me. He plays with dolls when he thinks I'm not looking. He brought his mum along for the ride, and she makes him fish paste sandwiches for lunch. She probably sews name tags into his underwear, but if she does I don't wanna see ...

Doctor Jones ... the name conjures up images of brown leather, bullwhips and three day old stubble. Well, one-out of three ain't bad - the doctor always has three days stubble. Quite worrying as I always thought women weren't supposed to grow beards. Still, at least she knows her stuff - she even knows where an appendix is and everything. I know cos one of the passangers had to have his out yesterday - blood everywhere, but she got it out in the end.

Security Chief Flipsbottle the Slightly Unhinged - yes, that's right I'm not repeating it. He's ... well, he's a maniac. He changed his name via deedpoll and now he won't answer to anything else. He wanders around the ship with his tight leather outfit and huge handgun, dispensing 'justice' at will. Personally, I think he reads too many comics, and I'm not talking about Beano, you know what I mean?

As for the rest ... I'm sure we'll manage. I mean, you can't expect them to give a fresh captain elite crew, eh? I'm sure we'll get along fine ...






We're doooooooomed ....
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Old Oct 8, 2006, 04:01 PM   #4
Splendiferous
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3,132 flights since Mar 2002
Location: Dreaming in plush R'lyeh
Re: Splend's Scribblings

Story Four : Vics. This is the beginning of the edited version that's been sat on my laptop for aaages now. I'll update it when I can, as again I quite like this one.


The location : Vic's Seedy Space Bar. No, that’s not just a description, that’s the real name. It was originally called Vic's Slice of Paradise, and it was originally going to be a trendy wine bar, but Vic soon found out that not many trendy winebars flourish in spaceports, especially spaceports like Luna 1. His clientele were the unwashed masses of scum who drift from planet to planet, moon to moon, searching for that unobtainable goal - happiness and security. Trendy winebar people don't drift, they move swiftly and purposefully AWAY from unclean places like Luna 1. Vic grew to curse the day he ever bought the dive, and eventually sold it to a travelling eccentric millionaire, who changed the name ever so slightly. The clientele barely even noticed. As long as they had somewhere they could peddle their hallucinogenic drugs, gamble their lives away and drown their sorrows in the kind of rotgut that’d leave their livers with the consistency and colour of mouldy swiss cheese, they didn’t care what the name of the damn place was.

Today was a typical day. Cigar smoke hang heavy in the air, the floor was beer-sticky and muddy, and scruffy rouges played card games with cards with naked aliens instead of Kings and Queens. One tentacled alien was sure to lose, as he had a particularly revealing trait – every time he got a good hand he started sweating corrosive acid. In the end he was thrown out by the bartender for dissolving the card table. Nothing unusual for Vic's. In fact, the only odd thing about the day was that no one had been vaporized in a violent bar-brawl yet.

Yes sir, thought Steve the Bartender as he dried a pint glass with an oily rag, looks like it's going to be a relatively quiet day…

Just then, the old-style saloon doors swung forward, and harsh sunlight flooded in, silhouetting the figure at the door. Oddly enough the Bar’s jukebox chose that moment to finish a song mid-sentence, and silence abruptly reigned. Everyone looked at the door, cursed the brightness and got back to what they were doing, assuming the newcomer to be just another tough guy. As the saloon doors swung back, the jukebox started up again and the new customer became fully visible.

He stalked through the bar, his dirty brown duster flapping at his ankles. Though slim, he still cut an imposing figure. Several customers had to crane their necks back to get a good look at his face, he was that tall. They soon wished they hadn't. Something ... awful had happened to that face at one point. Something that had required reconstructive surgery and bionic implants. The kind that can be bought from any dirty grungy run-down garage. The kind that often malfunction, twisting the face into a contorted mess. Half of the stranger's face was thus deformed, but the rest was oddly handsome - a striking contrast. Sat on top of this monstrous visage was an archaic hat from nearby Earth, a cowboy hat.

The stranger leant over the bar counter, and stared Steve in the face. There was a cold fire in one eye and a look that implied years of torment, hardship and suffering had been inflicted on the owner of said eye – but that the owner had been tempered, made all the stronger by the abuse. The other eye implied nothing – like one of the stranger’s ears it was gone, replaced with a cut-price rusty robotic equivalent that sparked erratically. Steve flinched slightly, but the stranger betrayed no emotion at his reaction. It was clear he had experienced it several times before, and doubtless would again.

"Got whiskey?" the stranger asked, in a voice that dragged fingernails down Steve’s soul. The bartender gulped and nodded nervously. "Double Scotch, straight. And put an umbrella in it."

Steve poured two measures into a glass, his hands trembling. What was wrong with him? He'd faced down bigger, meaner arseholes than this guy before. He was from Earth, the galaxy’s cesspool! He'd even bottled one Venusian who’d been built like a tank and rammed the bottle end into what passed for its - but that was another time, and this was now. This stranger was terrifying, and it wasn't just the face. It was his quiet confidence, as if he knew what was going on, was in complete control of it all and simply didn't give a f*ck for anything else. This man was a killer. This man Meant Business.

He handed the glass to the stranger, who handed over his ident-card for swiping through the credit deductor. Steve swiped the card and glanced at the monitor, curious to see the man’s name. He was disappointed to see that the personal information of the stranger was garbled, the name and address and criminal record details coming through only machine code. He glanced up at the stranger and cleared his throat.

“Uh, there seems to be a uh, a problem with the machine. Your name … your details, they’re, uh … they’re missing.”


