Daikyu was the largest gas planet I’d yet encountered. From my perch in the cockpit, I could see alkali clouds storming beneath gleaming lithium rings belted around the equator. Bettie skimmed the ionosphere, struggling against gravity wells to keep her nose pointed toward Nippon, the largest of Daikyu’s eight moons.
“Any Black Armada ships pissing in the kiddie pool?” I asked through a prolonged yawn while stretching my arms above my head.
“There are no vessels bearing the Black Armada call sign,” my ship replied with her breathy, synthesized voice.
“That’s guaranteed not to last long, but I’ll take it. Hail the Kyudo Station when we’re three clicks out, and send them the supply list.”
“Yes. I will complete those tasks.” Her voice was always devoid of emotion. The hull could have been ripping apart, and she would have told me with the same monotone announcement. “May I complete any other tasks for you?”
“Yeah, you can. How about a blowjob? I mean, like a dirty, sloppy blowjob with a lot of drooling and ball sucking.”
Silence, other than rumbling engines. “I apologize, but I am a navigational system, and I am incapable of the task blowjob.”
“I figured, but you still look hot in that dress,” I smiled at the faded poster of a pin-up model tacked beside the console. She may have only been a ship, but the loneliness of the drift was starting to make me believe those Bettie Page eyes were winking back.
Flirting with the ship couldn’t distract me enough to ignore the knot in my gut. For once, it wasn’t from convincing myself an expired ration was still perfectly edible. I should have heard from my contact several cycles ago, but so far nothing and they weren’t the types who played waiting games. When—or if—the call finally came, I needed to be ready to pounce toward the Lagoon Nebula.
Bettie lined up our approach, and then dipped below the shipyard consuming the horizon. Gas freighters hovered in their moorings, casting expansive silhouettes across the cratered surface beneath their bellies. It wasn’t the ideal location to lay low, but we were out of options. I’d lingered into the reserves waiting around, and now we were landing on fumes.
The moment I opened the hatch, the air outside tasted rusty. I should have ducked back inside and waited out the resupply in the sterility of filtered air, but the concierge droid was already on approach.
“Welcome to Kyudo Station, Mister Zalam. I do hope you enjoy your stay with us,” it said with full, cartoonish eyes that gave it a worried expression. “We have prepared the supply order made by your assistant, Bettie. Is there anything else that you require?”
“Yeah, how about you point me in the direction of the closest bar.” I kept my voice quiet and rude because I loved screwing with dumb droids.
“My pleasure. Bootsie’s Club is a short walk south of the station, and they boast an excellent selection of liquors due to our premium location on the Sagittarian shipping lanes.”
“Thanks, bucket-head.” I marched away ignoring the rest of the droid’s rambling. I didn’t care about reward clubs and premium services. Chances were I’d never be back here again if I could help it.
My goggles struggled to adjust to the brilliant green sky. Intermittent flares and streaks made it daunting to look sober while I was walking, but losing the eyewear would have left me blinded. Fortunately, the streets looked clean, so my chances of stumbling into some thug were close to zero. After realizing my vision was as good as it was going to get, I started looking for the bar. I quickly realized that I wasn’t familiar with the dialect of Zweem in this system. A woman walked by with a babe swaddled against her chest, and she purposely avoided eye contact.
“Excuse me,” I said, hoping the translator in my hand would say something resembling my question. “Which way to Bootsie’s Club?”
Her pairs of eyes rolled before she huffed then pointed past my shoulder.
I glanced over my shoulder, hoping the sign with the fruit tree was where she was pointing. Quite honestly, I didn’t have any clue what the hell bootsie was on this planet, but I hoped it wasn’t a gay bar. By the time I turned to offer thanks she had bolted down the street.
“Screw it,” I mumbled as I headed for the door beneath the sign. The sooner I was out of the light, the better.
I suspected it must have been late afternoon, so I was expecting to find a mix of retired alcoholics and loud happy hour opportunists lined up at the bar. There wasn’t a peep of music until I opened the door and stared down a dark hallway. Melodies pulsated from around the corner ahead of me, and colorful lights splashed across the floor. I pulled up my goggles, trying to predict what I was walking into, and detected a hint of stale beer in the air. That was enough to convince me to keep walking.
As I rounded the corner, a half-alert Flintopian looked up from behind a podium. Behind it were layers of chain mail drapes concealing any view of what awaited me. “Cover is two credits,” it blubbed through its gills. It’s droopy features made it look half-awake, but they had a rap for being quicker than grease popping off a griddle. Its fingers clicked against the blunderbuss resting across its lap.
My immediate thought was, who the hell charges a cover fee at this time of day, but I kept my lips zipped and paid without external protest.
The drapes parted, and the Flintopian waved me in. Intergalactic dialects chattered from the length of bar straight ahead. Motion from the left caught my attention and confirmed the theory formulating in my balls.
A nude insectoid gyrated her thorax against a glowing pole with her mirrored eyes centered on me. Her mandibles clacked with what I hoped was a kiss but seemed like more of a threat. A handful of faces were scattered about the room, their eyes locked on the center stage.
Man, this moon was throwing me off, or maybe it was the extended stasis nap. Either way, I had stepped inside a strip club without realizing it. Usually, I avoided strip joints on principle because another culture’s version of sexy didn’t necessarily raise my flagpole. Nevertheless, at this point, I was already there, I had already paid my cover, and the promise of a few stiff drinks was more appealing than the bug spreading her egg sacks. I stepped up to the bar, my eyes more focused on the catalog of bottles rather than the approaching bartender.
“Hello! What can wet you whistle, friend?” A harsh accent marked her broken English. Transparent membranes blinked over amphibian eyes. Neon lights shimmered over a slender, amber-skinned physique that made her bustline appear heftier than it probably was, and my cock was debating with my brain to determine whether I considered her hot or not.
“Got any Frungbar Brandy?” My eyes drifted to her chest. In the dim light, I couldn’t discern if she was actually topless and devoid of nipples, or if she had on a skin tight top. Should a salamander even have breasts? Fuck if I knew.
Barnes & Noble – September 30th!
Also Coming to Audible #Soon.