A Penny for How

“Thus it is said that an eldrae thinks pacing; a dar-bandal, sniffing; a galari, hovering; a kaeth, fighting; a dar-ííche, floating; a sssc!haaaouú, blowing; a mezuar, standing; an esseli, twitching; a codramaju, merging; a kalatri, sitting; a járaph, of itself; a selyéva, basking; a vlcefc, hanging; a spinbright, watching; an embatil, arguing; a múrast, many times; a seb!nt!at, already; a digisapience, continuously; an azayf, afterwards; and a ulijen, too late.”

– Stereotypes of the Worlds, Imperial University of Almeä Press

Unprofessional Hijacking

IS Words of the Profit, docked at Nepscia Low Port, Nepscia (Galith Waste).

“You really don’t want to do this, old chap,” I said.  “You have no idea of the trouble you’re about to be in, and you have to know that you can’t actually hurt either of us with that thing.  Why don’t you put it down and start running like a good idiot?”

The scruffy azayf I was addressing blinked yellow eyes inside its methane-mask, and gestured again with its pistol; a pistol, moreover, which clearly hadn’t been designed for an azayf’s three-fingered radial hand.  “I’m not — I have the gun!  Do it!  Get this ship off the ground!”

“Ah, well.  I tried.”  I nodded to my first officer, over by the systems-monitor console.  “Líse, if you would?”  A moment, a moment more, I saw its attention flicker and its gun waver, and that was when the polydog took it out.

(Well, of course I’d called him in.  Even a Nepscia dock-rat should have known better than to leave the captain in his chair – and his mind in the computers – when you try to take a ship.  Just another sign that we were dealing with complete amateurism, here.)

The polydog hit the azayf from three sides at once, one of him knocking its legs out from under it; another leaping for his gun-hand, and I heard the crunch as reinforced jaws sheared through the gun’s thin metal casing and tore through the intricate coils of its mass-driver.  It struggled briefly as it fell to the floor, only to go limp as the polydog’s third body got a firm grip on the pipe to its breathing mask.

I stood, walked over to him, and wrinkled my nose at the scent of apples and a greenish spreading puddle.  “On my bridge carpet?”  Not that I couldn’t understand it, since it was hard to imagine who wouldn’t have some trouble managing their sphincters with three sets of jaws that size only an inch or two from their eyeballs, even if one of them wasn’t hooked around their air supply.

“Let me give you some advice, dock-rat,” I said, scratching behind the ears attached to one set of those jaws.  “You aren’t nearly good enough for this game.  You don’t know enough about ships, you don’t know enough about violence, and you certainly don’t know enough to even think about boarding an eldrae ship.  And this is Nepscia.  I could have my furry associate here rip you into a dozen pieces and toss them out the star-side lock and no-one’d ask why.  But that’s more trouble than either of us care to go to” – a tritone growl from the polydog suggested that he, at least, disputed that – “so we’re just going to throw you back on the dock.  If I catch you near the Words again, though, I will kill you.  Understand?”

It struggled again, making wordless sounds of terror, before the polydog leant on it harder.  “You want to get off-world that badly, huh?  Crossed the wrong estrevikh?  Your passage won’t be on this ship –”

“Skipper?” Líse interrupted. “Look at its neck.  A week’s pay says those are control-collar burns, and he’s a runaway.  If we throw it back on the docks, they’ll kill it before the day’s out.”

“Meat-for-brains here just tried to hijack a starship that it has no idea how to pilot by pointing a gun at the head of the immortal guy still plugged in to the control net.  This is only a very tiny step on the smart side of, say, hyperlocal nuclear brinksmanship with the antideuterium cryocels, and if it’s all the same to you, I’d like it on the outside of our airlock before the sheer density of stupid kills us all.”

She just looked at me.  Damn my soggy sense of teir, anyway.

“Okay, what’s your plan?  With decision-making skills like this, I’m not having it running loose on the ship.”

“We’ve got a few empty livestock containers left in the aft hold,” she pointed out.  “Give it a freelib and a case of mycomeals, and time-seal it in one of those.  We’ll be at Daghada in a few weeks, and it’s a freesoil world, so we can offload the container there no-questions.  It’s out of our hair, and no harm to it.”

“Okay.  Looks like it’s your lucky day, dock-rat,” I added to it.  “You’re fortunate it pleases me to tweak the nose of whoever claimed to own you, or I would leave you on the dock to rot.”  I gestured the polydog to step off, and took a step back myself.  “Go quietly, now.  It doesn’t please me all that much.”