Silence from the stranger,

“It’s just that, uh, I need them. Can’t really, uh, can’t really sell you anything without them, y’see. It’s, uh … it’s the law … “

He trailed off as the silence grew heavy and menacing, The stranger didn’t even flicker his remaining eyelid. Steve nodded decisively.

“Well, uh, never mind then. Here you go, enjoy sir!”

He handed the glass over to the stranger, who held a hand to his hat and tugged it down ever slow slightly in salute. He moved silently to a small table in the corner by the jukebox and sat, staring into his whiskey glass. Steve whistled in relief under his breath, glad that it was all over. As he resumed drying the pint glass he noticed Weasely Jim sidling up to the bar.
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Old Oct 24, 2006, 06:15 PM   #5
Splendiferous
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3,132 flights since Mar 2002
Location: Dreaming in plush R'lyeh
Re: Splend's Scribblings

And now, Vics part the second (and last)...


Ever bar in every spaceport had a Weasely Jim. By which I don’t mean that there was an army of clones of a dirty, scruffy man bent on the annihilation of all stocks of cheap sherry and cigarettes. No, it’s just that in all establishments of a lightly less savoury nature, there’s always an older man who hovers around the corners of the room getting paid by bar patrons to cross the room and bug someone else for a bit. The smell of stale alcohol and cigarettes follows them like a lost puppy. It has been speculated that after a while this smell gains a sentience of sorts, and that certain Weaselies have trained it to seek out and assault richer bar-patrons, but is rubbish. The smell is far too stubborn to be trained.

One thing that the Weaselies were good for, however, is the flow of information. When you’re a sub-class citizen, people say things in front of you that they’d never say I polite company. Usually it’s something along the lines of ‘Quick, Fred, stash the body here, no one’ll suspect a thing’. Weaselies knew the value of information, and as such they usually guaranteed a free drink or two from suspicious people with reason to believe a Weasley might know something important that he doesn’t. Weaselies tend to take this rather seriously. A Weaseley who takes free drinks and dispenses device like “Don’t run with scissors” is a soon to be dead Weasely.

Steve eyed the Weasely and nodded cautiously. Strangely, there was no smell. Somewhere across the room someone started coughing violently, but that was probably just a coincidence. Weasely Jim grinned one-toothedly at Steve and nodded amiably at the newly arrived stranger, who appeared to be dipping his finger into his whiskey.

“Now thur’s a vetrin if’n I ever saw one, eh?” Jim chuckled, his breath an almost visible cloud of halitosis and onions. Steve raised an eyebrow.

“Didn’t think they allowed implants in the military, Jim,” he offered cautiously. Jim chuckled and shook his head.

“Naw, they don’t. Not in OUR military, leastways. Course, he might of served and then got ‘em, but I don’t think so. Somethin I his face is forrin. I don’t mean alien,” he spat, eyed the non-humans around him distrustfully. “Naw, he’s human alright. But he ain’t one of us. I reckon …” he trailed off here and snuck an appraising glance at Steve. Seeming to come to a decision, he coughed twice, pitifully. Steve rolled his eyes.

“Come on, Jim, I’m sure it’s not exactly life or death information,” he objected. Jim sighed deeply, as if from the depths of his soul.

“I don’t know,” he said mournfully. “My throat’s bin awful parched lately.” Just behind him, another customer broke out in a coughing fit, tears streaming from their eyes. Steve gritted his teeth.

“Fine,” he hissed. “One drink. Just ONE, though. It comes out of my wages, you know.”

“Bless you, m’lad!” Jim cried, arms flung wide. “Yer a true philanthropist, and don’t let none of em tell you no different!” He grinned happily as Steve’s hand reached below the counter, but his face fell dramatically when it returned clutching nothing harder than a cheap watery beer. He shrugged. Alcohol was alcohol, after all. He waited until the bottle was opened for him before nodding his head.

“Thank ee,” he said solemnly. Manners make the space bum. “Now, our impressive looking friend in the corner. I reckon …” He looked around in mock caution, as if his next words might be controversial somehow. “I reckon … he’ been on The Fringe!” He leaned back with a triumphant grin.

Steve blinked. The Fringe? For this he’d just spent ten credits? It was obvious to any fool that man had just come back from The Fringe! It was the only area of Earth’s fledgling space empire that wasn’t at peace. There was no war out there with aliens, though. No, this was old-fashioned war, good old-fashioned man against man. The enemy didn’t have scales, tentacles, antenna or prehensile slime-bodies. It was a war between Mother Earth and her children, the colonists of Neptune and Pluto. And Mother Earth was winning.

“I’ve got to say, Jim, you’re not wowing me here. I’ve seen Fringe veterans before. None of them looked quite like that, but they’re certainly battle-scarred and tough. Mean too, usually.”

Jim grinned slyly and regarded the stranger again. He was now staring intently at his palm. Steve suddenly realised what the finger-dipping had been about – he had a scanner implanted into his hand! The finger was the measurement device, and his palm obviously had an inbuilt computer display. He was probably checking the alcohol level of the drink. Steve figured he’d be satisfied with it – Vics never watered down their dinks. Well, not usually.

Jim leaned in close to Steve. Steve winced. Jim’s face was solemn and serious now.

“That man,” he said seriously, “is a colonist.”

Steve couldn’t help himself. He laughed.

“A colonist? Here? This is Earth’s moon, Jim! There’s no way a colonist could get this far into our territory.”

Jim shrugged. “Mebbe so,” he conceded. “And mebbe not. But I can tall you one thing fer certain : that man ain’t one of us, and him bein here is trouble. I’ve heard tell of a colonist, mean sonuva*****, powerful ugly, makin his way from the outer Fringe to Earth to settle some old debts. And I’ll tell you this for free – every time I hear of him agin, he gits closer and closer. You mark my words, Mr. Bartender. That’s him. And I reckon hell’s about to break loose, cos if’n he’s here, he’s here for a reason.”

