Out There

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In the sequel to my story Unexpected Visitors, Liam Baker sets off out across the Galaxy with a man called Myles. Where will their trek into space take them?

Submitted: March 30, 2016

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Submitted: March 30, 2016

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Liam Baker tried not to think about the crazy events of the past twenty four hours. If he dwelled on things too much he would go insane. The previous evening had been spent defending planet Earth from alien invaders. With the help of Myles, who himself was from a tiny planet just outside Alpha Centauri, they had managed to send the canine-like Varangian creatures away with a flea in their ear. But that was another story. (See ‘Unexpected Visitors’.)

And so here he was on board Myles’ space craft about to travel to goodness knew where. Myles had not been specific about their destination. He had simply stated they would be going ‘out there’ with a dramatic swish of his arms. Liam studied his companion. Myles’ features put him somewhere in his mid thirties but he had an ancient, almost mystical air about him. He reminded Liam of Jim Morrison and Abraham Lincoln all rolled into one. His thin frame was hidden by his long green Parka coat. Myles tapped at the controls as the ship took off. He steered and guided the craft towards the sky using the complicated sticks that looked like part aeroplane cockpit levers and part X Box control pad. The ship creaked and rocked out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Liam gasped as they emerged into the silent starry blackness of space.

‘It’s full of stars.’ he whispered.

‘That,’ grinned Myles. ‘is your local solar system. The Milky Way.’

‘It’s amazing.’

‘Honestly, you humans are so lazy. All of this on your doorstep and you stay on your home planet taking selfies of endless photos of your lunch and posting it on Facebook.’

Liam tried to take in the alien’s point as he stared in awe at the wonder of space displayed on screen in front of him.

‘What is this ship called?’

‘How do you mean?’

‘Hasn’t it got a name? I dunno, isn’t it called Space Hawk or the Starship Endeavour or something?’

‘Liam, it’s just a ship. You don’t give your car a silly name do you?’

‘No, fair point.’

As they passed through the Milky Way Liam stared at the vastness of space around them. He looked at the planets whose names he had learned as a schoolboy. He never dreamed he would see them up close. Myles pointed.

‘See that red planet?’

‘Is that Mars?’

‘Yes it is. I was going out with a girl from Mars once. She got a bit clingy. Mind you, they do have four arms.’

‘What? There is life on Mars?’

‘Of course there is. There’s life on all these planets.’

‘Then how come we don’t know about it?’

‘Seriously? Earthlings are the oddball neighbours of your solar system. The others laugh at you behind your back.’

‘This is insane.’

‘Is it? Your planetary neighbours mock your obsession with money and war. You guys are always fighting amongst yourselves.’

‘If there was life out there-’

‘Out here.’

‘Surely we would know.’

‘This lot have been avoiding you for years. When you send out probes and signals they do the galactic equivalent of hiding behind the sofa. Not that they hate everything about Earth. Distributors from Venus often visit your planet to buy Earth chocolate. They can’t get enough of your confectionary. They especially love peanut M&Ms for some reason.’

‘How do people from Venus get away with visiting Earth unnoticed?’

‘They explain away their funny ways, language and dress sense by saying they’re from Austria. And Jupiter loves your television shows.’

‘Really?’

‘Oh yes. Jupiter’s Got Talent is massive.

‘They don’t get that in space?’

‘They certainly do. Ant and Dec are huge stars across the Milky Way.’

‘Those two present Jupiter’s Got Talent?’

‘Yes. Once they’ve finished shooting on Earth they rocket off and spend the rest of the year doing reality TV and guest appearances on the neighbouring planets.’

‘If Ant and Dec know about life on the other planets why don’t they tell anyone?’

‘Firstly, they’re making a fortune from touring your solar system. Everyone loves them, don’t they? And secondly, who would believe them? Imagine if they declared on live television that there’s life out here they would be laughed out of the studio.’

Liam agreed that his alien friend had a point. Anyone who had even a slight interest in extra terrestrials was portrayed in the media as a crackpot.

They rocketed on across the galaxy. Myles pointed again.

‘The Rings of Saturn. They’re a popular tourist attraction.’

