GALACTIC CO-ORDINATES: 01-01-02-01
SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: (See Spotify playlist at the end). You Dropped a Bomb on Me, The Gap Band. Coleen, The Heavy, The Dap King Horns. Yearnin’ Burnin’, Pleasure. Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry. Shame Shame Shame, Linda Fields. Soul with a Capital ‘S’, Tower of Power. Fire, Ohio Players.
Oh man. This is not what was supposed to happen. I guess I’m gonna have to smile. Oh and wave maybe? Yeesh that’s a lot of people. Not even the shadow-board is going to cover up this one. Look at all those cameras. Lucky they’ve got something nice to capture. Boast.
Okay so I might have got myself in another scrape. Surprise surprise. Let’s go back a bit. Whilst I’m here smiling like an idiot in front of the collected press of the Galactic Empire – I may as well tell you a story.
Here comes that bass line – kicking in like a funky mother. Here we go again.
So I’m with Ray and we’re flying off from Salty Joe’s. About time right? The space was clear and we’re listening to some ancient traditional music from Ea1 primitive era. I mean I know it’s a bit highbrow but damn I love Boney M what can I say? Anyway the awkward conversation about the purple space weasels was over and we were kicking back, next stop the Capitol. Bitey, the surly weasel is curled up on the dashboard, Sandra, the smallest keeps igniting on my fingertips and dancing to the beat. No sign of the others. I mean the fact that a group of symbiotic space weasels had saved my life and now live inside me sounds a bit weird right? But Ray had seen it all; he actually said it was a vast improvement. We’re zipping through space and life is good.
Sounds a bit too good doesn’t it? You’re damn right it was.
Ray just had to ask the question didn’t he? He just had to bring it up. He says:
‘So what about The Owner? I mean he knows you’re alive right? I’ve heard he has people everywhere. He’s never going to stop chasing you.’ He grunts and shovels a leathery handful of crisps into his wide mouth.
‘Way to kill the vibe Ray bloody hell. I thought we were having a road trip?’
‘I’m just saying Captain. He knows this ship. He’s probably tracking it right now.’
I see Sniffy fade out of my arm and curiously sniff the air. That’s why she’s call Sniffy – she sniffs.
‘He can’t be. God you’re so paranoid.’
‘Or he could hack into your nanomedics. He could know exactly where you are. And I’m telling you with those Weasels on side –he’ll probably want you as an artifact.’
‘My nanomedics are redundant,’
They are. Ever since I escaped the army I’ve had them switched off.
‘Hacking is better than ever; you should see the things I’ve been shipping from Tecaria. Oh boy.’ Ray laughs and pulls down a heavy lever with his hand-foot.
‘Shit. Shit you think?’
‘I know. And even if he isn’t, if your record updates and you’re an Unregistered – hell you’re not getting the capitol again.’
Hold up for a minute. I know what you’re thinking who the hell is this guy? Maybe last time I didn’t say everything about the Owner. I don’t know much but I do know he’s a collector. Literally he likes to own things. And not just ‘things’ – species too. Although I don’t think he can tell the difference. If he’s after me then I best run as far and as fast as I can.
Sorry back to the story. Keep it going Captain – keep on smiling for that crowd.
So I know this woman who can help. I hope.
‘Turn this hunk of junk around Ray. We’re not going to Ea1 today.’
‘No Captain. Why do you always do this!’
‘I don’t always do this!’
‘You do. The other month we were hours from Ea1 and we turned round just because you saw that person you don’t like.’
‘What person? Where?’
‘In the ship next to us on the hyperway. You know the woman with the hat.’
Ugh I do hate that woman. She’s the worst. It’s the hat.
‘We went for ice-cream though it was fun? You said you had fun. I’m hurt.’
Sniffy turns her little purple back and sighs dramatically.
‘Oh come off it. We’re not going. I have deliveries.’
‘They’ll wait – just say it was space dust or something.’
Damn it Ray can be stubborn. Gonna have to wap out the big guns. I raise my arms and out of it flow all eight of my purple space weasels. They know the score, I can always rely on them, despite only knowing them for a few days. Minor detail. They line up on their hind legs with their little arm-claws (arm-claws? Hands? I dunno?), they raise them up and water fills their tiny purple eyes in a very picture of pity.
