Just outside of the Betelgeuse system, there was a bar. There were actually several bars. In fact, the moon-base that this particular bar was on was part of a vast lunar pub crawl orbiting a trendy brewery planet. It is a widely known, and popular fact that a better portion of the galactic trade economy revolves around alcohol; This is partially because of a generally loose and happy go lucky attitude on the part of the people of many species across the galaxy, but also because nobody is really having a good time at it and seek to drown their proverbial sorrows. The generally loose and happy go lucky attitudes are a direct result of everyone being pretty much drunk out of their minds pretty much most of the time.
I sat nursing another beer, sitting on what in retrospect likely wasn’t a stool intended for bipedal races, listening to what in retrospect wasn’t strange and moody alien rock music, but was in reality a domestic squabble. I signaled the barkeep for another beer, he signaled me that I had better run quickly if I didn’t intend to pay my tab soon. I knew from the way he was waving his laser blaster around, and by the froth emanating from what I had been supposing was his mouth for these last few hours.
How did I get here? Where was here? It had been years since I’d seen my ship. I parked it somewhere, where? I couldn’t rightly recall the last time I had seen it, how many years had it been? I looked down to my hands and counted rings. Taking a drink of my beer I made it to seven. “Wait,” I mumbled to myself. “It’s trees that you count the age of that way.” The man next to me, from the Gibbel Velunchuk’s Surgical and Mortuary Services, his name tag declared, gave me a glare and locked eyes on my towel. A lot of folks are wary of hitchhikers. This man was too, and rightfully so. I had already stolen his wallet, and was working on his 401K. The short greenish fellow hopped off the bar stool abruptly and tried in earnest to make it look like he wasn’t just moving away from me.
Having secured the funds from the little fellow’s retirement fund with my Sub-Etha Skimmer-Hack-o-Mat device and transferred it to my bar tab, the frothing barkeep stopped waving his pistol at me, but continued to froth. Maybe the froth had nothing to do with his temperament after all. I took note that he didn’t put the laser away, rather he set it on the bar. It must not have been much of a retirement fund. The small green man had left his drink on the bar when he had moved away from me. Gingerly I slid the glass in front of me, it was Gagrakackan, a Tzjin-anthony-ks. Gross. Sipping it anyways I started to ruminate about my life as I often do when I am starting to sober up. I had a great ship, and a thriving freight business, what happened? Okay, well it wasn’t thriving, but I made a stable income. Stable isn’t really the right word, but I was rarely out of microwave noodles and cheap brews. To be honest it wasn’t freight either, I was smuggling, but life was good, more or less.
A few months prior I had received a transmission from one of my semi-cousins. He was getting married, and was throwing a grand gala event to celebrate the occasion. His bride was to be coronated on the same day as Empress. My semi-cousin was a self proclaimed big deal on his planet, he’d even made himself Emperor. I am never one to turn down a free meal, and figuring there would probably be an open bar I set course in navigational computer and headed out without delay. To be honest I really hate weddings, and my semi-cousin was never one to cater anything properly, but he was also the kind of guy that would send some kind of insane homemade robot death squad after you if you didn’t accept his invitation. He’d been doing it since we were kids, like when he just had to have his birthday party with Lemrix the B’Larz, and everyone just had to go. With the later obsession in Super Robots I am not surprised he liked Lemrix so much, but at the time the animatronic B’Larz with all it’s purple faux fur and the three songs it repeated wasn’t top on my list of birthday party place picks. For the record, and to the day I wish I was spending a year dead for tax reasons rather than have had attended that particular 11th birthday party. Not wanting to repeat the incident that followed, I was definitely going to attend this wedding.
Arriving on the day of the wedding, I donned my finest jumpsuit. The one with only the one cigarette burn on it that I had stashed away for just such an occasion as this. There was a lingering smell of hyperdrive coolant on it, but I didn’t think anyone would notice. At the spacedock, I was greeted by a driver and taken to the Capitol right away. I hadn’t been on this planet in years, but it looked as if little had changed. Weapons factories and second hand arms dealers, the occasional terrified citizen. Crime did not exist here, and being homeless was a crime punishable by death. Patrols of Death-Bots passed by every few minutes, inviting one wonder if there were really that many Death-Bots patrolling, or if the same group was seriously lost. The streets were surprisingly empty, I figured everyone that was anyone, and anyone else was attending the wedding.
