Poetry Power: Scene Seven

© 2015 Hank Quense

Joris skulked along back streets until he reached the Anthropophagic Inn where he found Alzo. “I need to steal a ship,” Joris told him. “Will you help me?”

“That’s a tough one.” Alzo scratched his stubbly chin, frowned and stared at the wall. After a brief interval, he grinned at Joris. “I can getta ship but ya gotta do somethin’ for me in return.”

“What’s that?”

“When ya leave, I go wid ya. I hate this damned planet.”

The hair on Joris’s neck crawled. The pirates never accepted outsiders.

The aliens in the crews were descended from those who lived on Veux when the exodus occurred. What if he reached safety and brought Alzo with him? Was the ban on outsiders nothing more than a tradition? Maybe it was time to find out. Joris experienced a delicious thrill at the idea of more deviancy. “Sure. We’ll leave together.”
~ ~ ~

“Ahh. This one don’t have a security system” Alzo said. “I can pick the lock.”

Joris heaved a sigh of relief. This was the eleventh ship they had examined and it was the middle of the night.

“I’m in your debt;
And it will be met.”

Darkness enshrouded the space port. Only feeble light came from lamp poles along the roads and the small torch Joris held for Alzo.

“There.” The door slid open and Alzo stood aside for Joris to enter the small ship.

On the flight deck, Joris examined the control board. It had a standard configuration and offered no problems to him.

“What’s that stink?” Alzo made a face. The ship had a strange odor, something nasty not completely masked by overdoses of flowery scent.

“Smells like something died.” Joris sat down and engaged the automated start-up process. Alzo slumped into the adjacent seat.

“This vessel is not scheduled to depart until the afternoon.” The computer had the snippy voice of an experienced bureaucrat.

“It’s an unscheduled flight,” Joris said. “How long before we can liftoff?”

“The ship does not have permission to liftoff and it has not filed a flight plan.”

“It’s an unplanned flight;
To an unknown site.”

Joris hated quarrelsome computers. After an argument that lasted a few minutes, the computer conceded and activated the controls.

Once the ship finally lifted off its berth, the intercom squawked with an indignant voice. “Return immediately and report to the main space port control room!”

The computer made a rude noise when Joris told it to ignore the command.

Underway, Joris relaxed for the first time since his capture. He was once again in control of his destiny. “Alzo, why don’t you search the ship. See if it has any supplies.”

“Good idea.”

After Alzo left the flight deck, Joris examined his toe and gawked in surprise. The toe nail displayed a red light. A pirate ship had sent him an acknowledgment! A rescue ship was on its way! He sent another signal, replaced his boot and let his mind play with rhymes and beats, all of them paeans of celebration.

Alzo returned. “No supplies. Is this is gonna be a short trip?”

“You have no idea how short it will be.” Joris grinned at Alzo.

“Har, har.” The new voice on the intercom startled him. “Pirate scum!” A monitor showed a pig-like figure dressed in battle armor. A Porcine bounty-hunter! A glance at the short-range display showed the bounty-hunter’s ship almost within firing range. Joris’s mind switched from paeans to a funeral dirge.

“Uh-oh. That guy is trouble.” Alzo looked at Joris. “You’re a pirate?”

“Computer!” Joris ignored Alzo. “Activate the shields.”

“This is a garbage scow. It doesn’t have shields.”

Joris groaned. “Any weapons?” He knew the answer to that question but asked anyway.

“No one attacks a garbage scow,” the computer responded.

The intercom blared again. “I recognized ya in that bar where ya read a poem. I knew it was only a matter of time until ya stole a ship. I’m gonna blast a hole in it to let the air out. Then I’ll tow the ship to a navy base and collect the reward of a hundred thousand credits.”

“And I hadda hitch a ride wid ya.” Alzo slapped his forehead with the flat of his hand.

Joris gnashed his teeth. The rescue ship was still a long way off. Too far away to save him from the bounty hunter.

The ship’s display showed the bounty-hunter closing fast. Joris chewed his lip. A second ship trailed the first. The Provost? Could he stall the hunter long enough for the Provost to get close? Then he’d have to stall the Provost until the rescue ship arrived.

“Prepare to die.” The Porcine grinned at him.

Desperate, Joris tried to stall.

“I have a last request;
It will be my bequest.”