Liam’s jaw dropped. The large sand coloured planet with its glorious rings circling it looked like something from the opening credits of Star Trek.

‘Our first stop will be Barnard’s Star. It’s not the nicest of places but you can find some right bargains if you know where to look. They say that if you can’t find what you’re looking for there then you don’t know what you’re looking for anyway. It shouldn’t take us too long to get there. This ship has a Quantum Speed drive so she’s pretty fast.’

‘Quantum Speed? How does that work?’

‘I have no idea. I know about as much about it as you do about the workings of the internal combustion engine.’

The stars blurred around them as Myles steered the spacecraft faster and faster. On and on they went. The universe was a glittering blur all around them. Liam lost track of time as they ventured on. Some time later Myles nodded.

‘There it is. Barnard’s Star. It’s actually not a star but a small planet.’

Barnard’s Star glowed a light grey up ahead. As they neared Liam could make out darker patches. Myles manoeuvred the ship towards the planet’s surface. Liam’s teeth chattered as the craft shunted into the planet’s atmosphere. The surface below looked like dull stone. Barnard’s Star, he thought, was more like a giant pebble.

They swept down lower, close to the surface. Liam could make out streets and buildings. The buildings were the same grey colours as the ground. His eyes were stunned by the utter drabness of the scene below. Myles guided the craft into land on what looked like a multi storey car park for spaceships. The ship landed with a surprisingly delicate touch. He tapped a couple of keys. The noise and thrumming of the ship stopped.

‘We’re here.’ he said.

Myles got to his feet. Liam followed him to the opening hatchway. Myles rummaged in his coat. He handed Liam a thick plastic band.

‘What’s this?’

‘Put it on your wrist. It’s a translator. It translates anything you hear into your native language.’

‘That’s amazing.’

‘It’s like if Google Translate did accessories.’

Liam took the band and slipped it on his wrist. Myles also handed him a plastic card. It looked like a bank or credit card. It had strange markings and vibrated slightly in his hand.

‘That’s a debit card for my account. If anything takes your fancy or something catches your eye you can charge it to that card. It is accepted in most major star systems.’

He pocketed the card still baffled by everything that was going on. They shuffled down the slope towards the grey drudgery of the planet. The sky overhead was as grey as the buildings. They left the parking lot and emerged on a busy street.

‘Sorry your first steps on extra terrestrial soil isn’t somewhere more impressive. Bardard’s Star is the planetary equivalent of a motorway service station.’

Liam looked at the street around him.

‘It kind of reminds me of Salford shopping precinct,’ Liam said. ‘but with aliens.’

A pale blue creature with one eye tutted at him and marched off down the street.

‘Earthman,’ laughed Myles. ‘here you are an alien too.’

Liam tagged along as Myles strolled down the road. The place had the shabby-chic of Manchester’s Northern Quarter mixed with a run down feel like those foreign warzones he’d seen on the news. The planet may have looked like it had seen better days but it was a thriving, bustling place. Grey buildings looked on both sides. Everything was sculpted from the slabs of grey rock. And the people that passed by, they were like nothing else he had seen. Liam stared at the throng going about their business. T he people flocking to this planet were creatures of all colours and kinds. One woman had large green cat-like eyes and fine black fur covering her face. She breezed passed them smoking a cigarette in a thin holder.

They turned off the main road and entered a narrow street. The street was crammed with worn store fronts and market stalls. Liam’s senses were stunned as they pushed through the crowds he was hit by sights, sounds and smells of an unearthly nature. It was like being hit with a pillow filled with exotic alien fruit. Traders called out, plugging their wares. Creatures haggled demanding reductions. The place reminded Liam of Afleck’s Palace in Manchester, except for the beings from Makrahm and other far off planets, and the blue vegetable that whistled at his as he walked by.

A giant beast of a man approached them. He blocked their path. He glared at them intently. His thick beard almost covered his entire face.

‘Myles? It is you, isn’t it?’

‘The one and only.’ he beamed.

‘I thought it was you, you son of a Katonian freight forwarder.’

Myles shrugged.

‘I saw you play in the Jirk Dently final on Zenith 15.’

