Captain RainCha and the Temple of Dreams

by Andy Ainscough

 

SUGGESTED FOMER READING: Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon, Vol.1, Story 4 + Captain RainCha and the Child Prince, Vol.2 Story 3.

 

GALACTIC COODINATES: 12-05-06-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: See spotify playlist at end.

 

 

Oh boy. This is not good. Really not good. There’s no religion or self-help book that can make see the good in this. Oh boy not one. I can see why people wanted the damn thing so much if it did this. Fuck me, this is a bad guy’s Christmas.

 

Okay so as usual – I’ve got me some explaining to do. Let’s roll back a bit. Let me tell you how I came face to face with the Galactic Empress Tabitha Might.

 

Cue titles. A montage of purple weasels. Me looking handsome. Slow motion pulling out of guns. Etcetera etcetera.

 

Now I love myself a party. Who doesn’t? And I find myself in one of the hottest gigs in sector 4. And we all know sector 4 is the coolest sector. I know Joe will be salty but you’ve just gotta have a change from time to time. Its Friday night standard as I walk into KrYstal100 and the place is LIT. Its full of illegals, unregistered, humans, Fal-taps, Gorbegs – essentially if there is a biological oddity in the damn wide universe it is represented here. People dance around the crystal formations that grow out the ground up to the cave roof. A cross species slap-band funk the freak out in the corner hitting the crystals and send sound waves rumbling through the floor so you can feel it in your nethers. Oof that’s some good funk.

Oh yeah –we’re in a cave. And the place is run by living crystals. Sorry, just to get you up to speed.

 

Anyway. I’m not here strictly on pleasure. That would be ridiculous. I’m here to catch up with a business associate of mine.

‘Come on Ray she’ll be there later,’ I say and usher him away from a particularly sleek looking silver-back. Oh yeah my mate Ray is here too. He’s a highly evolved Gorilla but now works as a courier and my professional getter-into-troubler.

I walk across the dance floor snaking my hips as I go. They all love it. Or if they don’t they just haven’t seen it yet. At the other side are the private booths. Each one is carved into the rock face and lined with a different colour crystal. People like it – I think it looks like a fucking sweet shop. Alas. Me and Ray cha cha to the nearest one. A big, nasty looking Gorbeg in a begrudging tuxedo stands with his hand on an inevitable red velvet rope.

‘Name.’ It says blankly. Literally not a hint of emotion. The wall looks more passionate.

‘Woah calm down hot stuff,’ I say.

‘Name.’ the living wall says.

‘Okay okay no need for a speech handsome. Captain RainCha and Ray.’

Its huge hands remains unmoving on the rope.

‘Full names.’

 

Uh oh. Noooooooo. Don’t judge me.

 

‘ How did she get my full name? Ugh fine. Captain Horatio Alveron RainCha and Ray, full name. Ray the Bonso.’

 

What can I say – my parents were Hippies. End of Story. Fine.

 

‘In you go.’

 

Here she is. If I wasn’t such good friends with her I’d spend all my time running away from her. This bitch is crazy. But I love her. She’s tiny and this time she has a immaculate bob haircut in her trademark sleek black. She sits, with her tiny legs dangling over the plush sofa her hands folded and her lips pursed.

 

You guessed it – it’s only San Ya, proprietress of the largest black market in the Galaxy.

 

‘You late,’ she says unmoving. We shuffle in next to Valeiran, San’s Fal-Tap assistant and two radioactive looking drinks teleport onto the table. Told you this place is cool.

 

‘Hey San, sorry hun, we went to that new planet in the 02, tried to flog some of Ray’s old stock but it turns out its been overrun with green goo monsters. Who knew?’

 

‘Half galaxy knew RainCha. Idiot. But tell me did you get it? Shadow-board is it yours?’

 

Cut-Scene. So it turns out I’m wanted by some pretty bad guys. They’re really bad actually and not very pretty. Anyway, they knew everything about me – including that recently I got some let’s say superpowers courtesy of a bunch of undiscovered purple space weasels. Long story. But annnnnyyywayyy. I had to get a little do-hikkie that essentially deleted my name and face from every database in the galaxy.

 

And it motherrrfuckin worked. Yea.

 

‘Yes San I did indeed get the shadow-board.’

 

‘Show me, show me now.’

 

I’ve had the shadow-board, actually a rock that produces weird black smoke embedded in a sick necklace that is totally dope. I delve into my shirt and carefully hold it out towards San.

 

‘Fuck me San!’

 

She immediately yanks it off its chain and clutches it in her tiny hand. A series of magnifying glasses spin round from over her had and onto her eye.

 

‘Needed closer look. Necklace very frivolous.’

 

She stares at it every which way and gasps occasionally.

 

‘It is very beautiful. I wonder how works.’

 

‘No idea – I just know that it does.’

 

Besides me I can hear Valeiran purring. His tail is edging towards the shadow-board.

 

‘Do you think San,’ he says sexily. I’m sorry he’s super sexy even for a cat. ‘Do you think San it is one of the Unnawri?’

 

Oooo what is this?