I whisper softly to Ray. ‘You wouldn’t want these poor little guys stuffed in a museum would you?’
He looks at me and laughs so loud it rattles around the ship.
‘Not those guys – you on the other hand…’
The weasels disappear with a fizz.
‘Okay where we going then?’ Rays says and laughs again.
He reaches up and swings round grasping an item from the ceiling and throws it at me. I miss but Sniffy catches it, good old Sniffy. It’s a navigator, an old one by the marks on the outside. I find the switch underneath by digging my fingers into the wiring. It buzzes into life projecting a miniature galaxy into the air. There are faint lines to show the six sectors. The Capitol a rough circle off centre. Sector 2 half encompassing it as if taking a bite. The square edged Sector 3 coming out the other side with its ominous black dot in the middle. 4 is a growth on the bottom of the Capitol and 5 like a crown on top. Then around the edge like an afterthought is Sector 6. This is certainly an old one; sector 6 only has a few specs of light where planets have been designated. I’ve walked on more planets there than this map shows. It makes me feel sad the thought of all those planets taken by the Empire and all the ones yet to be ensnared. All over the map though are red lights. Not planets but markers I think.
‘Ray what the hell are these?’
‘Your hangouts. I like to keep track.’
Sorry 1 min. Just cut back to the present – someone’s asking a question.
‘Mysterious Stranger. What was the purple light coming from you? What species designation are you?’
Oh my god random reporter you can’t just ask someone what species designation they are.
Right sorry, back to the map.
‘So which one will it be?’
I look at the dots. He’s not wrong. There’s everywhere I’m publically known to frequent. The Black Mines at 30-03. Talios the Game Planet. Praxtra Minor. And some private ones too. Uh-oh- shit that’s The Sublime Retreat of Madame De Hon… Didn’t want to anyone to…ahem….anyway…
‘I need to see San Ya. Will take me to her market?’
‘Ah okay I can do a bit of shipping whilst I’m there. She always has something for me to take. It’s moved though. Sector 5 now.’
A few hypersleeps inductions later…
‘I was wondering when you were going to show me your new toys Captain.’
‘Hey San how’s it going?’ I saunter into her messy office and see the tiny woman that I both love and fear. The owner of the greatest and most illegal black market in the galaxy. She is sat in the middle of a vast leather chair, her feet not even nearly touching the floor.
‘Good thank you. Show me them.’
‘No pleasantries? How come you’re not in Sector 6 anymore? Okay…’ I move away and she jumps off the chair. How can she be small yet so scary? She looks at me from under that thick block fringe.
‘Show me.’ She chucks a book at me and I dodge it just on the last second.
‘Ugh fine. God.’ I raise my arms and out pop the weasels.
‘Weasels. I didn’t believe it but there it is. Purple space Weasels. What can they do?’
‘They have names you know. Sorry my loves.’ I say with an over the top petting a cute dog voice.
‘Yes. There’s Bitey, Sniffy, Scratchy, Sandra, Fuzzy, Big Teeth, Really Purple One and Get Out My Trousers. All good quality galactic names. ‘Ah shit get out my trousers!’ I pull the little bastard out. ‘You see good appropriate names.’
‘Amazing. Utterly amazing. You have your biology rewritten by a group of dangerous creatures that could be sapping you of life for all you know and you stand there making jokes. You won’t be allowed back into the Capitol Sector I’ll tell you that for nothing.’
‘They’re not sapping me San. They’re helping. I promise.’
I’m not lying, I wouldn’t be here without them.
‘Let me scan them at least – see if they’re safe.’
She looks at me and I can tell she means it. He face just softens a little at the edges. Softens until she grabs her laser scanner and tazers me with it. I fall to the floor shaking; I can feel the weasels fizzing inside.
‘Fucking Hell San!’ I scream.
‘It’s the only way I can scan properly. Unless you want me to cut you open.’ I did not.
‘Amazing,’ she says staring at her computer screen. ‘Absolutely amazing. They’re healing you as you’re being scanned I can hardly get in.’
‘What this thing is meant to hurt you?’ I say writhing.
‘Oh stop being such a crybaby. It’s like your body is part energy now. The scanner can’t decide if you’re biological or energy.’ She shuts off the machine and I lie there panting.