“Arrggh. I hate last requests. Let’s hear it.”

“I’m going to read you a poem.”

“Make it good one.” Alzo’s voice had a pleading quality to it.

“Here goes.” Joris cleared his throat. Three times.

“When . . . I . . . was . . . a . . . child . . . being . . I . . . oftentimes . . . felt . . . wrothy . . .
Because . . . I . . . wanted . . . a . . . toy . . . thing, That . . . I —”

Joris stopped and smiled at the hunter.

The hunter shook his head and frowned. “What the—”

Flashing lights played along the surface of the bounty-hunter’s ship as its shields absorbed a blast from the second ship. The hunter’s ship broke contact and zoomed away.

Joris sprawled in his seat. Amazing! This poetry was powerful stuff. It had distracted the bounty hunter and allowed the second ship to get into firing range. One problem solved, one to go. He concentrated on the new hazard. It was big and sleek, the kind of ship that was only built with other people’s money.

“Egar here.” The monitor showed a very angry Provost. “Return to the port immediately.”

“Yourself go bugger;
The Madame, go hug her.”

“Put about or we’ll board your ship.”

“Try it.”

The University ship launched a small boat.

Joris gulped. He couldn’t fight off a boarding attempt. “Can you delay them,” he asked Alzo. “Help is on the way.”

A strange voice came over the intercom. “Which ship sent a signal?”

“The small one,” Joris replied. “The large one is attempting to kidnap me.”

“Small ship. Identify yourself.”

Joris pulled off his boot and sock and sent the ID message again. Alzo gawked at the toe.

“Received and verified. Stand by, Admiral, while we get rid of your problem.”

The University ship retrieved its boat and fled.

Joris thought about his future. His days of commanding ships were over because of the neural necklace. Still, poetry had to be explored. Just how powerful was it? What were its limits? What if the pirates besieged a stronghold, and, what if, Joris had loudspeakers erected and beamed endless poetry at the defenders. Would they surrender to stop the poetry?

Joris laughed and recited a new poem.

“I have a lifetime of study,
To make poetry less muddy, With Alzo as my new buddy.”

The End

Next month, the story will be called Romeo & Juliet. It’s my version of Shakespeare’s great love tragedy. May the Bard forgive me.

Poetry Power: Scene Six

© 2015 Hank Quense

Three overstuffed chairs sat on a dais in an ornate conference room. Dozens of portraits of individuals from various races dressed in scholastic robes decorated the walls. All looked annoyed.

“The professors will be here in a minute, so mind your manners.” Egar shoved Joris into a chair at a table in front of the dais.

Joris ignored the Provost while he played with the jumble of words flowing through his mind. He wished his hands were free so he could use his e-pad.

Through a door behind the dais, a woman with a haughty attitude entered the room. A lizard followed her then a dull-colored fish in a self-propelled tank and finally, a bird-like creature. All of them – except the fish – wore black robes with multi-colored collars. The fish had its emblems pasted on the side of the tank.

“The visitor will stand to show proper respect for this committee.” The woman’s voice was as supercilious as her posture. She sat down.

Egar grabbed Joris under the arm and hauled him to his feet. Joris stared at the woman, obviously Madame Chancellor. She was short and dumpy with stringy brown, gray-streaked hair. She appeared around sixty and eschewed rejuvenation from the looks of her. She also didn’t use makeup.

“Untie his hands and then you may leave,” she told the Provost.

“Madame, he is a dangerous pirate.”

“He wears a neural necklace,” Madame replied.

“Yess,” the lizard said. “My coussin assuress me he iss harmlesss.”

Cousin? Joris thought. No wonder the lizards sent him here.

“Sit,” Madame commanded.

Her imperious tone hackled Joris while unbidden rhymes played in his mind.

“You are here,” Madame said, “to provide us with information for a momentous dissertation on pirate societies and their origins. We have researched every known work on the subject, but still questions remain. You live in such a society and are descended from a long line of pirates. You will provide us a wealth of answers.”

His gorge rose until a couplet formed in his head.

“You want information to feather your nook;
But I say stuff your book.”

Joris thought his couplets were getting better and they lessened his anger.

“Earth had a very efficient organization known as the Inquisition,” the bird creature said. “We copied a few of their torture devices. I assure you, after an hour with the devices, you will tell us everything.” The bird chirped in laughter.