 

‘The Unnawri?’ I say and look at Ray. He raises his eyebrows. I can practically see the credit signs rolling in his eyes.

 

‘Very possibly Val. RainCha you are a scoundrel but a useful one. Tell me have you heard of the Unnawri?’

 

Clearly not. What’s wrong with her?

 

‘No San as I have literally just expressed I have not.’

 

‘Sarcastic boy. You stop. The Unnawri are powerful artifacts from the Sofiva Empire. Beautiful and dangerous. They have been lost for millennia. But we think they are still out there.’

 

Ah. The Sofiva. Before the human vermin infected the galaxy a wise and powerful race called the Sofiva built a benevolent empire across it. Or so the story goes. They were like gods and angels. Built like humans but stronger and lither. Their never fatigued or aged. They were said to have cracked the code to eternal life. But they disappeared. Suddenly and definitively. Then the humans moved in. Any scrap of Sofiva evidence is worth millions and millions of credit. So you know people want them you know?

 

‘It’s not – you’re joshing me. the shadow board is a…what was it an onion?’ Ray says and laughs heartily. God love Ray.

 

‘Unnawri. Stupid Bonso,’ says San in a very roundabout fashion.

 

‘Do you know where the rest are?’ I say.

 

‘As soon as we had an inkling, San and I started doing some digging. If the shadow-board is an Unnawri then the legend is real and the rest will be out there. We have located a contact. A soothsayer of a kind called Pref Terin. We feel he may be able to help us find the rest.’ Valeiran says so softly and gently I practically fall in love with him.

 

My stomach suddenly drops. I mean I already kind of knew it but it just hits me all at once you know? If this is one of the most valuable objects in the galaxy then there are people gonna want it no fear. Suddenly all across the room I feel eyes looking at me. Are they? Who knows?

 

‘San,’ I say. ‘I think we just head back to the market. Get the shadow board somewhere safe.’

 

She understands my meaning and nods to Valeiran.

 

‘Yes. Good idea. Come Idiot Captain. Bonso. We will go. My ship is outside.’

 

We slide out of the booth and the enigmatic Gorbeg lets us out without a smile. Our motley crew slips through the crowd. I make sure the weasels are inside. For once they conform. A woman bumps into me – she has an old fashioned t-shirt on. A man with some kind of lighting sword – she looks hard as nails. She stares and me for a moment and then for longer at San Ya. I’m not offended, everyone knows San. I mean the woman might know me, I’m not bothered. Am I? Oh who cares?

 

The night is full swing. The music bounces off the crystals. Drinks slosh around. Different species, who probably shouldn’t, neck in the distance.

 

Then. No kidding. Total Silence. No joke.

 

I’m stood in some kind of spotlight. A huge blinding light from above. The rest of the club is frozen. San Ya next to me points at the exit like a statue. Valerien remains sexily still. Ray is honestly pulling the most hilarious face. I take a picture obv. But still what the hell is going on?

 

This is where things get a bit weird. There’s a voice. From god knows where. Perhaps it is God – I don’t know but here it goes:

 

‘CAPTAIN RAINCHA YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN…’

 

I knew it. I knew I was the messiah. Something just told me you know?

 

‘YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN FOR A RACE.’

 

A race? That’s not savior of the galaxy. So mad.

 

‘…A RACE TO THE FINISH AND A RACE TO DEATH. AT THE END LIES THE TEPMLE OF DREAMS WHERE YOU’RE GREATEST DESIRES WILL COME TRUE.’

 

Inevitably, that’s when I teleport.

 

So back to the present for a little interlude. Ooo nice word. Interlude. This is by far the worst shit I’ve been in. And I’ve been in some proper shit before. Tabitha Might does not look happy. And as I look over my shoulder, neither does the collected representatives of the Galactic commons. Anywho back to the story.

 

So I’m teleporting. I’m hoping I land in a nice warm bed, or a soft, flower laden meadow. But oh no, I land IN MID AIR and fall to a stone floor with a ‘oh fuckin hell’

 

It’s darkness but I’ve got a stone floor so that’s something. I whip out Scratchy out of my arm. It sniffs the air and looks at me quizzically. ‘I don’t know hun either,’ I say. It raises one of its tiny claws as if to say oh I have an idea. Suddenly it grips with all its might and glows a bright purple. I look round. The purple light does nothing. Just illuminates more darkness beyond.

 

Then I have an idea. I whip out all eight weasels and push as hard as I can. Purple light fills the air. Oh shit, I’ve got this wrong. I can feel a fizzing up and down my air. Damn things can never get it right. I can tell they’ve mistaken light for raw power. Children and animals people, never work with children and animals. So suddenly I’m a mini bomb ready to blow. And blow I do. Watch it.

 

I was in a prison or a box. I know that because the weasels have only gone and blown the bloody doors off. Well and the walls.