The hover car stopped at the Grand Palace. Getting out I feigned an attempt to tip the driver. His rebuttal was reassuring, I still wasn’t sure if it was a cash bar or not. Walking up the great stairway to the even greater set of shining silver doors, they opened with a slow and heavy groan, intoning with a deep voice that matched the sheer size of them, “Glad to be of service.”
Damn GPP is everywhere nowadays. I was quickly escorted to my seat by a set of laser blaster carrying robots. Taking my seat I peered down the long aisle and saw that my semi-cousin was already at the altar. He had put on his pointiest cape, and his eyebrows were at their pointiest, and his beard too, was very pointy. Don’t get me wrong we Betelgeusians are all about family, even the distant ones, and even the ones that are only family because of marriage; There was just something unnatural about that boy. You got that sickly feeling of unease whenever you were around him. He had pale pastry complexion. His skin had an odd translucence to it, just all the wrong pallor for someone of any natural disposition. His eyes were sunken back into his head as to avoid making contact with any source of light; which on the whole was fine as far as light sources were concerned. He was perpetually moist. He was the kind of person that babies would throw out their candy in advance when he walked into a room in fear of apprehension. He would actually stop old ladies from crossing the street at all. He would put your cat in a tree. If you didn’t have a cat he would get you one, and wait a few weeks for you to grow attached to it, and then he would put it up in a tree, then offer to help it down with a firing squad. He never rewound his video tapes. He was in short a real creepo. Everyone in the family knew it, but none had ever survived telling him as much. We all miss Uncle Randy.
Pre-recorded organ music, electric and slightly cheap sounding, began with crackling and blare over the loudspeakers. Everyone in attendance stood when the bride-to-be began her procession, partly in anticipation of seeing the new Empress, but also because of the Eletro-Staffs being wielded by the security bots were helping them to make informed decisions. I too rose from my seat. I was curious about what kind of creature would marry my creepo semi-cousin. In a moment of clarity I admitted to myself that this was a big part of the motivation to come, promises of free food, and threats of death by robot swarm aside.
I had just started to wonder again about the bar, and how long this ceremony was going to take when I saw her. I had been told she was from a planet called Earth. I hadn’t been there, but brother it convinced me that maybe I should. She was absolutely radiant. Her golden hair in curled tresses, blue eyes sparkling like the brightest nebula. She wore a silver shining halter top, with a matching long skirt. Her bare midriff was adorned with sash that covered her belly button in a way that made my brain go all screwy. Tears rolled past her tender cherubic cheeks, like many brides to be she was overcome by the emotion of the day. She was led by several maiden attendants to the altar, as she passed me I smiled at her. My heart fluttered, she really was perfect in every way. She was everything that I had been saving myself for. I understood why my semi-cousin wanted to be wed to her. Jealousy ran over me, but then her eyes met mine.
It was cosmic bliss. I fell deep into her spell, glancing down to her tender lips that practically demanded I kiss, she whispered softly,
That couldn’t be what she just said. Maybe “elf knee,” or “shelf ghee,” but that didn’t make much sense either. Maybe it was “Smelt pee,” I gave myself a sniff, nope. I wasn’t sure if what I heard was what I heard, but I didn’t care. I was overwhelmed by the longing to help her. Or to “have tea,” I just couldn’t tell. My eyebrow now stuck in the arched position, I watched as this resplendent woman walked up the altar, beside her groom. The music stopped. Immense gongs clashed, sending their vibrating tone across the ornate hall.
The ceremony began with the reciting of a famous poem, “Ode to the Merciless.” The High Priest faithfully recited it as a dedication in the monotonous drudgery customary for these events.The bride-to-be stood within the fold of my semi-cousin’s long cape. He towered ominously, and had started to do that grin that evil types do when something evil was afoot. This thing was beginning to feel a lot less like a wedding than others I had attended, but I was far too distracted by the beauty of this Earth girl to notice. When the High Priest finished the recital of the poem, the blushing bride suddenly and swiftly turned and pounded both her fists very hand on the groom’s chest. She yelled out,
“You’ll never get away with this, Ming!”