The man shook Myles by the hand. As the man left them Liam gave Myles a nudge.

‘What was all that about?’

Myles said nothing. He turned to a stall stacked with small, square brightly coloured items. Myles rummaged through the pieces excitedly. As far as Liam was concerned they could have been anything from a local delicacy to an effective cleaning product. Myles picked up a handful of items. He swiped his debit card over a small back device at the end of the shelf. The device thanked him for his purchase.

‘Try these.’ he said.

He handed Liam a couple of pieces.

‘What are they?’

‘These are Barnardian dolce cakes. People come from across the system to get some of these bad boys.’

They walked on down the narrow lane. Myles munched on the square cakes. He nodded for Liam to try them. Liam popped one into his mouth. The sensation was astonishing. Deliciously bizarre tangy fruity flavours. He saw things too. Reds, greens, and colours he couldn’t even begin to describe swirled in front of him. A moment later the colours faded.

They turned down a winding alley. Liam watched as Myles stocked up on supplies. A man with pale skin and point ears walked by. Now that, Liam thought, is what an alien should look like.

‘Good luck, Myles.’ The man called out.

Myles waved in reply.

A woman wit a wonderfully orange shade of scaled skin squealed as they approached.

‘Can I have a picture?’ she asked.

‘Sure.’ said Myles.

He hugged her while her friend took a photo on her mobile phone.

‘Thank you, Myles. Good luck in the cup.’

Myles and Liam watched the woman and her friend swept down the street. They chatted excitedly about meeting Myles.

‘What is going on?’ asked Liam.

‘How’d you mean?’

‘People are treating you like visiting royalty or something.’

‘Fancy a drink?’

‘Do you ever answer a question directly?’

‘Drink?’

‘Yes. I think I need a drink.’

Myles lead them through the packed streets. They turned lefts and rights. They ducked up alleys and down ginnels. Eventually they came to an arched doorway. Myles hurried through the door. Liam rushed after him.

The bar was a squalid dark place that smelt of sweat and spices. All kinds of people huddled round wooden tables. The chatted noisily while drinking brightly coloured drinks. The place was like a cross between a traditional English tavern and a scene from a science fiction film. Liam joined Myles at the bar. The barman, a jolly fellow with three arms, asked what they wanted.

‘Two large Jinnans, please.’

The barman pulled bright green ale into two pint sized glasses. With his third hand he wiped the filthy counter with a dirty cloth. He slid the two drinks across to them.

‘These are on the house, Myles.’

‘Thank you so much.’

‘No worries. And good luck.’

They found a table. Myles raised his glass.

‘Kaplaa.’

‘Cheers.’ replied Liam.

They chinked glasses.

‘Why does everyone treat you like a rockstar?’

‘I’m pretty well known in these parts of the system.’

‘Why’s that?’

‘I’m a gamer. And a pretty damn good one too.’

‘You play video games?’

‘Across the galaxy gaming is recognised as the sport it is. And I’m one of the best. Thousands watch the live matches. It’s as big out here as football is on your planet.’

‘But computer games?’

‘Liam, I don’t just play. When it’s done properly it’s an art.’

‘If you say so.’

‘Hey, I won the Pan Constellation Cup three times in a row.’

Liam took a sip of the bright green drink. As the liquor hit his throat he had the strangest sensation. It was like the world, or at least the world he was on now, had slipped underwater. Everything was slightly muffled and blurred. Then a moment later there was a pop, like a bubble bursting. Things then returned to normal, or as normal as they had been for a while anyway.

‘Right,’ said Myles. ‘I think we’ve got everything we need from Barnard’s Star.’

‘What happens next?’

‘You know him?’

‘Who?’

‘Happin Snexx. He’s a good laugh. He used to have this mad inventor vibe going to impress the birds.’

‘You mean women?’

‘No, actual birds. But that’s another story.’

‘So what do we do now?’

‘As a matter of fact, one of the largest gaming competitions is coming up. The Nynex Championship.’

‘And you’re entering.’

‘Entering? I’m one of the favourites. You fancy coming along?’

‘Yeah, why not. Where is it?’

‘It’s on the far side of the Roddenberry Sector, just past the Farpoint Nebula.’

