The Devious Astrolabe, Part 1

Dedicated to Joya, the namer of this tale

Jorgeegrenthalu d’adr’tt Krendatel-5 (Jorgee to his friends) stood tall and tentacled, a terrifically handsome specimen of his race with large headbumps, peircing black eyes, and a sharp beak. Normally he was quiet and reserved, his movements always formal and highly controlled. Tonight, however, he had lapsed into movement patterns that were casual, bordering on intimate. His voice was slurred, and his normally smooth skin was covered in the orange bumps of serious inebriation. He’d spent the night celebrating his promotion to Navigation Lieutenant 4th Class on the good ship Speckle’s Pimple with crewmates, but had lost them somewhere along the way and he found himself in a part of town he’d never visited. The copious quantities of fermented methane had lent a romantic, rough-and-tumble charm to his current surroundings and he found himself buying the patrons of the Sailor’s Last Stop Saloon, a round of drinks without noticing just how closely those patrons were eyeing his wallet, 310 Gen iPod, and even the trail of gemstones that tattooed one of Jorgee’s tentacles in the pattern of his family dynasty.

He was busy expounding, in slurred chirps, the honor that this promotion brought to himself and his forebears, when a hominid siddled up to him and laid a greasy palm atop one of Jorgee’s tentacles. The man (at least Jorgee thought it was a man, he was hard-pressed to distinguish hominid genders when stone sober and when drunk, he found it nearly impossible), looked up at Jorgee with pale blue and watery eyes. The hominid’s body was skinny, wrapped in a loose cloth that seemed low-tech, possibly even organic. Which explained the dirt and grime that adhered to the once white fabric.

The “man’s” fleshy lips flapped as, in a surprisingly deep and ominous voice, the hominid said, “Avast, me hearty. It be danger you are treading into. Accept not the gifts of strangers.”

Then, in a slightly less deep and entirely friendly tone, he said, “This has been a free trans-temporal reading offered by Future, Inc. If you would like to hear more about your immediate future, please transfer 10,000 credits to the local account 0000002453.”

“10,000 credits,” Jorgee squeaked. That was twice his monthly salary. Not that he had any intention of paying for this scam. He may have recently molted, but he wasn’t born yesterday.

Smoothly the hominid continued, eyes bright and eager, “Upon review, and because we notice that you are in possible danger, Future, Inc. would like to offer a one-time, special, danger discount rate of only 2000 credits for a reading of your next eight hours (adjusted to local time measurements) to ensure your best success at surviving the night. Act now as this is a limited time offer.”

Maybe it was the Triple Supernova Slammer, or maybe it was a growing, almost subconcious awareness that the bar did, indeed, seem charged with the possibility of danger, but Jorgee was a sucker-tip away from transferring the credit and finding out what his future might hold when he felt a massive displacement of air to his right and heard a gruff voice with an Aldabarian accent say, “Den’t ya der it boy. Future, Inc. is a boonch of tird rate hacks zat’ll claim a hangnail ees a mortal wound justen to get yer moneee.”

Jongee turned to see a large Slithtraken-en, with its bright green scales and massive clawed arms handling a large mug made small by the thing’s size. The liquid in the mug was a dark grey and seemed to have a number of small, living creatures swimming in it.

“Nows aboot yer futuren, The Timeways Conglomerate kin gives yer twelve hoors and even draws yer a picture of yer futuren mate to carrie with yer till yer meets him/her/it.”

Suddenly, Jongee was very tired and decided it would be best if he left the Sailor’s Last Stop Saloon and head back to his safe and sound berth. Obviously, he was someone’s idea of a mark.

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

Sliding of the barstool was trickier than he anticipated and he nearly fell.

“Getting home now. I should be . . .”

A moment later, the world stopped spinning enough for him to walk out of the bar, take a deep breath of night air, begin to choke and cough on the thick, pollution filled stuff, and begin to stagger home, glad that his species was rare in these parts and no one would be able to see just how sexually perverse his movement pattern had become. He very much did not notice a small, quick figure emerge from the shadows between the buildings and begin to follow him.

Part 2

On this day..

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