“A funny thing happened to me in hyperspace the other day …”
Gaz Galaxy, resident stand-up comic of the Crash & Burn Revue Bar, was just getting warmed up. The freelance trade pilot ensconced in the snug nearest the bar (and, not coincidentally, nearest the holo-stripper pole), was not so much warmed up as he was thoroughly cooked.
“Thish guy’s rubbish,” he said loudly, flailing an arm at Gaz, who continued obliviously chatting his routine to an otherwise empty room. “Doesh he get better?”
“Depends on how much you drink,” replied the skinnier of the pilot’s two drinking companions with a slight smile. The bulky one scowled at him under grizzly brows, and belched.
“You can ignore this idiot,” grumbled the swarthy old man, a miner from his bulk. “And the one on stage. He’s always crap. There’s not enough drink in this bloody bar to make him seem funny.”
“My dear fellow,” responded the thin one, “you’re hardly painting a rosy picture of life on Mudlump for the good pilot here, are you? Why, the Crash & Burn is the finest live entertainment venue on the planet.”
“That’s true – but only ’cause it’s the only live entertainment venue on the planet. Place doesn’t even have automatic staff, damn it.”
The skinny man shrugged. “To each their own.”
The pilot, who had seemed momentarily to be on a planet all his own, raised his head. “You two’sh funny. Funnier than … than … than ‘im.” He jerked his head stage-ward. “Should team up, do a show or sumfink.”
His two companions looked each other up and down with barely concealed mutual contempt.
“Screw that,” said the miner. “Looks like he never did a day’s work in his life.”
The thin man raised a single eyebrow, but remained silent.
“Ah, shtop fightin’,” slurred the pilot. “Ishha weekend. I asked you boysh to drink with me, but I don’ wanna hear no fightin’. S’my day off. Now, whassha drinkin’?”
“Nah, my round,” said the miner. “Same again, is it?” Receiving two nods, he headed off to the bar.
The pilot theatrically squinted left and right, donned a conspiratorial expression, and leaned across the table toward the thin man. “You know, I think he’sh trying to get me drunk,” he stage-whispered.
“Oh, surely not! Why would he do that?”
“‘M a pilot. A freelansh. Prob’ly thinks I got loadsh of credits. You know ‘im?”
“Me? Goodness, no – as you can tell, we don’t exactly move in the same, er, circles. First time I met him was when you asked me to join you both.”
The pilot giggled slightly. “Yeah – see, I started to sushpect him, so I wanted a witnessh. In case, you know.”
“I don’t follow,” said the thin man.
“Frontier towns, shee? Us freelanshes, we keep in touch,” the pilot explained. “Share advise and that. Old frontier trick, shpike a pilot’sh drink, take hish credits, maybe hish ship. Well, not gonna happen to me. You watch.”
“Ah, I see,” replied the thin man. He grabbed the pilot’s nearly empty glass by the rim, and settled it in front of him. “Best finish that one off first, so he doesn’t think you’re on to him, eh?”
The pilot winked slowly, and nodded. He lifted the glass and polished off his vodka, just as the fat man returned to the table with more drinks, plonked them down in front of his companions and took his seat.
Silently, with a grin that was nearly a leer, the pilot reached across the table, grabbed the miner’s drink, and exchanged it for his own before downing it in one. He sat back with a smirk.
The miner’s brow furrowed. “What was that about?” The thin man shrugged and sipped his own vodka, seemingly more interested in Gaz Galaxy’s closing witticisms.
A few seconds later, there was a loud thump as the pilot’s head met the table with the full acceleration of Mudlump’s strong local gravity.
The miner chuckled. “He out for the count, you think?”
“I used the usual dose, so I don’t see how he couldn’t be, what with the way he’s been drinking,” said the skinny one. “Tell me – does it ever make you feel bad, that it’s always you they suspect, and never me?”
“Don’t really care, so long as we get results,” replied the swarthy man. “Come on, let’s drag him out of here and get the hell off this backwater rock. Sooner we get his ship beyond orbit and him into an airlock, the closer we’ll be to freedom.”
As Gaz Galaxy said his goodnights to the empty bar, the two men hauled the unconscious pilot towards the door between them.
[As the others may mention, we Friday Flashers have teamed up on Facebook to arrange themes to work on each week. I think I may have cheated somewhat by using this week’s theme (“a funny thing happened to me in hyperspace”) as an opening line of dialogue from a background character, but once I had the idea I fancied writing it anyway.]