 

I’m on a podium in the middle of an oblong stadium. Either side are huge crowds in the stands. They’re jeering and shouting and waving betting slips. These are not your usual San Ya’s market fodder either. You know people like me, a bit sketchy but a good heart really. These I can tell are proper underground scum. There’s some I can see who are banned from the market. There are slavers. I can see men sat with species in chains round them. There are huge monsters taking up tens of seats. Unregistered and terrorists. If the Empire found this place they’d have a field day. Me on the other hand… Beside me are others on more podiums. An old battle hardened Fal-Tap with a scar down his face. A young Gloosha with a set of mean spikes on her head. A huge Gorbeg with a cyborg arm. A human – wait, I think, it’s the woman from before, the one in the vintage t-shirt. What’s she doing here?

 

A platform floats up in front. Oh no. No, no. Not him. Anyone but him. I’d recognize that missing tooth anywhere. Lavatio Bron.

 

Firstly I owe him money but that’s besides the point. Mainly this guy is a sleezebag of the highest order. He used to be the darling of the galactic network. Show on every channel, appearances in every sector attended by millions. But after some rather, what I can only describe as… unsavory business transactions the man fell from grace. I saw him hosting a club night on Triisk a few years back. Some dead end gig, with a few tired old strippers. Seems as though the man has landed on his feet though.

 

Let me just paint you a picture of how much a bellend this man is. He’s wearing a suit made entirely of mirrors so you can’t help but look at him. His dyed black hair is slicked back in the most enormous greasy mullet you’ve ever seen. His face is conventionally attractive I guess. But anyone would say that. He’s had morph-surgery. His face literally moulds itself to your own particular attractions. It’s the weirdest thing you’ll ever see, but my does it get your loins going. Ugh I hate him. It’s the tooth, the missing canine, that’s the only way I can tell it’s him. Oh and his smug fucking grin.

 

He’s whizzing round on a grav-platform clicking his fingers at the crowd. They cheer and I can tell a wave of unusual feeling hits their privates. Eventually, with a flash of fireworks he hovers centre stage.

 

‘Welcome one. Welcome all!’ His silky sickening voice booms over the stadium.

 

‘OI!’ I shout being a nightmare to show proceedings. ‘OI LAVATIO’

 

‘I see you’ve all made it from your various prisons you beautiful lot.’ There’s a roar of laughter from the crowd. He can’t hear me the bastard. Right I’ll show him. There’s a rise of purple fizz in my throat.

 

‘OI LAVITIO BRON WHY THE FUCK AM I HERE?’ my voice echoes around the stadium thanks to a little fire from the weasels.

 

He stares at me for a minute shocked and then smiles lizardly.

 

‘Well well, ladies gentlemen, other designated existences introducing Captain RainCha and the bad boys of the purple moon!’

 

There’s a roar from the crowd. Cool, the name caught on. Anyway. He swings along the line the Fal-tap first.

‘Terrance Grenn, Mercenary. Adventurer of the 6th sector, watch out for those claws.’ Then the Gloosha, ‘Bloge, heir apparent to the Sea of Harmony. Gonna get in trouble for that one.’

He bypasses me and heads to the gorbeg. ‘Oh boy, don’t get on this one’s wrong side. It Karvax, Grand Champion of the Sector 6 gladitorial games. Finally last but not least. Its her, a child of Lazarus – Morven Glass herself. I, on behalf of my employer welcome you to the Sancta Canyon. At the end of this treacherous path lies the tomb of dreams. Inside, legend has it all your dreams can come true. The first one there will find out its wonders. The others – well they will die.’

 

There’s a Cannon fire. I guess that means – oh shit. GO.

 

So I’m running that’s for sure. And so are the others. It’s a race I guess that’s what you do right? Terrance Grenn whizzes past me, a trail of blue behind him. He’s got grav-boots on that’s not fair. I want Grav-boots. The canyon is narrow but huge. The vast, sandy walls tower above me. As I run the roar of the crowd becomes less and less. This shit is creepy. There is a crash from behind. It’s Karvax, the huge Gorbeg, he shoves me to the side. Painfully from the floor I watch as he leaps into the air and plunges his arm into the rock face. He propels off it and into the adjacent wall. He’s going over the top! Bastard. Well two can play at that game.

 

My arms glow purple. Oh yeah baby here we go! I zoom into the air like a rocket. The energy from my purple weasels tingles all over my body. Sandra busts out of my outstretched arm and dances to the music. Oh what music you ask? I’m playing funk music in my head obviously.

 

Anyway.

 

I shoot up past the canyon edge and from here I can see the whole outstretched map. The canyon is like a deep gash in a rocky wasteland. It snakes on and on until out of the sand a mountain rises. Along the slopes there are cracks with deep green energy throbbing out of them. Well that’s obviously the place. Right then off we go.

 

Oooo. There’s something in my ear. It’s a bee. Wait no its not. Is it? Ah. It’s buzzing. Shit. What is that? Bitey pops out over my shoulder and peers in – it shrugs and then disappears.

 

‘Captain that you my friend?’

 

Is it God? Surely not. I thought somebody disproved him years ago.

 

‘Can you hear me Captain?’ I think I’m having a religious experience.

 

Its Ray. Ray is speaking into my ear.

 

‘Captain its me Ray. Can you hear me?’

 

‘Shit yeah I can – how are you doing that?’

 

‘Oh I put an audio chip in your ear months ago. No biggie.’