‘That means nothing to me but yes, let go.’

They travelled across the galaxy at Quantum Speed. Liam wasn’t exactly getting used to life out in the far reaches of space but it wasn’t quite blowing his mind quite as much as it initially had. It was like when he went abroad on holiday. At first everything seemed so different and exotic, how they call beer ‘cerveza’, but a few days later he was walking down the street nodding Hola to the locals. Liam was getting used to being bewildered by life in space and was trying just to take things in his stride. As they sat at the ships controls Myles nodded. Liam gasped. On their left was a swirling glowing cloud. The brightness of the reds, purples and yellows was like nothing he’d ever seen before.

‘The Farpoint Nebula.’ Myles explained.

Sometime later Myles told him they had reached the planet of Talhalla. He steered the ship into the planet’s atmosphere. He brought them down lower and lower towards the surface. Liam smiled as he looked out at the gleaming towers and sky scrapers. The whole scene seemed to be made up of neon and flickering lights. A gleaming star city out in deepest space. This was what space travel should be like, he thought.

Myles landed the craft on the roof of one of the towers. As they made their way down the ramp Liam noticed the sign on the rooftop. GCP. Galactic Craft Park. Liam was sure the price of parking would be as extortionate as parking on a metre in Manchester city centre.

Liam and Myles stood on the rooftops as their ship was taken away to be parked. Liam stared out at the glittering alien skyline. The view was like a George Lucas’ take on the New York skyline. The skies were full of space craft of all shapes and sizes. The ships zipped through the air like insects. Myles simply stood there for a long moment. Just as Liam was about to ask what they were doing his friend waved a hand.

A yellow ship the size of a small sports car dropped from the sky and hovered close to the edge of the roof.

‘Here’s our taxi.’

Myles yanked open the door and jumped in. Liam took a deep breath. He jumped the small gap into the vehicle. The door swept smoothly shut behind him. Liam did a double take. There was no driver. It was as though they were in the driver and passenger seat of the two seater. On the dashboard in front of them the control panel flickered. Myles leaned forward and spoke into the microphone.

‘To the Ford Trillian Area, please.’

‘On our way.’ chirped the automatic voice.

The taxi swept away from the tower. It zigged and zagged, weaved and zipped through the sky. Moments later the cab slowed and stopped above a large round building. The arena was shaped like a giant golf ball. It was like the domed arena in London except this was the whole round sphere. The craft hovered about the round off-white dome. The door slid open.

‘Arrived at destination.’ the voice chirped.

Myles swiped his debit card across the panel. A second later the voice spoke again.

‘Message from my operatives. No charge and good luck, Myles.’

Myles grinned. He thanked the machine and patted the dashboard. He pushed past Liam to the door of the taxi. Liam looked out. The taxi was hovering about the round, closed, very solid roof of the arena. No landing platform, no smooth surface. No steps, no ladder, no path.

‘How do we get down?’ Liam asked.

‘We jump.’

‘What? We’ll break our necks.’

‘Come on, we’ve not got long.’

‘The fall will kill us.’

‘Liam, mate, as you say, you’ve come with me across the galaxy and now you’ve suddenly decided not to trust me?’

Liam peered out. Myles grabbed his wrist. He yanked him. The two of them tumbled from the taxi. They fell. Liam felt the wind in his face. He closed his eyes. Any second now they would hit the roof of the dome and fall to their deaths. That’s if they did not hit any passing ships on the way down. Any second now. The air tugged at his hair.

There was a gentle humming. The wind had stopped. Liam slowly opened his eyes. They were standing in the concourse of, according to the large lettering on the wall, the Ford Trillian arena. Instead of being splattered on pavement they were standing on thick carpet.

‘Myles, we’re not dead.’

‘No.’

‘Surely the jump should have killed us.’

‘The arena is surrounded by a ‘hospitality field’. If you approach the sphere from any angle, at any height, you will be transported directly to the lobby. Comes in handy for getting to the arena by ship.’

A serious looking man with greenish skin and eyes protruding on tentacles approached. The badge on his red uniform jacket said Arena Security.

‘Good day, Myles. This way, sir, and I will show you to the contestants area.’