Joris’s stomach flipped. Torturers would find his toe!

“Why did your people take to piracy?” Madame crossed her arms, daring him not to answer.

Taking a deep breath, Joris said, “When we first settled on the planet Veux about a thousand years ago, we found gem mines and our ancestors took up farming and mining. Trade ships visited the planet to buy the gems. After a few hundred years the mines gave out and our major source of income disappeared.”

“We know all that,” the fish tank gurgled.

“About five hundred years ago, my ancestor, a lieutenant on a merchant ship, led a mutiny. He became a very successful pirate and, whenever he captured a ship, he converted it into another pirate vessel. Soon, all of Veux was engaged in servicing the pirate fleet.”

“Go on,” the lizard said.

“That’s it. I’ve answered the question.”

“So,” Madame Chancellor said. “You maintain that piracy resulted from a broken economy. That’s rather simplistic. We want something weightier.”

“Yess. Ssomething that ssmackss of heroissm. Of dessperation. Think of the epic sstoriess of hisstory. We want a tale like that.”

“I can only divulge the naked truth;
Even if it gives you an achy tooth.”

“Do I detect sarcasm?” Madame raised an eyebrow.

“Our research has disclosed that all pirate societies are insufferably arrogant,” the bird chirped.

“To move on.” Madame Chancellor shifted her weight in the chair. “Why did you migrate to colony ships?”

Joris had a sense of foreboding; this last question shifted into dangerous areas. “The location of Veux was well-known. It was only a matter of time before an anti-piracy campaign led to an attack on the planet. So we moved out.”

“And where are thesse three colony shipss you hijacked?”

“Always on the move and always separated. Only Granny knows where they all are.” A sudden thought startled him. Could a poem get him out of this situation? Something besides couplets. It worked in the tavern, but what about here?

“How do you find them?” The bird wiped its beak on a wing.

“I don’t. If I need repairs or re-supply, I send a message and they direct me to a rendezvous point.” Joris grinned at the Chancellor. “I wrote a poem about our leader, Granny. Want to hear it?”

“Oh, please,” Madame Chancellor said. “A buccaneer bard?”

“Thiss could be interessting. Perhapss we will find material for an appendix.”

“Here it is.” Joris cleared his throat.

“Granny’s a pip, and that’s a tip.
She’s a bitch who’s rough and awfully tough. She rules with an iron hand,
And not afraid to take a stand.
Don’t turn your head or blink,
‘Cause she’ll kill you in a wink.”

“What drivel!” Madame growled. “Pure claptrap.”

“I like the power and symmetry of it,” the bird said. “Or should I say, lack of symmetry.”

“Rough but powerful.” That comment came from the fish tank. “With marked similarities to the poetry of Orswell the Egotistical.”

What!” The bird flapped its wings in agitation. “Orswell is my specialty. How dare you make comparisons without my concurrence.”

“That is beside the point,” Madame screeched.

Joris watched in awe as the academicians argued and shouted. He slipped under the table and crawled towards the door.

Madame Chancellor noticed him when he stood to open the door. “Stop him!” she yelled. “He’s getting away.”

Joris ran into the hall and headed for the elevators. He punched the call button and a door opened. Inside, Joris pushed the lobby button and relief gushed over him as the doors shut.

“The lecture for this trip,” the elevator said in a monotone, “concerns the Paleolithic remains discovered in the Betelgeuse System.”

“Just get it in gear;
So I can protect my rear.”

Three minutes later, Joris realized the speed of descent was timed to the length of the lecture. At the five minute mark, he banged his head in frustration against the side of the elevator. After seven-and-a-half minutes, the elevator stopped and the doors opened.

He shot out of the elevator as it intoned, “Other lectures in this series include —”
The doors mercifully shut.

Joris skidded to a halt. Madame Chancellor, her robe hiked up to her knees, led the committee out the front door of the building. He took off in the opposite direction searching for a rear exit. At least the elevator trip had given him time to develop a plan.

To be continued

Poetry Power: Scene Five

© 2015 Hank Quense

When Joris awoke in the morning, he checked his toe and sent another signal. Downstairs, a brown-robed man with a perpetual scowl stood by the door. Joris pegged him as a bureaucrat.