Weasely Jim raised his bottle in mock salute and faded into the shadows in the recesses of the bar. Trouble or no, he wasn’t about to up and leave when there might be the chance of a show. Besides, there might be a drink or two in it later.

As the stranger finally lifted the glass to his lips, there came a hostile croak from a dark corner of the bar.

"You. I thought I told you never to come in here."

The man stood and turned, his bionic eye sparking as it automatically scanned the room for the speaker. He stopped, facing the corner the voice had come from. Out of the shadows stepped a giant lizard-like alien, eyes glowing with rage. Several other lizard people stood up, sliding their chairs back, hands reaching for belts. Their race was renowned for its skill at manufacturing bladed weapons, and they were all carrying. Steve cursed and slid his hands under the counter. ‘Why didn’t I get a quiet job, like accounting?’ he thought.

The stranger murmured something under his breath, and slowly raised his arms peaceably. He gazed steadily at the lizard people and their giant leader, and shook his head slowly.

"I don't want trouble," he said, quietly yet clearly. "I don't want to kill anyone today."

There was scattered nervous laugher at this, but the stranger's face remained serious. The Lizard people hissed, and closed their ranks to form a diamond of fighters. As one, they drew swords, knives and pulveriser sticks. The lizard leader pointed at the stranger.

"We have unfinished business, scum!" he howled, and the pulled a blaster from his belt. The stranger, in a blur of movement, swung both hands to his hips and reached into his duster.

“No blasters!” Steve bellowed, and ducked behind the counter as the lizard man opened fire at him. Glass shattered ad sprinkled his head and shoulders as he yanked the bar’s automatic blast-rifle fro it’s clasps. ‘Well, he’s barred, for a start,’ he thought wryly, hearing the blaster discharge twice more. He was startled to hear two rather loud explosions in reply to this. Bracing himself for the worst, he jumped upright again and pointed the rifle at the fighters.

Chaos greeted him. One of the lizards was down, dead, with a neat little hole in his forehead. Steve couldn’t see it, but the back of the creature’s skull was missing, pulverised. Another lizard was writhing on the floor, howling with pain, tail thrashing around, surrounded by bits of table. It appeared to have a very painful gut wound. The wall behind the stranger was scorched and blackened; evidently he alien leader gang leader was a lousy shot and had missed each time. The leader was fiddling with its blaster and swearing loudly 0 it had jammed. There were bits of broken chair lying around on the ground by the stranger’s feet, but he didn’t appear to be fazed. He was standing his ground, feet planted apart, arms raised. Sparks flew as old mechanical joints groaned at the speed with which the stranger, though still, fought. A contradiction in terms, perhaps but it was the only was Steve could comprehend it. The man as moving so fast he was standing still.

In left hand, he clutched a small weapon, much like a blaster though, like the rest of the stranger’s equipment and attire, strangely low-tech. The gun had a smaller barrel, for a start, and was a lot slimmer than any blaster Steve had ever seen. When it discharged, it did so with a frankly terrifying bang, and there appeared to be a recoil. No gun had done that for decades. By all rights, fighting with a gun like this, the stranger should be dead. The gun had a leather thong attached to the butt, and looped round the stranger’s fist, which allowed him to ‘drop’ the gun and clutch his enemy with his free hand. This done, he could bring his second weapon into play – Steve’s eyes widened as he clocked it. Not quite a knife, not quite a sword. It was a machete, and it was easily as long as Steve’s arm.

Before Steve’s very eyes, the stranger gripped an enemy by the arm, swung it around and swiftly hacked its head off in two immensely powerful strokes. Dropping the decapitated alien, he jerked his left wrist up suddenly, swinging the pistol back into his grip and swivelling on one foot just in time to plant a bullet into the chest of an enemy who had silently flanked him. Steve flinched involuntarily as the explosion sounded his finger convulsing on the trigger of his own weapon in reaction. A lizardman fell. The bar’s insurance would cover it.

“Behind you!” Steve called to the stranger not sure why he’d done it. The stranger leant into a lunge from the lizard in front of him, grabbed its arm and swung around, dragging the helpless alien before him. Not a minute to soon, as three shots from lead alien’s blaster slammed into the hostage, killing it instantly. The stranger threw the lizard’s corpse at his remaining enemy, a move the alien was not expecting. It tumbled to the ground, its blaster slipping from its grip.

In an instant the stranger’s foot was pressing down heavily on the alien’s chest. The lizard clutched the stranger’s leg feebly, wheezing as the breath was slowly driven out of its body. It stared fearfully into the barrel of the stranger’s gun, and at the cold, merciless face that had remained expressionless throughout the small massacre. The stranger spoke, slowly, quietly, deliberately.

“When you get to Hell,” he said, “you can wait for McCoy and Jensen to join you.”

The lizardman’s eyes widened fit to pop out of its head.

“You’re taking on McCoy?” it whispered harshly with its remaining breath. “You’re –”

Steve never found out what the alien reckoned the stranger was, because the stranger emptied his gun into its head. At that range, the head was pulverised. The floor underneath it took a beating, too. Whatever bullets were in that gun, they weren’t the conventional bullets to go with that weapon.

The stranger looked around slowly, appraising the room. No one said a word. No one breathed. If there had been tumbleweed on the moon, it would have rolled across the room. And what a state that corner of the room was! Debris from broken furniture, damaged walls and floor, dead bodies lying around – and one very alive one, still squealing like a stuck pig. Or a stuck lizard, rather. The stranger strode over to it and picked it up with one hand. It howled in protest.