He showed them through to the backstage area. This was a large room with games consoles lining the walls. The wall mounted screens displayed the games being played by the practising contestants. Those taking part in the competition were the eclectic group of alien beings that Liam was now getting used to seeing. In fact, he decided, a room full of humans would seem strange these days.

Liam glanced at the screens. He laughed.

‘Is that Space Invaders?’

‘Yes, why?’

‘I would have thought that out here on the far side of the galaxy, you would be playing something more exotic than Space Invaders.’

‘Firstly, who do you think introduced the game to your little blue green planet? The Atari race visited your planet in the nineteen seventies. They showed Earthlings what gaming was. And B, there is no better test of a pro-gamers ability than the old classic game.’

‘Atari are aliens? You’ll be telling next that Sega aren’t Japanese but from space.’

‘They are extra terrestrial too. Actually the planet Sega was overrun by small blue hedgehogs.’

‘Get out of town.’

Myles dropped down on a leather chair in front of a console. He cracked his knuckles and took a deep breath. He took hold of the joy pad. He tapped the pad as he steered the ship on screen. He blasted the invading virtual space creatures.

A while later a strange looking man in a red jacket entered the room. He slapped his fins together to call for quiet.

‘Right, everyone. You will shortly be taken out onto the arena floor. You will then be put into pairs. You will be playing against each other. The winner will go through to the next round. This will go on until there are only two contestants remaining. These two games masters will battle it out in the grand final.’

Liam tagged along with Myles and the other contestants as there were lead out. The crowd gave a deafening roar as they entered. Liam looked out at the crowd. The rows of seats went up the walls of the arena. The seating area rose up and up all the way overhead. There were spectators actually sitting on the roof of the arena directly above him. Liam had no idea if the fans sitting overhead were kept in their seats by strong seatbelts or some kind of gravity device.

The atmosphere was electric. It was like being at the World Cup Final or the Superbowl or something, except there was an alien crowd sitting on the ceiling.

Myles had a serious focused expression on his face. Liam didn’t disturb him. A red jacket placed a tentacle on Liam’s chest.

‘Contestants only on the floor. Please take a seat over there.’

The steward waved a tentacle in the direction of the rows of seats.

‘Good luck, mate.’ called Liam.

Myles nodded. Liam was surprised to see his friend looked nervous. That was strange. Myles hadn’t seemed this worried when he’d tackled the raiders of Earth. At least this time the invaders would only be blobs on a screen.

As Liam found a seat on the front row next to a being that resembled a large house plant Myles made his way to the rows of gaming consoles. The consoles were arranged in pairs, facing each other. Myles stretched. He swung his arms in some bizarre martial arts kind of move. He nodded to himself as he took his seat.

A man appeared in the centre of the room. A spotlight focused on him. The audience screamed and yelled. He was almost human in appearance and wore a bright orange suit. He had dark hair and deathly pale features. He reminded Liam a little of Stephen Fry, only drawn by a six year old child. The man raised his microphone.

‘Hello everyone, and welcome to the Nynex Championship.’

He paused while the crowd applauded.

‘Yes, folks, I can hardly contain my excitement. You all know that Hitch loves nothing more than these games. All the contestants are ready. So, go crazy, as the games will begin…… now!’

The audience went suitably berserk. Across the speakers came the sound of Space Invaders being played on hundreds of machines. It appeared that the contest had begun. Liam laughed. If the crowd like this then they should visit the arcades on Blackpool’s Golden Mile. They would love it.

The players battled on against each other. They blasted their opponent’s rockets to pieces.

The contest went on. The audience cheered, booed and yelled as they were gripped by the twists and turns of the games. Liam tried to focus on how Myles was doing but it was impossible. There was simply too much going on. There were so many players fighting it out. Hitch, the commentator, would screech into the microphone as something particularly exciting happened. Those players that were knocked out of the competition were escorted from the floor. The fact that Myles was still playing must have been a good sign.

The numbers were gradually whittled down. A while later the crowd roared. Hitch beamed and waved his arms wide.