The middle-aged woman manager entered the room carrying a dish of sliced meat. “That’s him, Provost.” She gestured towards Joris with the plate. “His picture was on the vid news last night.”

“I’m Provost Egar. I have an order to bring you to the University.” The man spoke in a whiny, nasal voice and moved towards Joris. “You’re to answer questions for the Chancellor. Come along quietly.”
Joris grabbed an empty chair to use as a weapon and said,

“Betrayed by my own hostess I am;
But she’ll not serve the platter of ham.”

Ignoring his shortness of breath, he marveled at the spontaneity of the couplet. The chair fell from his hands. He gasped and sunk to his knees before falling over on the floor.

Joris recovered in the back seat of a hover-vehicle with his hands tied. He now accepted that he had to control his anger. He couldn’t escape the necklace, so he could no longer use violence. He had to rely on his brains from now on.

“Don’t know what your problem is.” Provost Egar interrupted his thoughts. “Very important people want to talk to you. So you better behave.”

The car approached an arched gate with the words “Institute for Intergalactic Anthropology” chiseled into the stonework. Beyond the gate, residences bracketed a wide boulevard that ended at an immense structure. Its skeleton was on the outside of the building, an outdated architectural fashion.

Joris’ animosity grew as they came closer to the building. To Egar, he said,

“Do male and female students together romp;
Or do they concentrate only on school pomp?”

Joris wondered if his mind formed poems to keep his temper under control? He smiled at Egar’s expression.

“Better watch your mouth. Madame Chancellor doesn’t take to that kind of talk.”

The car stopped and the Provost pushed Joris out of the vehicle, into the building and towards an elevator on the far side of an ornate lobby. As soon as the elevator doors shut, a voice said, “The lecture for this trip —”

The Provost stuck a key into a control panel and turned it. “These lectures can drive you batty.” He pushed the button for the top floor and the elevator zoomed upward while Joris’s heart sank.

Poetry Power: Scene Four

© 2015 Hank Quense

In the receiving booth on Pedantry, Joris opened the door as soon as he determined that all his principal body parts had shown up. The transporter center was thronged with people from every race in the galaxy. Most of them wore brown robes like his. Others, who walked with great haughtiness, wore black or white or red robes with colorful collars. Public address speakers blared announcements in a variety of languages.

“Where ya goin’, sir,” a vendor shouted. “I’ll ride ya there cheap.”

“Whaddya studyin’?” Another waved a pamphlet in his face. “I got the answers to yer tests.”

“Male or female? I got the best on the planet. Any race ya want.” This one had holographic cubes under his floppy coat.

Joris ignored them and hurried out of the building onto a broad avenue called Praxology Road. Crowds filled the sidewalks. In the street, hover cars with loud sound systems drove too fast. Bars, cheap-eat shops and test-cheating clinics lined the street.

Much to his astonishment, his mind swirled with strange rhythms. Words and phrases jockeyed for position within meters. A fully formed quatrain popped into his brain only to be replaced by a roundelay.

The words made him feel deviant. All his life, Joris had adhered to the strict rules of his pirate society. Constantly hunted by government navies, the pirates had evolved a social code that placed a premium on conformance with society. Since poetry was considered effete and anti-social, the rhymes buzzing around his mind gave him a delicious sense of freedom mingled with decadence. To him, poetry was a new — and bizarre — way of thinking. It both energized and confused him.

Joris plunged down a side road and spotted a sign for a boarding house. He entered the Devonian Hostel and rented a single room for the night. To his relief, his credit cube, under a fake name, was accepted. At least he had funds.

In the dreary, mildew-smelling room, Joris sat on the bed, the only piece of furniture, and removed his left boot and sock. He examined the nail on the big toe then gave the toe a quarter turn to the right to put it in the receiving mode. Nothing. No one was trying to contact him using his secret ID code. Joris twisted the toe to its original position, paused a second then turned it to the left activating an emergency signal using his ID. He hoped a nearby pirate ship would pick up the signal.

Joris replaced the sock and boot, left the hostel and crossed the street to the Anthropophagic Restaurant and Bar, a small, shabby shop. Several patrons sat spread out along the bar. Hologram vids played at each end of the bar. One displayed the latest University news and the other a debating contest against Pedantry Nine.