‘You’re amazing. You lucky son of a bitch,’ She says and grabs my hand pulling me up with her surprisingly strong arm. ‘You aren’t on a social call because you’re not already drunk. What is it you need?’
‘I don’t really know.’ I pause and suddenly feel a little awkward. ‘Do you know of someone called the Owner?’
‘Do I? He’s the reason I’ve had to move half way across the Galaxy!’
‘Ah right. Well I sort of got in trouble with him way back and it caught up with me. That’s why well…’ I flick a weasel out of my hand. ‘But now, he knows about the new me and Ray reckons he’ll be after me.’
‘Ray’s right. He’s a collector like me. But not for trade… often it’s for stuff a little more alive… I don’t know but I suggest you stay away.’
‘He’ll find me. He will. You know he will. I came here to see if you can help me.’
I remember the words sounding odd as I said them. Now god damn it, many times in my life I’ve been helped out. Hitching lifts, scamming food, acquiring places to stay with a little widening of my pearly whites. But this time I meant it, before I had done it to get by, this time I really needed help.
‘Damn it RainCha. Of course I can,’ San says and hugs me round the waist. Even this dragon lady has a softer side. ‘What do you need?’
‘Why didn’t you say so?’ She rifles through some papers on her desk until she clasps a sheet of paper in her hand. ‘Have you heard of the Shadow-Board?’
‘Erm…sort of…. I think… I remember something from history class…’
I didn’t pay too much attention at school. My bad. Or I did but I have drunk an extraordinary amount since then. Sorry San Ya where were you?
‘It’s known more as the Dark Heart of the Fal-Tapria. The legend is that it’s the shard of the god Balethia’s sword. The story goes that he swung it over his head in anger and it stuck our black hole breaking into a million pieces. But they’re wrong. It’s a piece of tech. And of course the Fal-Tap Senate knows it – they don’t think it’s a god-sword. But it is powerful.’
‘What does it do?’
‘Well whoever has it cannot be tracked. It’s not just a signal blocker it works intelligently, affecting and changing other technology not just blocking it. Just tech though I think. People – I doubt it. If my history is correct the rise of the Fal-Tap Republic as the foremost substate of the Empire was a quick one. They suddenly appeared everywhere. They only revealed themselves when they wanted to. Funny that.’
‘But there’s only one left?’ I say knowing exactly where this heading.
‘Yes that’s thing Captain. And it’s exactly where you would think it is. Right under the palace of the Fal-Tap Royal Family.’
OH YEAH BABY IT’S A HEIST STORY.
The Fal-Taps are in human terms walking cats. I mean I know, my god, I wouldn’t dream of saying it out loud and I don’t think it myself, but it helps map the biology somewhat. They have a furry face and whiskers and sharp claws when you get on the wrong side of them. They come from the centre of sector 2 but like humans have spread out consistently throughout the Galaxy. Even San Ya’s assistant is one although I’m sure she hasn’t told him about the mission…
Anyway yeah the mission.
The shadow-board wasn’t just my only hope it was my freakin’ salvation. An escape from the Owner, an escape from the army, Hell an escape from all those bets I owe at Salty Joe’s. It just was the little matter of getting into one of the largest and most powerful houses in the galaxy. No biggie.
Ray is waiting impatiently outside in the market’s loading bay and when I tell him, he quite rightly thinks I’m insane. San Ya, rather unhelpfully has no idea how to get inside. The palace is a former stronghold built like a steel egg. Once in, fine. There are tunnels and shafts your usual network of possibilities for the unscrupulous but on the outside nothing apart from the heavily guarded front door and a balcony leading to the royal family’s private quarters. And boy did I not want to go there. We sit in the ship drinking beer with the thing projected on the galaxy map just floating there like a fucking lemon.
‘There’s no way I give up. Hand me over now. In fact I’ll ring him up – I’m on the black market I’ll come quickly…’
‘Eh Captain – why don’t we just pose as delivery men?’
‘I mean you are a delivery man.’
‘I know that’s why it would be such a good plan. They must have a delivery entrance somewhere on the egg. It might unfold or something I don’t know.’