‘What a contest it’s been so far. I’m sure you agree it’s been epic. We have our four semi finalists. This is how they line up.’ he pointed to Myles and the three others standing to his right.

‘Myles will play Hans Zoff. Moss Dent will play Ziggy Quardle.’

The crowd cheered and chatted animatedly about the semi final matches. The floor now contained two pairs of gaming consoles. The four semi finalists made their way to the consoles. The way Myles crossed to his console, full of determination, reminded Liam of the England football team as God Save The Queen was played.

The person Myles was facing in his semi final had one metal arm. Liam was shocked. Surely a robotic arm was against the rules. Wouldn’t that give this Hans Zoff an unfair advantage? Still, he shrugged, Myles didn’t seem to mind.

Hitch gave the audience a demented grin.

‘Okay, folks, here we go. Three-’

The crowd cheered.

‘Two.’

The crowd applauded.

‘One.’

The audience went crazy as the four players blasted it out. Liam tried to keep track of how Myles was doing but it was hard to tell.

The other semi final was the first to finish. A pale green barrel chested man got to his feet. He gave an animal growl and punched the air with his thick fists. There was some cheering but a lot of booing and hissing. Hitch threw an arm around the not-so-popular contestant.

‘Give it up for our first finalist, Ziggy Quardle.’

The reception this man got was certainly mixed. Perhaps, thought Liam, gaming was like a sport after all. This Ziggy Quardle was like the bad guy of the sport. He wasn’t very well liked at all.

A few minutes later the crowd applauded and whooped. Liam strained to see what was going on. Myles got to his feet. He looked puzzled. He ran a hand through his hair.

‘Now we have ourselves a final. Ziggy Quardle will face Myles.’

Myles gave a grin. He waved to the screaming crowd. Hitch dragged Myles to stand beside the other finalist. The crowd cheered for Myles. Liam joined in the support for his friend.

‘So, Ziggy, you will face Myles in the final. How do you feel about that?’

Ziggy turned to face Myles. He stood nose to nose.

‘You’re going down, Myles. You are toast.’

‘I’m not losing to a Caluphian esroh farmer like you.’

‘Was I born on Caluphia? Yes, I was. Am I going to win? You’re Vulcan right I am.’

‘Why are you interviewing yourself?’

‘Am I-’ he stopped. ‘I won the Govinda trophy the year I turned pro. That speaks for itself.’

‘And yet you keep on talking.’ Myles replied.

‘Gentlemen, we’ll let you retreat backstage for a few moments to prepare yourselves for the grand final.’

Myles and Ziggy Quardle were lead off down the tunnel. People all around Liam chatted animatedly about the matches they’d seen and the epic final coming up. A while later Hitch bounced onto the stage.

‘This is it. The Grand Final. Give a warm hand, or fin, or tentacle, for our two finalists. Myles, and Ziggy Quardle.’

Ziggy appeared. He rushed to the stage. He swaggered around the platform like an aging rockstar. Myles stepped onto the stage. As the crowd cheered his name he gave a casual salute.

The two contestants were shown to the two consoles. These game stations faced each other with large computer screens in between. Myles marched confidently to the computer. He gave a two fingered wave to the cheering audience. Ziggy shadow boxed around the stage before taking his seat. No wonder, Liam thought, that the fans hate him. He was like those arrogant boxers who fought on Sky Sports live from Las Vegas.

All eyes watched the stage as the grand final got under way. Again Liam struggled to follow the action as the last game of Space Invaders blasted out on the big screen. He ended up following the crowd’s reaction. If they celebrated then Myles was doing well. It sounded like a close run thing though. The yells, oohs, aahs and shouting was just like a cup final crowd.

And then it was over. Myles slumped back in his chair. He was exhausted. The crowd booed and hissed as Ziggy Quardle leaped to his feet. Delight and pride lit up his green features. Hitch appeared on stage in between them.

‘What a final! What a show! That has to be the closest final since Beeble Mittvoch beat Thursea Martial ten years ago. I’m sure we all remember that night. But, we have a winner. Give it up for Ziggy Quardle.’

Quardle bowed to the baying crowd. A pretty woman with long pink hair and three breasts floated onto the stage. She presented Quardle with a large gleaming trophy. He thanked the crowd for their support before disappearing backstage with the woman.