Joris sat down at a wobbly, knife-nicked table in the rear and ordered a sandwich and an ale from the rough-looking bartender. By the time the order arrived, he was deep into composing a poem on his e-pad. Joris didn’t understand this new urge to compose poetry. It was as if he had to compose. In restraining his violent acts, the neural necklace was unleashing artistic, deviant concepts. For a pirate, this was almost as traumatic as coping with a nonviolent future.

Joris noticed a porcine at the bar staring at him. The pig-like alien had a shifty look. Joris stared back. A smile played across the porcine’s face as he turned away.

Joris shrugged and went back to composing.

“Whaddya writin’.”

Joris looked up at a ferret-faced creature who swayed on his feet. He oozed hostility and his fetid breath reeked of ale. Without the necklace, Joris would have settled the creature in a few seconds. Now, he was prey instead of predator. Joris smiled and replied, “I’m composing a poem.”

Ferret-face belched. “Hey, boys. We gotta poet here. Must be from the University. Guess he got lost.” After some effort, his eyes refocused on Joris. “We don’t like students.”

“I’m a traveler, not a student. I rented a room across the street.”

Ferret-face drew a long blade and waved it front of Joris’s face. Joris fought an urge to break his arm.

“Read me this poem. If I don’t like it, I’m gonna carve yer face.”

Joris was trapped. Perhaps, he could make a run for the door after he read the poem. “Here goes.”
      “Fratils are red-ish.
      Grosgins aren’t,
      Just like a radish,
      I’ll warrant.”
Joris leaned backward, ready to make a break for the door.

Ferret-face sobbed, sat down at the table and dropped the knife to knuckle his tear-filled eyes. “That reminds me of Ma.” He sobbed again. “She always said to me, ‘Eat yer grosgins or I’ll beat ya silly’.” He squeezed the bridge of his nose and blew a wad of snot on the floor. “Yer a great poet.” He patted Joris’s arm and roared for the bartender to bring Joris another ale.

Joris sat open-mouthed. How could a poem have such an effect?

“My name is Alzo Fergus. Nobody comes into this part of town ‘less they’re in trouble. What’s yer problem?”

“Madame Chancellor wants to talk to me.”
“She’s a first-class bitch. Ya gotta watch out fer her provosts. They do whatever she says. If yer need help, just ask for Alzo. I’m usually here.” Alzo stood up. “I’ll let ya get back to writin’.”

 

To be continued

Poetry Power: Scene Three

© 2015 Hank Quense

Joris regained consciousness in an empty cell. Sitting on the floor, he took stock of the situation and realized his neck hurt at the base of his skull. His implant! He probed the aching area with a finger. He almost sobbed out loud when he discovered a bandage covering the area of his suicide implant. Designed to be triggered by a mental command, it released an instant-acting poison.

Consternation filled his mind and he took a deep breath to settle his nerves. On his promotion to admiral, his left big toe had been surgically removed and replaced with a natural-looking artifact. Joris took an oath requiring him to destroy the toe upon being captured and to dispose of the rubbish so it couldn’t be examined. Then he could activate the implant to prevent getting drugged or tortured into revealing pirate secrets.

Since the lizards had known about the implant, the pirates needed a new suicide solution. He rubbed his cheeks. This fresh insight made his situation even murkier. To get this information back to Fleet Headquarters, he had to stay alive and use his artificial toe. But these actions conflicted with his oath.

After a few long minutes of indecision, he elected to stay alive for the time being.

Hours later, the cell door opened and two goons led by an officer entered. The officer gestured for him to stand.

Joris climbed to his feet while he glared at the lizard.

“Remove your uniform and put thiss on,” the officer said. The other goon handed him a brown, hooded robe made of coarse material.

When he finished changing clothes, Joris asked, “What happened to my crew?”

“Your crew wass releassed after we gave them a going-away gift.” The lizards all laughed. “They are back on your sship. I’ll be very ssurprissed if they ever vissit our planet again.”

Joris puzzled over the meaning of a going-away gift.

The goons grabbed his arms and escorted him into a room filled with electronics and tools.

The wide mouth of the officer curled upward in what Joris assumed was a smile. “We will give you the ssame gift and then you will be leaving uss.”

The two lizards tightened their grip on his elbows while the officer approached with a metallic ring in his clawed hands. He slipped the ring around Joris’s neck and the two ends clicked together. Joris didn’t understand the meaning of the ring, but he was sure the lizards had done something evil to him.