‘We’ll need a Fal Tap. Remember the work force laws on Ea1? Humans only. Same there. Visitors and contractors fine but workers – gotta be Fal Tap.’
‘Eh you’re right man. Freakin pure planet laws – ridiculous. We’d be able to do a drop off but not an entry. Fuck man.’
Now then something strange happens now. The timing seems a little convenient but I guess them little bastards have been listening in; they have a habit of doing so. I guess they are literally inside me – they have no choice. But still they’re cheeky gits. I feel a little tingly around my face and hands and Ray looks as me suddenly as if I’m a ghost and then I’m on fire. In that order.
‘Whoa who are you? Shit man,’ he says and leaps on the table with his leathery feet.
‘It’s me Ray, what you talking about?’
‘Nah nah nah don’t you be playing tricks on me – who are you? How did you get in here?’
I though the Bonso had gone batshit for sure.
‘Ray fuck’s sake it’s me Captain RainCha.’
‘Ah man I’m not dealing with any of this voodoo shit – what did San Ya give you in there?’
‘What are you talking about?’
‘Look in the mirror’
I sauntered over to the side of the ship where we kept the one grimy square of reflective glass expecting to see my handsome old mug but hell no. I had whiskers and a face full of fur. I was full of fur. I mean I suddenly felt a full bristle down under, it was everywhere. It was only when the very tips of my new hairs glowed the slightest tinge of purple that me and Ray knew. It wasn’t San Ya it was the weasels.
So we had our in. Looking back it seemed a fairly straightforward plan. But as I look out now in the present at the thousands of reporters hovering round the royal balcony things haven’t turned out quite the way I wanted.
‘Captain are you the Child prince’s new protector – seems odd to hire a human don’t you think?’
Oh erm… back to the heist…
So we track down a few palace bound deliveries and pick them up before the real couriers arrive. Was a bit too easy but apparently my new whiskery mask in a Fal-Tap unfriendly human outpost can work wonders. I don’t know what it was inside –vases or livestock or some shit. But we took it and landed at the bottom of the giant egg sorry the Palace. Now on the screen itself it looked pretty impressive but from here down at the base my god. This was legit. The ground was about a third way up the egg so from here it looked like a magnificent dome painted bright white. The amazing thing was that it was perfectly smooth, for such an ancient building there was not an imperfection in sight. My god the galaxy is beautiful I thought, shame about the people who live in it.
The goods on board must have had some tags in them or something because as we arrived from the smooth surface a hatch appeared letting us right in. Now inside was a completely different story. It was like looking inside a super computer all smooth and sleek on the outside and then bam a chaos of wires and lights within. Everywhere there were ships taking off and entering, pipes bursting with smoke, shouts from managers and workers. It felt like one the gross factories you see on outskirts planets that pollute the seas into dirty oranges and greens.
To his distinct displeasure I leave Ray on board locked away in the living quarters. Can’t have them finding out I’ve got a Bonso on board I’d be orbit before I can say ‘get out of my trousers’.
‘Hey Rainy hurry up man.’
Oh yeah I’ve got on him the headset though.
We had discovered in the corner of the loading bay was a hatch into the ventilation system. Yeah we’re going old school classic on this bitch. Then after some crawling and few cheeky camera shots of my arse we’d head down into the vaults to find my salvation. San Ya didn’t have a way in but she did have the plans. Lucky I’m a Fal-Tap for a bit. I walk out of the ship and onto the platform floor. Without prompting a huge metal arm comes down and opens the cargo door emptying it of it contents like a greedy child. I look up – there’s the hatch right up in the corner too high for any Fal-Tap to get to. It shouldn’t be a problem – the weasels mean I can fly. Oh didn’t I tell you? Well within reason of course. It’s less of a fly and more of a float. Anyway they get me from A to b often with a brief stop of at x and y. I look around again – there are hundreds of people around all talking or shifting boxes.
Oh no! What am I going to do?
Lucky we timed our arrival. A huge klaxon sounds and the hall empties. It’s lunchtime of course. Anyone who has met a Fal-tap knows they are a naturally cranky race and the best way to soothe their bad tempers – a whole lot of food in them furry bellies. I hang back until the doors on each side close with a satisfying hiss.
‘How’s it going Cap?’ comes the bonso in my ear.