“You can live,” he said simply. “Tell him I’m coming.”

And then he threw the lizard through the bar’s main window, shattering the glass that had only been replaced yesterday. The lizard lay unconscious on the pavement outside, and that was the end of that.

Steve set the blaster-rifle down on a stool beside him and appraised the damage. It could have gone much worse. The stranger drained his whiskey glass, walked over to the counter and regarded Steve unapologetically.

“This will cover the expense,” he said simply, dropping a small Hessian pouch on the counter. He made as if to leave, but stopped. He stared into Steve’s eyes, and Steve felt a shudder run down his spine. The stranger nodded slightly to himself.

“Reckon you saved my life back there,” he said softly. “I’m not much of a one for thanks. But I reckon I owe you something.” He leaned forward slightly. Steve leaned back.

“Leave,” the stranger commanded. “All manner of hell is coming. Reckon you don’t deserve to bear the brunt of it.”

And without another word, the stranger turned and left the bar. Steve stared silently at the doors as they gently swung shut. Every patron of that bar was gazing at Steve, and he knew that they had all, himself included, come to the same conclusion.

He didn’t know who McCoy was, or Jensen. He didn’t know how the stranger defined Hell, or why it should be following in his wake. But he did know he didn’t want to be around here when it arrived that was for certain.

He wondered if the weather on Venus was nice this time of year.

Last edited by Splendiferous : Oct 26, 2006 at 02:35 PM.
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Old May 20, 2007, 12:11 AM   #6
Splendiferous
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3,132 flights since Mar 2002
Location: Dreaming in plush R'lyeh
Re: Splend's Scribblings

And now, a bit of scribbling I call Paradise Station, a sequel to Vic's ...



Ah, Paradise Station! According to the holo-vids, it was a ‘dazzling jewel in the heavens where man and alien can come together in a glorious union – whether you’re simply passing through to your next destination or looking for somewhere for your company to host its quarterly conferences, look no further than vibrant, cheerful, exotic Paradise Station! Book your ticket today!’ Such marketing hyperbole was the reason no one bothered with brochures and holo-vids anymore. It had in fact inspired the great Consumers’ Revolution of 2013, which resulted in the burning of thousands of holiday brochures, broadsheet advertisements and advertising agency offices. Like all evil things in this world, though, the concept of selling through deceptive illusion naturally resurfaced like a bad smell.

Of course, the brochures oversold Paradise Station. More than just a tad. Ambitiously named, it could never quite live up to its promise. It was a functional place, a waypoint for all travellers to or from Earth, and as such it was always teeming, bustling with life. Not quite the ‘shining beacon in space’ it was billed to be, more a great big heap of dull metal, battered and bruised from the battles of various wars and stuffed to bursting with drifters, settlers, adventurers and fortune-seekers. With a length of only a few miles, it was ill-equipped to deal with this populace, and conditions were often cramped there. There had been talk in Earth’s government about expanding the station, adding a wing or two of additional flats and living quarters, but there was little chance of that happening; the station’s allotted expansion budget was miniscule, and every request for an increase was mysteriously denied. They never had trouble getting an increase for weapons, shields or security personnel, though. Funny, that. It was a mystery.

Budgets and mysteries were the furthest thing from David Sims’ mind as he stepped off the shuttle transport into the station’s main docking bay. He stopped in his tracks and blinked. So this was the legendary Paradise Station! He clutched his luggage to his chest and looked around nervously. What a dump! What a noisy, smelly, oppressive place. He was jostled continuously by frowning travellers, impatient to get out of there. Still clutching his luggage protectively he shuffled forward in a vain attempt to push his way through the crowds of people (both human and humanoid) that filled the room wall to wall. Behind him were parked interplanetary shuttle of all shapes and sizes, ready to take their passengers to various spaceships, the stars, even in rare cases back to Earth itself. Ahead of him, his destination : Immigration & Security. He squared his shoulders, set his jaw, tried to put himself in a macho, manly frame of mind, and bravely stepped forward into the crowd. Time to assert himself.

“Excuse me. Pardon me. Could I pass, please? Thank you. Pardon me. Excuse me. Do you mind? Thank you. Pardon me. Excu – eeeurgh! Sorry, I mean, excuse me…”

Wiping alien slime off his hand and onto his cheap travelling trousers, he found himself standing before a small grey desk with a tiny sign reading ‘Security’, manned by a harried and obviously overworked woman who was sitting with her hand extended, palm upwards, scowling at Dave. She snapped her fingers impatiently.

“Come on, come on, give me your ident-card. I don’t have all night, though in actual fact I do, seeing as I’m working a 18-hour shift and have just a little over 9 hours left to go with no sign of that second security desk over there ever being occupied due to my scheduled partner tonight being in the sick bay claiming to have a debilitating hand injury that stops him from signing and stamping and My God, kid, do you think you’re ever – and I do mean ever – going to stop doing your admittedly rather impressive goldfish impression, reel your mind back to the world of the living and give me your God-damned ident-card?”

Dave blinked and mutely handed her his ident-card. He wasn’t used to this kind of treatment. The immigration woman rolled her eyes and nodded. Dave had never seen someone nod sarcastically before.

“Thank you. Now let’s see … right … ok, Mr. Sims. Here we go…”

She gathered herself in and took a deep breath.

“Didyoupackyourbagyourself?Didyouleaveyourluggageunattendedatanytim e?Doyouhaveanydangerousitemssuchasblasters knivesordisruptors?Whatisthepurposeanddurationofyourstay?Whatisyourintendeddestination?Areyounoworha veyoueverbeenacolonistormem berofaterrorristorganisation?”

