On a lonely space route, picking up strangers often promised a welcome relief from the robotic voices of the ship. Often the strangers grew into friends. Between hands of poker and beer, or the occasional game of Spaceopoly, I would learn about the strangest desires and the darkest secrets of my guests. Weeks with only a robot’s voice for company caused a man to confess all, given the chance. Or in my case, a woman.
But on occasion, I would take aboard the other type too. The one who wanted all you had, and often you as well. The dog-faced Lizowler happened to fall into the latter category. Many sought their wealth as pirates of the space lanes, and this one appeared to have done well for himself based upon the loot sewn onto his uniform.
He jabbed a coil-gun to the side of my head. “Ya have a nice ship here. I just might take a liken’ to it.” His jowls wagged as he talked while his eyes darted around and his nose sniffed the air.
I swallowed. Though I had successfully avoided death before, you could never know for sure how they would react. One second down the wrong path, and I would be space-garbage.
I stared him in the eye and presented my best helpless-female face. “You like my ship? You certainly don’t expect a weak human to oppose a husky Lizowler like yourself?”
He straightened up. “Of course not. Especially the secondary gender of your race.”
I swallowed again, but this time to keep down the pride that demanded to seek justice for such slander. My revenge would come later, if I twisted him the right way. Instead, I popped my right hip out while sliding my hand around the curve of my rear.
“I bet you’ll be ecstatic that I am the secondary gender of my race before you’re done with me.” I drained my longing eyes into his twisted face.
“I’ve also heard humans are not to be trusted. Besides, you would make a poor substitute for a Lizowler partner.”
“You’ll never know unless you try.”
He grimaced as if considering it, then growled. “You’ll never know either, I’ll make sure of that.”
Inside, I smiled. Few pirates would trust a woman who wanted to give herself to them. But a woman who cowered at the thought, they would gladly attack. Now, I needed one more step of pride by the hairy beast.
I pointed down the hall to a door. “If you’re going to take over, I guess you’ll be wanting the control room and the captain’s chair.”
His nose sniffed as if he could smell a trap. He waved the coil-gun. “You first.”
Our steps clanked along the metal floor, backed up by the hum of the engine. Then, the echoing symphony climaxed with the clunks of the door-locks opening, and the squeaks of rusty hinges dying to a last gasp as it slid to a rest, then sounded a final cymbal-clash against the wall.
The control-room instruments provided the encore of beeps and whirs. Infinite space hung out the window as our earless audience. In the center, bolted to a stepped platform towering over the small area, a plush, high-backed, chair–no, not a chair, I’d say a throne–cast a commanding shadow upon an otherwise standard control center.
His eyes gulped in the sight. Hard not to, and I’d designed it with that thought in mind. Few pirates could resist the captain’s chair. Never mind that a lone pilot could never reach the controls from such a lofty position. The jutting arms and purple upholstery claimed that anyone who sat therein would command the universe.
He stepped up, then spun his head toward me, ensuring his coil-gun remained fixed on my face. He reached the top and examined the commanding chair and its view, but continued to glance my way.
He waved his pistol at the chair. “Why do you have this giant chair?”
I shrugged. “I have a big ego. It suits me. But you should avoid the captain’s chair, it doesn’t suit you.”
He faced the view of the stars and gently settled into the welcoming seat. One beep of an instrument passed before his scream barked across the bulkheads. The coil-gun clacked down the steps.
“What is this?” He yanked at his arm, then growled in pain.
I reached into a storage panel to retrieve my hand-ray. Then I strolled up the steps as he pushed forward, only to howl and collapse limp into the seat.
“I designed it myself, dog-face. Locking beams penetrate into your back and wrap around your spine, effectively immobilizing you. Any attempt to free yourself compresses the nerves and shoots jarring waves of agony across your body.”
His eyes narrowed and he growled. “I knew you couldn’t be trusted.”
“Au contraire, mon capitaine. You cannot trust your own arrogance.”
“Now I suppose you’ll have me as you wanted?” The edges of his mouth rose under his jowls.
I brushed my gun’s barrel down his heaving chest, across his stomach smelling of alien sweat, and let it rest against his crotch.
“Na, I’m not in the mood anymore.” I pulled the trigger.
I bounced the warm gun in my hand. “I really need to get a Disintegrator. These ray guns are too messy.” Not that I didn’t have a whole week before I would arrive in port. At least I could occupy myself with more than computer games that I had beaten several times over.
Maybe the next visitor would feel more like playing poker. Few could beat me at that game.
R. L. Copple is a father to three children, a husband since 1982, and lives in the Texas Hill Country. His interest in speculative fiction started at an early age, after reading “Runaway Robot” by Lester Del Ray. Many others followed by Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, among others. He has written for religious purposes but started writing speculative fiction in 2005. Infinite Realities marks his first book, a fantasy novella. Novels are in the editing stages, one of which is a sequel to this book. He has been published in several venues. More info can be found at his web site, http://www.rlcopple.com.