‘I’ve not even left the hanger Ray chill out.’ Ray really needs to chill out.
There’s no one around. Can always rely on a Fal-Tap lunchtime. I get to the corner and see my hands glow purple. Then I start to rise up the air slowly and a little clumsily. I look over my shoulder –there’s nothing there. I look over one last time before crawling into the hatch. Fuck. They weren’t there before. A semi-circle of hooded, becloaked goons weren’t there? Were they? Did I mention them? Definitely not Fal-Tap, definitely not registered. Fuck me. Where did they come from? I turn round still floating like an elephant ballerina.
‘Let me guess you’re from The Owner.’
‘Yes,’ they screech as one. ‘We’re here for you.’
‘How did you get in here?’
It was when they funneled their bodies into smoke and launched towards me that my question became immediately redundant. Luckily on hand was Sniffy and Sandra who launched from my shoulders and morphed into purple light. The smoke bounced off to the ground reforming into the figures again.
‘Cheers ladies,’ I say.
‘What’s going on?’ Ray says.
‘The Owner. He’s caught up with us – sent some kind of smoke creature. A shape changer. The weasels have dealt with it though.’
‘Shit man they still there?’
‘Yeah but stunned or something I think.’
I had kept going. I mean I wasn’t going to hover round speaking to Ray all day was I? The vent was a round tube of metal. Quite relaxing actually and surprisingly flat. Oh yeah it was quite nice and flat. Oh wait –
Shit. How do I always end up falling down something at high speed?
Yeah the vent goes suddenly downwards. It isn’t too bad – just takes me by surprise is all. I check behind – no sign of the smokes. I come to a flat bit again and I can see through the grates the rooms beneath. They’re beautiful. All white marble and portraits. Much classier than the grey metallic heaviness of Ea1. Everything on Fal-Tapria has this light brightness. Them got class that’s for sure. Shit but there’s someone there in the corridor. A grown male and a child. Their voices make it up through the vent.
‘Daddy I saw them I did. I swear it. I thought the wall was on fire but then there was a face. In the smoke.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous Valtin. You mustn’t tell lies…’
The voices fade as the carry on down the corridor. Shit there must be more of them smokes or at least they’re on the move.
I keep on hustling on my hands and knees. Imagine the arse shot here it is. Occasionally I see a purple flash as one of the gang scouts out ahead, urging me on with a little point of a claw. At one point I see Big Teeth and Really Purple One run off and then stop. I can see it their faces – fear. They are suddenly surrounded by smoke. I hold out my hand and pull them back. I’m not far off now. I must be just by the vault. Fuck. I blast out a burst of energy from my hand. The smoke disperses and I run-crawl on. There is a light up ahead. Literally at the end of the tunnel – here we go. I bundle out and there it is – the vault of the shadow-board. The sword-shard of the gods. It’s in a glass dome the same shape as the palace itself. But the glass is strange, it swirls and changes as if made of water. Its thick too, I can barely see the artifact inside. I’ve heard of this stuff but never seen it. Star-Glass. One of the thickest, hardiest materials in the galaxy. I reach into my pocket. San Ya is a woman of many secrets but the contents of her private collection is the most unknown. She had given me this and tapped her nose. ‘Use it in the vault’ she had said with a wry smile. It was a cream sort of yellow and acidic smelling. It must be for here. It must be. I take a blob on my gently wipe it one the surface of the Star-glass.
‘Are you there?’ Ray in my ear.
‘Yes sorry just busy lubing up some glass.’
‘Oh I’ll tell you later.’
At once, the glass starts fizzing and hissing, I can see a hole burning through it at a lighting fast past, it spreads and spreads until a hot-edged door appears. I look at the cream again. Fucking hell what is this stuff – I just put that on my finger. Yeeash. I turn the pot over and there written in tiny letters is ‘Strong Weed Killer – emergencies only.’
Well I’ll be damned Star Glass is a plant. Big camera close up on my now whiskered dumbo face.
Anyway the coast to the shadow board is now clear. In there is a tiny rock-like object the kind of black that is so black it makes your eyes hurt, it cuts itself out of its own background. Or at least it did until the bloody smoke appeared. Their faces are like screams. Dropped jaws and sunk eyes emerge from the air.