 

‘No biggie you fucking weirdo! What you snuck into my room and then gave me an inside piercing. I’m outraged – can you tell I’m outraged? Who does that? Why on the moons of Sa1 did you do that?’

 

‘I dunno maybe in case you got lost or kidnapped or teleported out of a bar right before my eyes. I dunno. Something like that.’

 

Hmmmm. I guess. Okay I suppose. Still mad though.

 

‘Where are Captain?’

 

‘Lavatio Bron has me. But it’s not him running the show I don’t think – he’s just hosting it. They’re getting me and some others to race to a ‘temple of dreams’ or some shit.’

 

‘Ughhhh Lavito Bron is the worst.’

 

‘I know right?’

 

‘Never heard of the temple of dreams. Did he give you anything else?’

 

‘Erm…the Sancta Caynon. I’m hovering above it now.’

 

I can hear him typing. From the background I hear a barked shout. Ah he’s at San Ya’s.

 

There’s a rustling screech – I think a microphone has been pulled away.

 

‘Captain its me San Ya.’

 

‘Yes I can tell it’s you San. You have a distinctive voice’ Like a gar-claw being pulled against moonstone.

 

‘You in sky yes?’

 

‘Yes why?’

 

‘Get down – get down – back into canyon.’

 

‘Why –?’

 

Oh. Oh I can see why. How did I not spot it before? The sand is moving. And I don’t mean just with the wind its literally moving up and down like waves. I can still see Karvax running along the dunes. Oh yeah there it is. A huge monster like an eel but MASSIVE rises up through the sand and swallows the mercenary in one. Shit. Suddenly on shoots past me on the left. I dodge. Then on the right. Bollocks. They block out the sun with enormity. Enormity. Good word Captain. Sorry.

 

‘Captain what happening? You are on the planet Cracktar, home of the desert snakes. Get back in canyon.’

 

‘I’ve realized San. Little busy. One min.’

 

I shoot downwards. Karvax must have sparked a feeding frenzy. The bastards are everywhere. It’s a storm of teeth and slobbering terrible, sandy breath. One rises up in front, I blast it with energy. The purple shot bounces off its grey-brown hide. Okay so can’t fight them. They’re all around shooting up through the sand wrapping and writhing round me. There! There’s a hole I funnel the energy into my feet and blast across as quick as I can. It’s closing and quick. Come on weasels. Sandra appears in front of me with a face as if to say we’re doing our bloody best. I push harder.

 

Yesssss. I did it. Of course I did right? I zoom out of the nest of giant eels and into the sunlight and shoot down into the canyon, back where I started. Just as I pass the lip I see the writhing monster mass slither back into their sand-sea. This place is gross.

 

‘I’m out. I got back in the Canyon.’

 

‘Good. Desert snakes very nasty. Eat you one bite. No hope.’

 

‘Thanks San. Good talk. You anymore info?’

 

There’s another buzz in my ear.

 

‘Ray here. The Sancta Canyon is rumored to be home to the Temple of Dreams like you said. It’s a burial place of an ancient king said to house an ancient treasure. Lost for an age though – not a surprise against this shit- hole of a planet. We are straight up sector 6 here my man. Uncategorized to shit. Look there’s not much info apart from a message found on an ancient hardrive.’

 

‘What does it say?’

 

‘Face your worst nightmare to find your greatest dream.’

 

Oh boy that doesn’t sound good.

 

Alright Alright. It can’t be that bad. How would anyone know what my worst nightmare is? I’m pretty sure I don’t know what my worst nightmare is.

 

‘I have placed tracker on you. Get going. We are on our way. But you can’t look like you’re not playing game. They kill you dead. Go now.’ Says San in my ear.

 

‘God hell San I’ve just escaped a nest of giant sand eels give me a break.’

 

She’s right though. I start to run down the canyon. It’s strangely empty. There’s no plants anywhere, no scuttling animals. Nothing. Not even a few stray rocks. I stop for a moment and wipe my hand along the side. The dust comes away and there’s metal underneath. A grainy metal as if its really old.

 

‘San, Ray. I don’t think this is a canyon.’

 

‘What do you mean man?’ Rays says.

 

‘I think this whole place is the tomb.’

 

‘I can scan it from you audio chip.’ There’s a clicking of keys and a buzzing of loading screens. ‘Oh boy Cap you’re right. This place is massive. The sand must have moved in afterwards. It’s like you’re on the last assent of some huge mountain.’

 

‘Are you here yet? Can you get me?’

 

‘Nearly but we can’t get down too close or the snakes will get us. Get to the temple up ahead and we’ll pick you up from there.’

 

Knew it. I just knew no matter what I’d have to make it to the temple. Behind me I hear a chug of a jetpack.

 

‘Can who get you?’ A voice says. Its slippery and sarcastic – I like it. I turn and see the woman from the crystal club. She lands on the floor with a light thud and holds out a gun.

 

‘Woah there hun,’ I say. ‘Let’s not ruin our first date with laser blasters eh?’

 

She laughs, cocking her head back. ‘Not my type, I’m afraid,’ she looks me up and down. ‘So go on then Captain what’s your party trick?’