Dave blinked again.

“Er … no?” he tried. The woman gritted her teeth.

“Hey, Sims,” she snapped, “shake the water out of your ears and pay attention, will you? I realise it’s oh so hard after your gruelling, harrowing experience flying first class on Earth’s only luxury intergalactic cruiser system, but could you try and pay attention please, just for little old me? Thank you. Want me to go over them again, more slowly? Ready?”

Dave nodded, and the security woman paused, took another deep breath.

“Didyoupackyourbagyourself? Didyouleaveyourluggageunattendedatanytim e? Doyouhaveanydangerousitemssuchasblasters knivesordisruptors? Whatisthepurposeanddurationofyourstay? Whatisyourintendeddestination? Areyounoworhaveyoueverbeenacolonistormem berofaterrorristorganisation?”

Dave looked around nervously, but no help was forthcoming.

“Er … yes?” he tried desperately. The woman sighed and stamped a form.

“Oh, forget it,” she snapped. “I don’t even care anymore. This is your entry permit, I’m giving you 14 days and don’t you even try and argue for any more, I don’t care if the ship you’re catching doesn’t come for 14 days and 3 hours, you’ll have to catch it outside in a spacesuit, got it? Don’t forget to get your luggage scanned. Now find corridor 5, get down to sickbay and report to Dr Jensen - and if you happen to come across a Security Officer named Ballis there, you go right ahead and give him a little message from me : tell him I’m going to remove his ‘dodgy’ stamp-hand and make him eat it, you got that?”

Dave simply stood there, clutching his newly acquired entry permit. He was beginning to feel victimised. The woman whistled loudly and obnoxiously at him.

“Hey, Sims! Stop gawking and get out of here, you’re making the place look untidy! GO GO GO GO GO GO GO!” she screamed.

Dave panicked and fled, knocking down three people as he went. He turned around when he felt he’d reached a safe enough distance and watched for a few seconds as another hapless traveller withered under the frankly scary woman’s verbal assault. He shuddered. Thank God he only had 4 days in this god-awful place before taking up his post on the SS Intrepid. If the rest of his stay was as daunting as his first 10 minutes, he’d be pleased to take up his post as an office administrator there. Sure, the Intrepid was a deep space exploration vessel that tended to have more than its fair share of action and adventure – but he was fairly certain it would be a pretty sedate atmosphere in the ship’s main office. Bliss. A nice change from the mania that surrounded him now.

He had his luggage scanned in an X-Ray machine and as a result spent the next few hours held in a small office being interrogated by two security officers for having a suspicious-looking item in his luggage. He kept trying to explain that it was just a pair of nail-clippers and they could open up the suitcase and take a look if they liked and wasn’t all this a bit much for such a small item of personal hygiene, but the officers were having none of it. Dave assumed they were playing Good Cop Bad Cop because one kept screaming nonsensical questions at him inches away from his face, while the other kept offering him soup. He wouldn’t have minded much, but he hated soup.

Once released (and given soup, which he discretely tipped into a plant pot as he passed), Dave made his way down corridor 5, following signs to the infirmary. He desperately wanted to find his quarters and drop off his luggage but he realised that, even though his permit stated that he would be staying in Flat 34, Sector Puce, Level 6, he had absolutely no idea where to go. He didn’t even know where he was relative to … well, anything else on the station. So, luggage in tow, he negotiated the rabbit warren of corridors that Paradise Station was riddled with. It was harder than he thought it would be. He would have expected Sector Puce, for example, to be more Puce-y. Even just a coloured line running down the corridor to identify where you were would help. There were plenty of signs to various parts and sectors of the station, but for some reason these were all in alien languages, none in English. Every corridor looked the same – the same markings, the same colours, the same computer terminals with dull screens. It was a wonder anything worked at all here. Dave had expected … well, a bit more order.

He tried asking at computer terminals for his current location, but they just sparked at him and made strange noises. Each time, a notice flashed on the screen saying ‘This terminal is currently out of order. We apologise for any inconvenience. Please reboot this terminal or call Tech Support.’ This distressed and flustered him. Back on Earth he’d lived in one of the few areas left that wasn’t steeped in poverty and crime and as such he was used to machines doing what they were told when they were told. This sort of thing was outside his experience. He found it quite hard dealing with people sometimes and now it seemed he had no alternative but to ask strangers for directions. Most people he tried to ask just pushed rudely past him, too busy for the likes of him. It was very frustrating. And some he felt were deliberately misleading him, though he could only guess why. Probably just taking out their frustrations on a hapless stranger to make themselves feel better.

After finding himself sent to the Environment Simulation Dome, three restaurants, the station’s command room and, most frustrating of all, back to corridor 5 and that damnable docking bay, Dave had had enough. He collared a passing security officer and, shaking with barely suppressed rage, with every ounce of courage he could muster, very politely asked where Sector Puce was and could he please not be directed to the nearest cargo hangar instead as he was frankly starting to get a little ticked off and his arm was hurting from dragging his luggage everywhere.

The security officer sighed as if this were a hideously complicated chore and gave Dave’s permit a cursory glance. He grunted, lifted his hat, scratched his head a moment and looked up again.

“It’s that door just behind you, mate,” he said. Dave whirled round and sure enough there was Flat 34. Thanking the guard, he stepped up to the door … and stopped. It didn’t open automatically. It didn’t have a handle. What it did have was a small slot in the wall beside the door, which Dave looked at desperately. He heard the security guard clear his throat behind him.

“O’course,” the guard chimed, “you’ll need a key to get in. Din’t the girl at the immigration desk give you one?”