‘We will have the shadow-board and you Captain.’
‘Ugh The Owner sure loves his goons doesn’t he?’ I say smiling. I reach out for the board. They reach out too.
What happened next was a little bit of a shock. This time I didn’t even feel the tingle but I was deposited inside a bedroom. Now we’re getting close to where I am now. Sometimes I’d just love a quiet heist you know? A dangerous mission yeah but where everyone remembers their manners and a gives me a gift bag on the way out but oh no that’s too much to ask. Sorry well the bedroom –
It was as grand and a tasteful as the corridor I glimpsed before. All marble and white and portraits, it even had the child. Oh fuck – the child is here. Frozen solid was a Fal-Tap child.
‘Erm…Hi. This is awkward.’ It was. ‘Who are you?’ I say.
‘I’m Valtin, the child prince of Fal-Tapria, who are you? Wait, you’re a human – how are in here?’
I looked down at my hands. Shit I was a human. The shadow- board had stripped the illusion. But there it was in my hand. Yes I got it!
‘Hey Valtin, nice to meet you. I’m Captain RainCha…’ Definitely should have used a fake name. ‘I’m your…erm I guess…I’m your protector. Yes I’ve been employed by Daddy?’ God hope that is species appropriate. ‘Hired by your Daddy to be your personal protector.’
‘A protector? From what?’
Right on cue, there they are. The smokes like haunted specters from hell. The Owner must have found these lot in some godforsaken hole in the Galaxy I’ll tell you that.
‘From those! Get behind me!’
Valtin hops behind me and I wap out a purple shield. The smokes attack again and again. I keep urging the prince backwards as is stumble. Behind us is a huge window. No wait it’s a door. The smokes keep on going. I can feel the fizzing pain as they strike the force field.
‘Sorry guys you’re doing s great job. Keep it up.’ I clench my teeth and push all I have into the shield.
We approach the door.
‘Erm Captain…’ Valtin tugs on my coat. ‘You might not want to go through there.’
‘No choice kiddo.’
I back out of the door and I know I’m outside. It’s the balcony – the only blemish on the palace. For a moment there is silence and the smokes seem to stop attacking. There is a whoosh from below and suddenly all I see is light. A thousand flashes hit my eyes. As I adjust I see the light is coming from Fal-Taps with cameras and those furry sound things. They’re floating with jet packs and levi-platforms. Fuck it’s the press. I turn round and see the smoke disappear in a resentful swish. Must have been a bit camera shy – I would be too if I was an unregistered criminal in front of the media of the second post powerful race in the galaxy. Oh fuck – that’s an exact description of me. Shit.
‘Friends, colleagues. This man has just saved me from a horrific attack by an unregistered. I bring to you Captain RainCha, my protector.’ Wow this kid’s a little statesman. Good on him. So I smile and wave at the cameras. I mean what else can I do?
And that’s where I am. In front of the assembled press of the Fal-Tapria. Spouting questions, taking pictures. This is of course the opposite of what I wanted. In a mission to wipe myself from the galaxy I’ve managed to make myself it newest and biggest celebrity.
Or have I?
Ray pipes up in my ear. ‘Captain! Don’t go silent on me – have you got the shadow-board?’
‘Sure have Ray. Sure have. Do me a favor and swing the ship around the underneath the balcony.’
‘Sure thing Rainy.’
I turn to Valtin, the little statesman. ‘You ever need me. You say one word in front of the cameras. Just one.’
I wink and smile and grab the shadow board from my pocket. I sure hope this works or I’m gonna look like a right chump. I hold it up to the cameras and feed a little energy into it. Suddenly all the cameras stop. Fuck yeah it’s worked – the shadow board has worked. The images must be wiped off the tech. I look at the reporters. They’re all clutching their heads and looking round. Oh boy it’s worked on them too.
Oh yes shadow-board. Move over Ray or maybe Sniffy – you are my new best friend.
Right sorry, best take my leave. I leap over the balcony and dive straight down into Ray’s spaceship.
One day I’ll deal with The Owner I know, but for now if you see a bad guy scratching their head and wondering what’s just happened look for a purple glow in the distance.
Until next time.
Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon.
Plays intensely good slap bass solo.