 

‘What was your name again?’ I say stalling. I like her already but I can’t yet work out if she’s going to kill me or not.

 

‘Morven, Morven Glass. I’ve heard your name before, mainly in Salty Joe’s, mainly paired with a few choice expletives. Go on then tell me, why you here?’

 

Ugh, I have to do this like literally ten times a day.

 

‘I crash landed on a unregistered moon and became host to some purple energy weasels. They make me kinda fly and blast and shit. No six pack though yet. I thought that’s what super powers did but apparently I miss out? Just my luck.’

 

‘You’re shitting me. Weasels? You’re having me on.’

 

Now this is the bit I enjoy. Because quite rightly no one ever believes me. I spin on one foot. As I move through the air, with a flash of bright fuschia, eight weasles appear on my arm and wave at my new friend Morven. I grin.

 

‘Ok. Ok you’re telling the truth. Shit that’s cool. The weasels though not the spin.’

 

‘Go on I’ve shown you mine, you show me yours.’

 

She sighs. ‘I’m a child of Lazarus.’

 

I knew my face dropped. I knew it. I couldn’t help it – a bloody child of Lazarus.

 

‘So you… so…’

 

‘Yes. I don’t die. Pending injury at least. I won’t ever…run out.’

 

‘Whoa cool.’

 

‘You’d think wouldn’t you…’

 

She puts down the gun and squints at me. ‘You’re not a bad guy are you? You’re just a big idiot man?’

 

‘Oh absolutely.’ I laugh.

 

Unfortunately at that point, right behind us, they decide to make another apparence, missing us by mere inches a giant, bloodthirsty sand snake burst through the wall. Fuck’s sake.

 

Ok just imagine the next bit accompanied by a rocking bass solo right?

 

I shoot up into the air. Morven’s jet pack bursts into life. Snake after snake is busting through the walls. We dodge and duck and weave. These things are nasty you can tell by their bloody awful breath. I wonder if the snakes came with the temple or came afterwards? Shit no time. The canyon is getting darker as more and more of the beasts criss cross the expanse. They’re bursting through and diving straight back into the other side.

 

‘Morven if we can get to the temple at the end my friends can pick us up’ I say blasting a snake down through its open mouth.

 

‘Who are they?’ She says running along the length of another.

 

‘What the hell does that matter?’ I say and swoop under another big bastard.

 

‘I’m not getting in some spacecraft with someone I don’t know. You could be slavers or something!’ she hovers for a moment and expertly takes out the eyes of one snake sending it writhing to the ground.

 

‘We’re not Slavers! My friend is called San Ya, she’s okay.’ I mean I wouldn’t stretch to good. The canyon is writhing with the buggers. Up ahead I can see the floor rising. We’re getting near. I send out the weasels. Each one along a different snake. They scamper along quickly down the great mottled backs.

 

‘Whoa you mean the San Ya, okay it’s a deal. I’m coming with you.’

 

Down below I see Blooge the royal Gloosha caught in some huge teeth like trap on the ground – definitely dead. That’s going to cause some international incident I know it.

 

‘In 10 seconds M, Get by side and fly forward.’

 

‘Yes Captain,’ she’s says, still sarcastically.

 

I wrestle away from my current snake and look forward. The weasels are all in position along the side.

 

‘NOW!’

 

There’s a flash of purple and a great explosion. We hurtle forward at lightning speed. I can hear rustling the snakes are coming to. The temple is up ahead I can just see it. Whoa shit shit. Its Terrance Grenn the fal-tap mercenary. A snake bursts out and eats him in one.

 

‘Keep going!’ We push harder and harder until we tumble out onto a flat stone surface and everything goes deathly quiet.

 

‘What the hell just happened?’

 

‘The weasels exploded. Made a brief pathway for us to whizz through. They saved us.’ I say.

 

‘Oh I’m sorry I guess.’

 

‘Oh no…they’re not…’ Out pops Sandra from my shoulder and winks at Morven. ‘They’re multi-talented.’

 

Okay the next bit is where things get weird (okay weirder). Something unexpected happened and I’m not talking about Tabitha Might. Let’s just say I didn’t enjoy it.

 

Behind us, presumably with no food sources, the snakes retract into the walls. We came through a force field I felt the tingle as we passed. Up ahead is the tomb. It’s a squat, square pyramid. It’s hard to tell if it’s made of stone or metal – it’s like a combination of the two. All over it are strange carved symbols. They are faded though and their edges are blurred. This thing is ancient.

 

‘Cap we’re here but couldn’t get through to the ground – we see you’ve made it though.’ Ray appears in my ear. ‘You’ll have to fly up from here something is blocking our lifter-upperer.’

 

‘Transit beam Ray, its called a transit beam.’ I say without thinking. The tomb is entrancing its like being a dream even looking at it. ‘There’s a force field here. But it seems to let people through. I’ve made a friend – we’re bringing her too.’

 

‘Okay fine. Come on then.’

 

I drift forward towards the tomb. Its like I’m being pulled along. I can fell Morven beside me doing the same. What’s inside there? What did those goons at the stands want so bad that they set all this up? In the middle is a gap of a door. We stand in front of it and just stare. I feel like I’m underwater. Everything is blurred at the edges.