Dave clenched his jaw and sighed.

“No,” he growled. “No, she didn’t. She just shouted at me and sent me packing.” He turned round to see the security guard shaking his head and smiling sadly.

“Now, see, this is wot we call an awkward situation, innit? Wot we ’ave ’ere, sir, is you, wanting to get into your new habode but not being able to on account of ’ow you dun’ have the key. And what we also ’ave ’ere, sir, is me, who ’as a special marster-key wot can get you into your place – but oh wot a shame, I can’t do that on account of ’ow regulations strictly forbid me from doin’ so.” The guard tutted and shook his head some more. He pulled out a little keycard on a chain and swung it round a bit, before making it disappear back into his pocket. Dave watched it with great interest. The guard looked at Dave with a glint in his eye and grinned mischievously.

“You could always go back to ’er and try and get one off ’er,” he suggested. Dave shuddered. The guard stroked his chin thoughtfully. “O’ course,” he added slyly, “I could make a sort of exception, like. Just this time, yeah?” He pulled the keycard out again – and paused. He sucked in a dramatic deep breath. “Hmmmm,” he said. “O’ course, it is against regulations, innit? I could lose me job. Pretty serious, eh? I needs me job. An’ I’m sure you wouldn’t like me to lose me job, right? Unless … you could sort of make it worth me while?”

Dave blinked in surprise, which seemed to be something he was doing a lot of today. Had this guard just asked for a bribe? Surely not.

“But… but that’s extortion!” he cried. The guard drew another deep breath and looked offended.

“Ooh, ’ark at ’im!” he hooted. “Wot a fancy term! ’Sides, extortion is such an ugly word, innit? I prefer … commerce. Yeah, you’re not the only one wot knows fancy terms. Now, I figure, wot with labour fees, overtime given the fact that I finished me shift, oooh, ’bout 3 minutes ago and o’ course wear and tear on me key … I figure openin’ that door should be worth ’bout 50 credits.”

“50 credits! That’s ridiculous! I c-could report you for t-this,” Dave stammered. The glint left the guard’s eye as he leaned forward ever so slightly. He was not a small man.

“That,” the security guard said softly, cheeky chappie accent disappearing, “would be a mistake. A terrible, terrible mistake. So be a good little tourist and pay up, or I just might do something we would both regret.”

Dave sighed in despair and handed the guard his ident-chip. The guard smiled broadly and pulled from his pocket a portable card-swiper – not quite illegal, but certainly an unscrupulous item to have. He swiped the card, replaced the machine and graciously opened the door for Dave. Dave thanked him wearily, stepped into the doorway – and was yanked backwards by the guard, who had grabbed Dave’s shirt. The guard pulled him towards him and glared into his eyes sinisterly.

“Now listen here. Don’t you go telling anybody about our little transaction, will you? Because if you do, you’ll be leaving this station via an airlock, all right my son?”

Dave nodded mutely. The guard smiled benevolently, released him with a pat on the back and disappeared round the corner. Dave hurried indoors and locked the door behind him. Once inside, he eyed the room distastefully. A dump within a dump. It was empty, cold and damp. Thankfully he wouldn’t have to be here long. He threw his luggage onto the bed and was pleased to find a spare key on the pillow. Much more useful than a mint.

Even more useful was the computer terminal that took up most of one wall – it actually worked, which almost made Dave weak at the knees with gratitude. He asked it give him a map of the route between his room and the sickbay, figuring that this place seemed to be so incompetently run that the sooner he got there, the better. To his dismay, though, he discovered pretty quickly that while the computer worked, it didn’t work very well. Instead of a map it gave him a pilchard. He tried again. A cup of tea, a pencil sharpener and two small furry creatures later he got his map and turned the computer off, half expecting it to leap out of the wall and run down the corridor. This place was that mad.

Leaving his luggage behind, he warily set off through the maze of corridors in search of sickbay. To his surprise, it was scarily accurate – he found the place in a little under an hour. Gratefully, he tucked the map into a pocket and slipped through the door.

Now this was more like it! It was only a waiting room, but it was nicely decorated, with pot plants and nice little framed prints on the walls. It was cleaner than the rest of the station – well, naturally, it would have to be. All in all, there was a general feel of sedateness and calm that was broken only by the occasional piercing shriek from behind the closed door marked ‘Surgery’. This was worrying. It didn’t seem to bother the pretty young receptionist behind the front desk, though, nor the other patient sat in the waiting room reading a magazine. This was even more worrying. It suggested that this sort of thing was perfectly normal and acceptable around here. Nervously, Dave approached the desk. The receptionist smiled blindingly at him. Her teeth were perfectly straight and very, very bright.

“Hi!” she squeaked perkily. “What can I do you for?”

“Um. Dv Sms, fr cmplsry chkp pls,” he mumbled. The girl frowned prettily.

“Er, could you, like, repeat that please?” Dave cleared his throat.

“Sorry, er Dave, I’m Dave, Dave Sims. I’m here for a compulsory checkup. Er,” he added as another scream split the air. The receptionist beamed again.

“Ah, cool, OK! Just sit down over there and Doctor Jensen will see you as soon as he can.” She tossed her blonde hair and leaned forward. This made Dave even more nervous, and he cleared his throat again. “Don’t worry about the noises,” she whispered confidingly. “He’s, like, not with a patient right now, you know? Besides, it’s like this 24/7. It’s all cool. But don’t tell anyone I told you, OK?” She winked, leaned back and motioned for Dave to take a seat.