Myles was shown off stage as the crowd cheered. Hitch thanked everyone for coming and swept dramatically off stage. The house lights came up. The audience, still chatting about what they had just witnessed, shuffled towards the exit. Liam found Myles in a corridor. He was flopped on a black leather sofa. Myles didn’t move as Liam approached. He stared straight ahead. He looked to be in shock. Liam sat down beside him. He gave him a nudge.

‘Nevermind, you gave it your best shot.’

Myles turned to him but didn’t speak.

‘You did your best,’ Liam continued. ‘The main thing is that you didn’t disgrace yourself.’

‘Erm, no not really. The main thing is that I placed a rather large wager that I’d win.’

‘Oh. Well, win some, lose some.’

‘I will try that line when Thelonious Sphere demands the money that I don’t have. Who knows, maybe I won’t be killed.’

‘You mean you bet on yourself with money you don’t have?’

‘Of course.’

‘That’s a ridiculous risk to take.’

‘If it’s not a risk then it’s not a gamble. Where’s the fun in that?’

‘What do we do now?’

‘We get the photon out of this star system.’

‘Couldn’t we ask him for more time to pay up?’

‘Firstly, no, Thelonious loves nothing more than hearing people beg before killing them. And secondly, Theloinious Sphere is a she.’

Myles sat very still for a long moment. Then he jumped to his feet.

‘We need to get off this planet sharpish.’

They hopped in a yellow taxi craft. Myles told the dashboard to take them to the craft park and quick. ‘Glad to be of service’ the voice called. The ship swept up into the skies.

As they rocketed across the Talhalla sky Myles stared out the window. He watched in all directions for any pursuing ships. An agonisingly long time later they landed on the rooftop of the parking lot. Myles quickly swiped his payment card across the panel. The machine was still thanking them for choosing their taxi firm as they dived out of the taxi.

Myles ran to a wall mounted panel. He swiped his card. Moments later his craft was brought to the surface. The ramp lowered. Myles and Liam rushed to the ship. Myles swore. He stopped in his tracks. He stared up into the bowels of the ship. Liam followed his gaze. Someone was walking slowly down the ram towards them. Three figures headed their way. The smaller of the three was in the middle with the larger beings flanking on each side. They stepped off the ramp and onto the rooftop. Myles gasped, Thelonious Sphere, he whispered.

From the way they moved Liam gathered that Sphere was the small creature in the centre. She was definitely the one in charge. The beasts on either side were giant ape-like beings. They had the arrogant bullying air of nightclub bouncers.

Thelonious strode towards them. It was only when she reached them that Liam noticed her height. Liam wasn’t particularly tall but this woman didn’t come up to his waist. He was surprised. Myles had spoken of her with such trepidation. He had been expecting a fiercer looking person. He had seen scarier women in town on Friday nights. She had bright yellow skin that, although it seemed to glow, was wrinkled and shrivelled up. Her features had something rodent about them. She glared at them through thick round spectacles.

‘Why, Myles, you weren’t thinking of leaving without paying what you owe me, were you?’

‘Miss Sphere.’ Myles started.

The way he said her name it sounded like Miss Fear. Quite apt, thought Liam.

‘Are you going to plead and beg? I expected better from you.’

She glanced at one of the ape beings. He stomped forward towards them with heavy lumbering steps. Myles and Liam jumped back. Both looked round to the edge of the building. The edge was far too close to where they were standing.

‘Am I to assume by your eagerness to depart Talhalla that you do not, in fact, have the funds to pay me?’

‘I don’t have the money with me right now. But we can get it.’ he turned to Liam. ‘Can’t we?’

‘Yes, of course. Not a problem. That’s just where we were going.’ said Liam.

Thelonious shook her head in disappointment.

‘I didn’t get to where I am today without being able to tell when I’m being lied to.’

‘Honestly-’ began Myles.

‘I am feared and respected across the Gunfram Quadrant. You know why?’

‘On account of your generosity and mercy?’ Myles hoped.

Thelonious smiled.

‘No,’ she said. ‘it’s because I know when someone is trying to feed me a load of dingo’s kidneys.’