 

‘Cap, come on, we can’t stay forever.’

 

‘Sure sure.’

 

We stare at the open mouth of the door as if it is a piece of beautiful art. The blackness inside changes slowly. It swirls and curves into creamy passages of white. They twirl like rivers bending into whirlpools until the shape of body appears. The body gains detail, the end of a vague arm flexes into fingers. A soft face takes on softer features. It is like a human, but beautiful, more beautiful than any human could possibly be. And taller, and more graceful. Out of its back, slowly two great wings unfold. Is it an angel? Oh no did I get eaten by a snake? Am I dead? Well if so Morven is too – ha. The Angel, with all its features in place opens its mouth and begins to speak.

 

‘Welcome weary travelers. We are the Sofiva and welcome to our temple. One may pass and one may leave. Through this door is your worst nightmare and your greatest dream. Only those who are worthy will have both.’

 

Well what do you know? As soon as the Sofiva are mentioned here they are. Well fancy that.

 

The words snap me out of my trance. ‘Yeah I can do without either. We’re going hun.’

 

‘Yeah sorry strange hologram lady. We’re off.’ Morven says.

 

We both blast off upwards but of course slam into the now solid force-field roof.

Shit. A little sore we both look at each.

 

‘I’ll do it.’ We both say at the same, clearly both secretly and absolutely wanting to.

 

‘I’m protected. The weasels they’ll keep me safe.’

 

‘From your worst nightmare?’

‘Ha maybe not. But a nightmare – you must have lived longer than I have Morven, I’m sure there are more nightmares for you than me.’

 

She looks at me for a moment and then turns away. ‘I’m not sure of that. Your eyes Captain, your eyes tell a different story.’

 

‘Go. I’m protected. I’ll be fine.’

 

She turns and then with a huff jumps and hovers in the air. ‘Fine, but its my turn next okay?’

 

I nod and smile weakly. She launches upwards through the force field and I am alone. It hits me suddenly – that feeling of being alone – but it isn’t an alien one. Before Ray, before San, hell before Salty Joe I was alone. After the army, before I found out that greedy people only get greedier, back when I was hanging out on the ice planets of the Thex system and hopping between the asteroid ruins of the last edge of the galaxy, I was alone. I feel it here again like an old friend. Even though my friends hover above the force field they may as well be a universe away. Only the door is there now and whatever stands beyond it.

The Sofiva stands to the side and gestures me in. I walk forward through the door and into utter darkness. I know what is coming. I can feel it. If the Sofiva was right than it is my worst nightmare is coming, and my worst nightmare is something I have already lived. Predictably the door closes behind me with a grind. Slowly but surely I hear in the distance the pounding rhythmic march of many feet. They are getting closer. I try to run but in the darkness I go nowhere. Up ahead a child appears. I don’t know his species but he turns from green to red quickly as if alarmed. He runs through lush green trees shouting for his mother. Shouting for anyone. The marching boots get closer and closer. He screams and runs. Others appear, more children playing out on the forest. They are glowing red just like the first one. The marching people pass by me – they are soldiers, decked out in full space gear. They looks like robots, faceless and terrifying. I know they are human though because one of them is me. Suddenly they stop and bring out the guns off their back. I collapse to the floor – Sandra emerges and cuddles my arm. They cock the guns and aim into the forest. I can see the glowing red of the children just for a moment and then it fades away.

 

Yep. They got it right. My nightmare relived. After that I never went back.

 

At the present Tabitha Might is opening her mouth as if to speak – but we’re in slow motion right? So let me finish off my yarn.

 

I sit for a moment curled up in a ball. There’s a tap on my shoulder, I raise my head and see all eight weasels looking at me with tears in their eyes.

 

‘Don’t hate me,’ I say. They don’t, they all come and nuzzle my legs. I don’t deserve them. The room, now the projection has gone is just a small stone space, with nothing in it. They must tap into your mind and project it back at you. Horrible but effective I guess. In front a panel opens into another room and light pours in. I get up and slowly walk through.

 

My god the Sofiva were keeping this close to their chest weren’t they?

 

Inside is a glass room. Literally all of it glass. Or I think its glass. There are beautiful sculptures of impossible creatures laid on delicate plinths across a huge carved floor. The ‘windows’ must be holograms – each one a different scenes. On one side lush green fields, another a snowy mountaintop. The furthest side is as if we’re in deep space, a galaxy of stars for the taking as if painted on a canvas. My open mouthed gawp is interrupted for a moment by a voice that I had all but forgotten.

A painful jolt shoots through my head accompanied by a scratchy changing of sound connection.

 

‘Ahhhhhh Captain – forgotten about me had you?’

 

Ah yes, my old enemy The Owner. Of course – how could I forget? He’s after me for a few things, not including selling him some dodgy sheep and stealing the shadow-board from under his big fat nose. Anyway.

 

‘I bet you were wondering who put this all together weren’t you?’

 

‘No,’ I say. ‘Obviously it was you dumbass.’