He sat down, not exactly put at ease by this news. If the doctor wasn’t with a patient, what the hell was going on in there? There was a sudden sharp pain in his rib, and he turned to find the other patient nudging him. He was in a security uniform, and it made Dave wonder if there were more security officers here than there were actual residents and travellers. This one looked considerably friendlier than the last two.

“Hullo,” the officer said cheerfully, putting the magazine down. “Name’s Ballis. What are you in for, then?” He extended his left hand, and Dave shook it awkwardly. It rang a little bell in his mind.

“I’m Dave, Dave Sims. Did you say your name’s Ballis? I’ve got a message for you, you know, from a … er … lady on the immigration desk.”

Ballis rolled his eyes dramatically and grinned. “Oh dear, let me guess, threats of physical violence and general malice, eh?” Dave nodded. “Ah, well, shouldn’t worry about it, I’m not in much danger of being sent right back here with a more serious injury. We’ve got a perfectly healthy relationship, as far as marriages go. For all her scary talk, she’s just a big pussycat, really. That’s why I married her.”

“Oh. She was rather angry at you.”

“Yes, she’s a very angry person. Still, her heart’s in the right place. No, I’ve got no worries about her. It’s that bloody Doctor in there that I’m worried about.” He rolled his eyes and jerked his thumb at the Surgery door. Ominous flashes glimpsed through the frosted glass window accompanied the noises, which had now died down to the occasional painful moan. Ballis nudged Dave again and leaned closer.

“What’s he doing in there, eh? Who’s he doing it to? You won’t find out. I’m Security and I don’t know. I asked once, and got demoted to immigration desk duty. He’s damn creepy, too. You’ll see. You’ll get what I mean. And get this – he’s got bodyguards! What does a medical doctor need with bodyguards? Armed and uniformed bodyguards?”

Ballis stared at Dave, seemingly expecting an answer. Dave shrugged.

“Er … I don’t know,” he said lamely. “A … a VIP doctor? One who treats VIPs?”

“A VIP doctor. Huh. Sure, perhaps. Or a military doctor? A doctor with some kind of connection to something not altogether on the level? Let me put it another way. We didn’t always have this Dr. Jensen here. Before him we had old man Carruthers. Dr. Carruthers was a kindly, gentle soul. Plasters for skinned knees, lollipops for kiddies, that sort of thing. Six months ago, he packed his bags and he left. No warning, no notice, no explanation. Here one morning, gone the next. I got a glimpse of him the day he left, you know – he was white as a sheet, bumped into my shoulder as we passed in the corridor and just kept going, didn’t turn around or anything. He had blood on his collar. Same day, this yahoo Jensen takes over, with his trained monkeys. I’m telling you, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Dave nodded slowly, completely lost now. He was beginning to suspect that, rather than stopping at Paradise Station, the shuttle had dropped him off on an orbiting lunatic asylum. In the meantime, Ballis had continued his rant.

“He’s never been seen outside the sickbay. He never eats. He never drinks. He never sleeps. He never smiles. Do you know what I heard? I heard that five years ago he was on a tour of duty in a MASH on the colonies. God only knows what he’d have got up to there if it’s true. It’s damn suspicious, and I don’t like it. It fits right in with all the strangeness that’s been going on here lately. More security officers. Higher defence budget – just like on Earth, you know, their military budget is huge! Now we get a creepy doctor with some kind of military background? It’s as if they’re preparing for something, but God knows what. If it’s anything to do with what’s going on in there, I’m sure I don’t want to know.”

With this, Ballis stood and offered another awkward left-handed shake.

“Well,” he said, “I suppose I’d better be off back to work.”

“Er, weren’t you waiting to be treated?”

Ballis grinned mischievously. “Nope,” he replied, “been there, done that. I’ve just been killing time for a bit, putting off going to back to work, you know? See you around!”

Dave watched the poor doomed man walk cheerfully off to his certain death at the hands of an angry wife, and was startled by the opening of the surgery door. A burly man in a soldier’s uniform took up almost the entire doorway. His right hand rested gently on a holstered blaster on his belt.

“The doctor will see you now,” he rumbled.

Dave hadn’t been sure what to expect, but the surgery was surprisingly clinical and clean. Shiny surfaces, spotless floor. Admittedly the stern-faced elderly man wearing the doctor’s coat was stripping a pair of blood-soaked rubber gloves off his hands and two huge armed soldiers lurked in the corners of the room with itchy fingers, but otherwise it was a doctor’s surgery like any other. The doctor acknowledged Dave with a curt nod and motioned for him to sit down on the large metal chair in the middle of the room. Dave couldn’t help but notice it had straps on the arms.

“Good evening,” the doctor said in a rich cultured voice. “My name is Dr Jensen and this is Nurse Smith and Nurse Jones.” He glanced down at his clipboard as Dave glanced around, hoping to see some legitimate nurses popping out o the woodwork. “You must be Mr. Sims, yes? Routine check-up. Very well, then. Sit yourself down on the chair Mr. Sims and we can begin.”

Dave nervously perched on the edge of the chair. One of the frightening nurses stepped up and firmly eased him backwards so he was flush with the chair, tilted at a slight angle. A bright light shone blindingly into his eyes. Suddenly the light was blocked as Dr Jensen’s face, now partially covered by a dustmask, loomed over him.

“Say ‘Aaaah’,” he commanded. Dave obeyed.

There followed a series of intrusive tests – eyesight, reflexes, bodily functions. Each was conducted with high-tech medical gadgets Dave had never seen before. Initially he tried to make small-talk with the doctor, but he soon found that it was pointless. For every ‘So, how long have you been a doctor’ or ‘Have you practiced medicine in many other places’ there came only a noncommittal grunt for an answer. Dave gave up, tried to relax and waiting for the inevitable torture.