She waved a hand.

Before either of them knew what was happening the gorilla being nearest Myles reached out a hand and grabbed him by the collar.

‘Miss Sphere, you really don’t have to do this you know.’

She nodded. The ape flung Myles over the side of the building. Liam dashed to the edge. He peered over to see the figure of his friend plummeting towards the ground. They were ridiculously high up. There was no way Myles could survive the fall.

Liam dropped to his knees. He was stunned. He glanced behind him. He was alone on the rooftop. Thelonious and her henchmen had left. No doubt as far as the gangster was concerned she had taken care of business. Myles had placed a bet he hadn’t been able to back up and had paid with his life.

Liam suddenly felt very alone and far far away from his tiny blue green planet.

Myles funeral took place a week later on his home planet just outside Alpha Centauri. Before leaving Talhalla Liam had told the Galactic authorities what had happened. The officer, a reptile being in a helmet, uniform and sunglasses, had nodded and tapped away on a tablet computer. Liam had been about to ask what would happen next when the officer had climbed on his cruiser bike and jetted off into the sky.

Liam had hitched a lift to Myles’ home planet with a couple of gaming fans who were ‘paying tribute to a legend’.

Deness76 was a cold icy planet. As the freezing blast of air tugged at his hair Liam knew why Myles had chosen to travel instead of staying on his cold, bleak home world. The place was frostbitten by the conditions. Liam thought back to a documentary he’d seen about the towns near the Arctic Circle.

He followed the crowd of mourners down the drab main street. Ships of all sizes darted through the snow white skies overhead. Liam guessed that the place was so busy because of the funeral. After all, this was the funeral of one of their own. Liam could just imagine the local paper reporting how their boy made good was cut down in his prime.

He joined the snaking queue into the large pale dome. He pushed inside. He squeezed and shoved and managed to get a seat near the front of the room. At the centre of the large room was a raised platform. Figures dressed in flowing blue robes surrounded Myles’ coffin. The casket looked like a coffin from Earth except for the electronic flashing panel on the lid.

All kinds of creatures from all over the galaxy were in attendance. These beings ranged from tall, thin greenish men to small round furry creatures with glowing eyes. One of the robed figures waved for silence. The crowd hushed. The man spoke of the coming of a great prophet called Duncan. He hoped that Myles’s energy would be taken care of by Duncan. The crowd mumbled responses at certain points throughout the ceremony. After a while members of Myles’ family went to the platform. Each relative said a few words about him. Liam couldn’t keep up with all the relatives. His third mother’s great nephew twice removed spoke of the time he had holidayed with Myles in the Madena region.

After an hour or so the ceremony finished. The congregation began to disperse. Liam joined them as they headed towards the exit. He wondered exactly what to do next. Should he try to get back to Earth? That didn’t feel right somehow. He wasn’t ready for the dullness of his life back home just yet. Besides, how would he get back to Earth? The number 100 bus went all around the houses on tis way into Manchester but it didn’t stretch as far as Alpha Centauri. He could always Hitchhike to Barnard’s Star and see what happened from there.

As he stepped out onto the cold street he felt a hand on his arm. He turned to see a short man with frizzy dark hair. He looked human apart from the robotic eye that projected a thin red beam.

‘You were with him at the end?’ the man asked.

‘Yes, I was. I just hope the police-’

‘They will do nothing. They file reports while taking bribe after bribe.’

‘It’s so tragic.’ said Liam.

‘Yes, very tragic.’

‘So final. So very ultimate.’

‘Not necessarily, Earthman.’

‘What? And who are you anyway?’

‘I am Happin Snexx.’

‘Myles mentioned you. He said you were an old friend.’

‘We go way back. I hope we haven’t had our last adventure together just yet. But I may need your help.’

‘Of course.’ Liam said.

 

Will our intrepid space traveller and the mysterious Happin Snexx be able to rescue their deceased friend from the fate that has already befallen him?

Find out in the thrilling sequel to this story.

The next fascinating instalment is coming soon and will be available online on planet Earth and in all good bookshops across the Gunfram Quadrant.


© Copyright 2017 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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