 

‘Well… oh fine. Well we have the place surrounded. You’re little buddies have scarpered. Get the artifact. There in the centre. Get it and bring it to meeeeee.’

 

His voice is so annoying I can’t even. I just can’t.

 

I guess I have no choice.

 

On the central plinth is what looks like a heavy ring. Is this it? A bit of old metal. As I grab it I feel that familiar tingle. But boy is it powerful.

 

OH MAN IS THAT GOOD.

 

So that’s you to speed. I touched the artifact and it teleported me here – the galactic senate right in front of Tabitha Might. I mean talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire? Oh shit I guess slow motion is over. Back to the present. Tabitha Might raises her finger and points it at me:

 

‘GET THAT MAN!’

 

I’m not worried. Scratchy just winked at me. The weasels have a plan. As I say it again that doesn’t sound so good. The weasels have a plan? Oh god I’m going to die.

 

Guards emerge from everywhere. I feel an odd stretching sensation over my body. As if my head is halfway into warpspeed but my arse isn’t. What is happening? Ugh this is horrible. I’m being pulled downwards. The guards step back shocked.

 

Oh wait- I’m not being pulled downwards. I look at my hands. They’re tiny little purple claws. I knew I had more powers – I knew it! I can transform into one of them. At least I hope I can transform back – we’ll have to see. Anyway for now I better run. I scamper along the floor of the senate and jump headfirst through the Empress’s chest and out the other side. I wave a tiny claw and disappear into the labyrinth of Ea1.

 

A cliffhanger. A cliffhanger indeed.

 

Now that was quite an adventure and it isn’t over yet…

 

Tune in next time. Stay cool.

 

Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Captain RainCha and the Child Prince.

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.’

‘No’

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.’

‘Weirdo’

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.

‘Do they?’

‘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?’

‘To Disappear.’

‘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.’

‘Keep going.’

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.’

‘What?’

‘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.’

‘What’s that?’

‘Weasel.’

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.

Yours,

Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon.

Plays intensely good slap bass solo.

 

 

 

 

The Black Market of the Hapless San Ya

GALATIC COORDINATES: 156-78-06-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: (See Spotify Link at End). Butterfly, Crazy Town. We No Speak Americano, Yolanda Be Cool. Cheap Thrills, Sia. Mr Saxobeat, Meteorite, Years and Years. Starstrukk, Katy Perry, 30H!3. Saturday Night, Whigfield.

 

 

They say if you want to find something, and particularly something illegal, then the place to find it is the Black Market of the Hapless San Ya. At some point in her long and mysterious past, San Ya, proprietor and overseer of the Market, acquired a battered, dirty and all together dangerous space station. It was said, that she had single handedly flown it to the very edge of the galaxy and moored it around the dead planet 156. Over the years, in the sub networks and under-waves she sent out a message. It was an advertisement and an invitation. It read:

 

Come. Sell your wares. No judgment.

Only rules: No explosions, Nothing Gross.

But come. Sell.

 

And slowly like the trickle of a spring that grows into a great river they did. Designated life forms from across the six sectors came to sell whatever they had and whatever they could. The wide corridors and halls of the dilapidated shack of a shuttle quickly became full of shouting, squawking and rumblings of great beasts. There was always a party atmosphere in the market as people ate and drank and traded. But there was always money and ambition lacing through each word. People came because it was simply – exciting.

Now, San Ya was a tiny woman, for most of the life forms she would only come up to their waists (or waist equivalent) but one stare from those formidable glasses would keep even the darkest species in line. She ruled with a tiny iron claw. It was because, and she knew it, they respected her. If a customer arrived, and after pursuing the stalls found that the particular brand of banned chemical, or traditional body-opening device wasn’t there, San Ya could always find it for them. In fact, San Ya, more often than not would already have it.

San would draw the line sometimes though. Anything to do with children or the designated species young – she would refuse transactions on. Also any attempt at Sentient Cargo earned the seller a lifetime ban. She had learned the evils of slavery a long time ago and would not tolerate it again. She would march the corridors of her queendom inspecting each stall daily, her and chief of staff a Fal-Tap called Valeir, would inspire fear, laughter and all things in between.

San Ya to all intents and purposes was a fearsome woman. But she would, as we all do from time to time, get into scrapes. And this, to Valeir’s constant exasperation, was because San Ya, no matter what it was, could not resist a bargain.

 

On the morning of the May 1st, Galactic year 7.017, San Ya woke as usual. She washed thoroughly; she scrubbed at all parts and not just the ones in reach. She dried her long hair and bound it tightly in one thick, bready plat. She chose a grey starchy dress that stopped just below her knee; she had several and wore them every day without fail. With a final flourish she placed on her thick, bottle-end glasses. She pouted as the glass revealed her own image to herself.

She could see the lines along her face though. They had crept along in the night as she had tossed and turned. The night before something had arrived on her desk. She hadn’t noticed it at first, the desk was piled high with books, open boxes of wires and screws and countless mildewed mugs. But as she sat down to mark the accounts of the day there it was – a round object wrapped in brown paper. She had looked around, no one had been there. No one was there now. Or so she thought. But there in the shadows of the far corner two eyes emerged and then a set of teeth. It unflured like smoke into the room until a tall, seemingly male, ghoul of a figure stood in front of her. It appeared to be wearing a black cloak like a Vespin, but its face was almost human in construction apart from it swirled and undulated as if it was made of thick smog.