“Your pirate career iss at an end.” The officer chuckled. “For you and your crew. You all wear neural necklacess that prevent you from performing violent actss. If ssomeone triess to remove it, it will explode and ssend your head into orbit while your body remainss on the launch pad. Your accomplicce will not fare much better.”

Joris became enraged. How dare these overgrown geckos interfere with his life! He pulled an arm loose, cocked his fist and gasped. The metal band cut off his breathing. His peripheral vision dimmed while his forward vision constricted to a narrow tunnel. He lunged at the officer, missed and fell on his face before he passed out.

He recovered in the back seat of a hover-vehicle with a goon on either side of him. They drove to a public transporter center. The goons hauled him inside the center.

“Thiss iss yourss,” the officer said and handed him a belt pouch.

Joris opened the pouch and found his e-pad and credit cube. “Where are you sending me?” Joris’s breath became ragged. He struggled to control his anger.

“We heard the messsage from Madame Chancssellor,” the officer said. “We contacted her and sshe assked that we transsport you to Pedantry Three sso you two can chat. We will not tell her about your arrival until an hour after you get there. That will give you a chancse to hide. We want to sset Madame a challenge.” The lizard laughed. “The robe you are wearing will let you blend in with the sstudent population.”

Joris inhaled deeply to tamp down his anger. The goons shoved him into a small booth and slammed the door. He slumped against a wall. Unable to defend himself, he didn’t have a chance of making it back to the fleet. His only option was to get rid of the toe and kill himself. As his body started to disassemble, he had a distressing thought; would the necklace let him commit suicide?

 

To be continued

Poetry Power: Scene Two

© 2015 Hank Quense

“Up Admiral Wynkoop!” shouted a beefy, heavily-bearded pirate.

“Let’s hear it for the Granny!” yelled another. A few crooked and dusty wall lights gave off a dim light that cast strange shadows throughout the seedy tavern. It hosted the starboard section of the ship, a quarter of whom were from several, non-human races.

Despite the government of Iguana Two’s refusal to give Joris permission to land his crew, he did it anyway. Tomorrow, the port section would enjoy the grudging hospitality of the race of giant lizards that populated the planet. The lizards walked upright, were bigger than humans and didn’t like off-worlders.

The boisterous yells of the crew produced a deafening racket as they acted like little kids let out of school. They dumped beer down uniforms and arm-wrestled. Others shouted for refills from the harassed lizard bartender.

Joris raised a mug of foul-smelling ale and said, “A toast to our courageous crew.”

Dartig and two other officers sitting at the table with him raised their mugs and shouted, “Granny!
A pirate jumped on the bar and yelled for silence. When he got it, he chanted, “Hubba, hubba, hubbado. Let’s hear it for Joris. Leads us in battle, he do, Then buys flagons for us.”

Joris grinned at the limerick. When he was eight, he had written a poem. He proudly showed it to his father who restricted him to his room for a week, claiming that no Wynkoop wrote poetry. Later in life, he had read a book about poetry, and the number of different types amazed him. The rhythmic cadence of some poems caught his imagination and he sometimes thought about composing another poem or two.

Joris heard a commotion at the tavern door and stood up. A dozen helmeted lizards crashed into the tavern. The pirates cheered and the ones closest to the door jumped on the lizards, touching off a melee. As Joris watched, his pirates fell to the ground accompanied by the snapping sound made by stun guns. He glanced behind and saw still more lizards climbing through the window. He moved towards the closest lizard, but Dartig grabbed his arm and hauled him back. The other officers drew close. “We have to leave, sir,” Dartig said, “before you get captured.” The sounds of the brawl grew louder. Screams alternated with curses. The snaps of the guns and the thumps of bodies hitting the floor sounded like drums played by a maniac musician. Joris estimated that half of his thirty crewmen — and very few lizards — now lay on the floor.

His group moved towards the rear door. It flew open and more lizards appeared. Joris snarled a curse and attacked the nearest one. He heard the snap of the stun gun at the same instant he felt a blast of pain surge through his chest. He blacked out.

 

To be continued

Poetry Power: Scene One

It’s June and that means the start of another serialized short story.  This time it’s a sci-fi tale called Poetry Power.