Oh great Zarquon, Ming, why can’t you just try a dating website? I knew there was something wrong about this! He didn’t invite me to a wedding he summoned me to a kidnapping. Zarking hell, this was Homecoming dance all over again. I knew something had to be done. Rising above my own fear of my creepo semi-cousin, inspired to gallantry by the buck-some blonde in seeming peril I stood and declared,
“I’ll save you!”
Guard-bots quickly moved in on me. Ming’s eyebrows practically arched off his head in anger. Yanking the Electro-Staff from one of the guard-bots, I shoved it into its metalic chest. With a loud zap the robot fell to the floor. Another robot jumped at me, and with a swift kick I knocked it’s head off.
“Brilliant!” I said to myself, “They’re poorly made!”
Ming ordered more robots to attack me, but I made light work of the shoddy bots as I stormed towards the altar. Taking a laser blaster from one of the fallen robots, I shot at my semi-cousin. This was definitely going to come up at the next family holiday. Ming pointed his long finger at me accusingly, which was very effective because his finger was very pointy and well suited for the task, “You’ve always been a dick, Zaxley Nash!”
I mustered up my best hero guy voice, as to impress the beautiful woman now standing back against the wall seeking cover from the action, “Yeah, Ming, well that’s just like your opinion man!”
The Earther girl ran to me, and put her arms around me, “My name is Dale Arden, I was kidnapped from Earth.” I nodded, I tried to play it cool, but holy singing fish I was about to pull off the classic saving the damsel in distress thing. I was so definitely going to score tonight. Definitely. Everyone knows it’s like a sure thing, I just had to get her out of here. Before I could even start to make a plan, explosions rocked through the hall. Rubble and debris spread across the floor, hard marble imported from Santraginus V. I had no idea what was going on, but I will be zarking damned if something was going to screw this thing up for me.
Something didn’t screw it up for me, someone did. Flash friggin Gordon. Space Force dipshit, football star, and Mr. spandex pants his shiny pompous self. Oh man I hate this guy. I didn’t even get to introduce myself before Flash and his weird winged buddies knocked me on my arse with a huge club right to my chest. I fell to the floor and hit my head hard with a thud. Everything went a blur as I struggled to keep conscious, all I could see was smoke and laser beams, and the flap of eagle men wings. I tried to get up, but I was already out for the count. As I faded out, I heard Dale’s sweet voice, “Flash, you saved me!”
Slowly the words fell from my mouth, “Oh for frak sake.”
Several hours later I woke up. There was nobody around. The floor was littered with robot parts and eagle feathers. Withered flowers from the bridal procession were strew about amidst the charred bodies of some of the wedding guests. Only the caterers remained, packing up the laser-sterno burners in dismay. I picked myself up and walked down the cold night streets of Mongo. Down the forsaken path and back to the starport where I thought I had parked my ship. It was gone. Of course it was gone, I couldn’t possibly just get the hell out of here that easy. Whether it was impounded or stolen I didn’t know, but I wasn’t in the position to ask security. I was actually actively avoiding security at this point, my best defense at the moment was that my semi-cousin Ming mostly likely figured me for dead. Shortly before suns rised I was able to thumb a ride.
Many stops, many stowaways, and even more drinks later I found myself here, sitting in this bar, back in the Betelgeuse system. While I considered just going back home to New Betel, the bar keep was once again waving his pistol at me. It was time to go. I gathered my things and put them in my backpack. My trusty towel over my shoulder, and my copy of that most remarkable book, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in my pocket, I activated my Electronic-Thumb and headed towards the stardock.
At the stardock I met with some guys who were going teasing in the ZZ9 PL Z Alpha system. They promised no abductions, or probing, and maybe we’d just stop for some drinks. When I realized that Earth was in the ZZ9 system, I asked if Earth was where we were going. My new friends laughed condescendingly. Later I learned that they laughed because Earth was the only thing in the system. My heart jumped at the possibility of seeing Dale again, excitedly I told my teaser pals the tale of the one that got away. Their leader, Drap, smiled with both of his mouths and told me,
“Why settle for just one? Zax, Earth girls are easy.”
Tune in next week for another exciting edition!
Next time: Zaxley finds pizza, beer, and a wife on the mysterious planet Earth!
©Galactic Hitchhikers 2019