“Right, that’ll be all, Mr. Sims.”

Dave blinked. “Oh. Er, really?” The doctor nodded.

“Yes, we’re quite finished here. You seem surprised, Mr. Sims. Did you expect something a bit more … painful, perhaps? Louder, maybe?” There appeared almost the ghost of a smile but it vanished before Dave could be certain it had ever been there at all. “I really must get around to having this surgery soundproofed. You see, what you were unfortunate enough to hear earlier wasn’t a patient being treated, naturally. It was … an extracurricular activity of mine that, in the interests of scientific pursuit I am of course reluctant to speak of in any great detail. Normally, it wouldn’t be an issue, but today a … conflict in my schedule has forced me to apologise to all my patients, most inconvenient. I trust I may count on your discretion in this matter?”

Dave glanced at the nurses. They were flexing their upper arm muscles like bodybuilders. He gulped and babbled about being a very quiet person that people certainly wouldn’t listen to even if he did happen to mention anything of the sort which of course he wouldn’t. The doctor nodded in return, thanked him and turned around. Assuming this was his cue to leave, Dave made for the door, but found his way blocked by a wall of uniformed flesh. The doctor cleared his throat.

“There is, of course, the tiny matter of my 10 credit fee,” he admonished gently. Dave nodded enthusiastically.

“Sorry! Sorry. Sorry, I forgot,” he said anxiously, dipping his hand into his pocket. He rooted around … rooted around … rooted … and went pale. His ident-card was gone! But how? He’d had it in his pocket this whole time, right up until … he cursed loudly, and the doctor raised an eyebrow. The security guard! The swindling, thieving, conniving security guard! He hadn’t returned the card! Dave began to sweat profusely as the two nurses started growling.

“Er … would you accept an IOU?”

*

Paradise Station’s main docking bay had quietened down considerably since Ballis’ return to his desk. Two immigration officials are better than one, as his wife had tried to impress on him by smacking him on the head with a clipboard. Only lightly, of course – as he’d pointed out, any further damage and he’d have to go right back to sickbay for an icepack.

She sat at her desk grumbling, glaring evilly at all who dared approach. Within minutes of Ballis returning there was a mile-long queue at his desk, and it seemed only people who were too busy to wait and were willing to put up with a little abuse if it meant moving along swiftly.

Her latest disappointingly willing victim marched off, and she stamped their form angrily. Only 7 hours to go, 15 minutes to her next cup of coffee. She sighed bitterly as a shadow was cast over her desk.

“Hey,” she said without looking up, “I’m going to make an assumption here, and I’d like you to humour me a little while I lay it out for you. I’m going to assume that you did in actual fact see the sign on the wall next to my desk. You know the one, it’s big, it’s red and it’s printed in nice big ol’ letters for you, just to make it easier on your obviously limited reading skills. I’m going to assume you’ve read it and have chosen, in your dubious wisdom, to ignore it. Maybe you’re thinking that as there’s no one stood in line at my desk, all of our nice ordered rules can be just thrown to the wind. Maybe you’re thinking…”

She trailed off as she looked up. And up. And into a face that made her blood run cold. It was a face that had entered into a staring contest with Hell and won. A cold, scarred, unsmiling face, belonging to a man who was clearly not bothered in the slightest by the immigration officer’s attitude. She flinched involuntarily as one of his eyes sparked; it was a faulty cybernetic implant, as was one of his ears. The ear implant was only just visible under the ancient cowboy hat he was wearing. The hat matched his dusty brown leather duster. He regarded her impassively, waiting. She opened her mouth …and closed it again. For the first time in her life, she was speechless.

The stranger slowly reached out a hand. She leaned back slightly, but relaxed when she saw that he was only offering her his ident-card. She took it carefully and swiped it. Looking down at her screen, she frowned. His personal details, name and address, were missing. Tampering with card details was a serious crime. She looked back up at the stranger.

“There … there seems to be a problem,” she said carefully. The stranger nodded almost imperceptibly.

“I get that a lot,” he rasped. He pulled another card out of his pocket and handed it to her. “This help?”

She glanced at it – and gasped. She was holding a Level 6 Earth Security clearance card! She never thought she’d see one of these! The highest she’d ever seen was a Level 4, and that was held by a General who’d been passing through on his way to the colonies. This, though … this was the stuff of legends. She’d doubted it had even existed, until today. It certainly cancelled out the crime of personal detail removal. She gave it back to the stranger carefully.

“Er … that all seems to be in order, Mr. … um … sir.” She paused, trying to gather her thoughts. “Did you … Do you … What …” She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t ask him the standard questions, not with him standing and staring at her like that. Swallowing, she stamped her form, handed the stranger his card back and hoped that the stranger wasn’t staying long.

“Er … Welcome to Paradise Station, sir. Please report to Doctor Jensen for a full medical check-up.”

The Stranger touched the brim of his hat in salute.

“Ma’am,” he said, “I intend to do just that.”

He stalked past her desk and disappeared improbably into the crowds of travellers. The immigration officer sighed and realised she was trembling. Something about the way he’d said that … she didn’t want to be Dr. Jensen when that man walked into his office. She looked up at the room and saw a small, lost-looking passenger edging towards Barris’ queue. All her irritation at her job came flooding back, and she forgot the mysterious stranger entirely.

“Hey! Hey you! Get over here!”

And the Stranger walked steadily on towards his next appointment.
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2 hours ago I was chatting with Jenny-1000 when I suddenly realised ... it was 4 o clock in the morning. I'd got on the computer at 6pm. I'd been...
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