In this space opera, a pirate discovers a new and surprising use for bad poetry. This story was originally published in Strange Worlds Stories: Volume 1: July 15, 2015
© 2015 Hank Quense
Joris Wynkoop, admiral of the pirate fleet, barged into the flagship’s bridge and grinned at his second-in-command. Fresh from a raid, Joris carried his battle helmet under his arm as he announced, “We captured thousands of quantum chips. Not even an android soldier to defend the factory.”

“Great news,” Captain Dartig, replied.

Joris settled into his command chair and scanned the view screens above the control stations. Nothing challenged his flagship Granny as it orbited the planet. The ship was named after the honorific title of the head of the pirate society.

“What’s the status of the rest of the fleet?” Joris asked the communications officer.

“All four ships are in ambush positions on nearby major trade routes.”

“Any messages?” Joris asked

“Just one, Admiral. It was sent in the clear.”

“Put it on my viewer.” When it appeared on his screen, Joris read: It is imperative that we meet to discuss issues of supreme importance. To accomplish this, you must travel to Pedantry Three with all due speed. Signed: Madame Chancellor.  Madame Chancellor? Issues of supreme importance? “What is Pedantry Three?” Joris asked.

The officer punched keys on his console. “It’s a university planet in one of the Rim Systems.”

Joris’s face scrunched up in puzzlement.

“There are eighteen Pedantry planets,” the officer read. “Number Three is dedicated to Intergalactic Anthropology.”

Why would she want to talk to him except to probe for secret information? He deleted the message. “The crew deserves a break. Set a course for Iguana Two. We’ll give them a few hours planet-side.”

 

To be continued

 

Saving the Shore: Scene Eight

© 2007 Hank Quense

The next morning, Frido sat in his office contemplating the complexities of saving the Shore. Last night, Mamzer, embarrassed by his spell casting, had announced a five-year sabbatical and left. Dementia and Gimlet also left the Shore at the same time. The yuks were now unopposed.

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae burst into the office.

Frido’s heart thumped in his chest.

“Ya gotta help us.” Freddie Mac’s face contorted in pain.

“Yeah, it’s all yer fault.” Fannie Mae held a hand against one cheek.

Frido frowned as he studied the faces of the two yuks. “You look different.”

“We gotta get our teeth pulled,” Freddie Mac said. “Quick. And all me guys got the same problem.”

“It’s ’cause of that mucky magic.” Fannie Mae grimaced in pain as she spoke. “That sweet stuff rotted our teeth. Please help us.”

Frido felt the hair on the his neck and feet stand up. The yuks needed his help! The salvation of the Shore was at hand. “Why should I help you?”

“It’s the nice thing to do.” Fannie Mae whined and looked like she was about to cry.

“Perhaps,” Frido said, “if we agreed on your construction projects?”

Freddie Mac glared at him. “Dat’s blackmail, ya little runt.”

“Drop the houses. Build just the roads and the casino. No deal, no teeth pullers.”

Freddie Mac started to argue until Fannie Mae punched his arm. “Do it.”

“And I don’t marry her sisters.” Frido pointed to Fannie Mae.

“I’m gonna go bankrupt,” Freddie Mac moaned.

Frido ordered his bailiff to escort the two yuks to the closest teeth puller.

He sat back in his chair and relaxed for the first time in days.

The Shore-shrub, bursting with yellow blooms, sat in a fertile flower bed.

An hour later, the two yuks came back. “How about ya let me put up a few buildings for stories and shops. I gotta get some rent money.”

Frido’s eyes widen in surprise. A few shops would offer more jobs and may even attract visitors to the Shore. Especially with the new roads in place to ease travel. “That strikes me as a good idea.”

“Good. ‘Cause then we gotta way to stop her sisters from moochin’ off me.” Freddie Mac looked pleased.

“What’s that?” Frido asked, perplexed.

“Me sisters’re gonna open fast food restaurants inna new shops,” Fannie Mae beamed.

Frido ran through the names of available doctors in the Shore. The list wasn’t long enough, he decided, to handle an epidemic of food poisoning cases.

Some of the Shore-shrub’s leaves turned yellow.

The end

 

Next month, the serialized story will be sci-fi: Poetry Power.  A space pirate a discovers and new and unanticipated use for poetry.