‘You shouldn’t be here,’ she said.

‘I have come to sell.’ Its voice clawed at her ears. It was just a rung below painful.

‘Then you will come back tomorrow and I’m sure some of the vendors can accommodate you.’ She looked to the door pointedly.

‘A few months back I was in a bar named Salty Joe’s. I believe you were there too. Do you remember?

‘Ah. Oh…yes perhaps.’ She cursed the day she’d ever set foot in that place.

‘Well I remember overhearing you were looking for something. Not something particular just something. Something powerful. A jewel in your crown. Well I’ve not found a jewel but this is something much more alluring…,’ he hissed.

And it was. She had locked it away in her safe. But it had kept her awake all night. Now, at the Black Market another day had begun. In the docking bay, above which her own personal quarters resided, there was a flurry of activity. She walked out onto the balcony and peered over. There was a big shipment coming in for the Walran Bank, she noted. Long crates all lined up like soldiers. She wasn’t interested about what was inside, never worry about the Walrans, she knew that. On the other side were a group of Gorbegs, pulling a huge crate. They shifted it into position and dropped the sides. Inside were a collection of beautiful stone statues; they had been carved into curves and slides like whips of energy. At the end of each were faces that screamed out like ghosts. She had seen them before. The Sent Forms. They were Cratian in origin. Very rare and very famous. Someone had been busy.

‘I wonder how they came across those.’ Valeir’s soft purr made San Ya jump.

‘Stop creeping up on me! My god.’ She dusted down her dress. Valeir was stood behind her smiling. He wore a tight fitting two piece, grey, crimson and red, with broad shoulders and lots of gold detailing.

‘My apologies San.’ He nodded at the statues. ‘How do you think they acquired those. They’re meant to be in the Sector 2 Pan-Race Museum.’

‘Don’t ask questions. You know that.’ San Ya, jumped off the balcony railing and stared upwards at the fur on Valeir’s face. ‘Haven’t you got something to do?’

‘What is wrong with you today?’

‘I didn’t hire you to ask me questions – go and check what’s in the Walran boxes.’

‘What are you not telling me?’

‘Okay fine. I had a private visitor last night.’

‘Okay…this already feels like something I don’t need to know.’

‘No not like that. A seller. He had overheard me in Salty Joe’s a bit ago. Brought me something he thought I would like,’ she whispered. Valeir noticed she was hopping from one foot to another. He couldn’t tell if it was with excitement or fear.

‘For the last time will you stop going to that bar. Every time there is some kind of trouble that stems from Salty bloody Joe’s.’

‘Oh just get in here.’ She dragged him by the fur into her office.

 

San Ya knew her limits. Or at least she thought she did. But something about the man emerging out of the shadows had shut off all her good judgment. She knew she shouldn’t have done it. But the curious way he had offered it, the fact that throughout their conversation it had remained in the package, temptingly hidden, it had brought out her inner collector with fiery passion. And boy was it a bargain. For such a…rarity. She had bought it and now she had to tell Valeir. He was going be mad.

 

‘What have you bought?’ he hissed. He sat down in the chair behind her desk. He folded his leg over the other smoothly and flicked a moment of dust off his knee.

‘You don’t come in here and judge me,’ she threw her hands in the air.

‘What is it?’ he growled.

‘I’m still your boss. Remember that Val.’ She pouted and folded her arms. She knew she had to tell him.

‘Oh for god’s sake you’re as much my boss as the planet beneath is. For an old woman you really are a child.’

San Ya gasped and clutched her chest in a picture of drama.

‘I am not…’ she gasped again. ‘An old woman.’

‘Right I’m going.’

Valeir rose from the chair and swiftly pivoted on one paw. San quickly reached over her desk and, whilst knocking a pile of paraphernalia flying, pressed her panic lock. The door steamed shut just missing Valeir’s padded nose.

‘I mean we always thought they were theoretically possible…’ San Ya’s voice had dropped to a whisper. Valier narrowed his eyes and placed his hand on the door.

‘Go on…’ He said slowly.

‘You know, a weapon. A big one. A proper big bastard.’

‘You don’t mean…’

‘Yes last night I bought a planet destroyer.’

‘Oh God San Ya. What have you done?’

 

So between the tiny woman and the tall, slender Fal-Tap a plan was devised. They had to get rid of it – that much they knew. Even with the dodgy practices of the market, if the Empire found out they had a planet bomb, they would wipe them out without a moment’s hesitation. But the two of them knew the visitors to the market well, and if this weapon got into the hands of some of these life forms. Let’s just there would be a lot less galaxy than there was before.

They were looking over the docking bay as they did every morning. San Ya had been here before, but never like this. Trouble came to San Ya, like iron filings to a magnet. She loved it, there was always something exciting happening at the market and here, plughole of the central sector was a bottleneck for the unusual and the amazing. She ran her fingers along the rail. But this was different, this was dangerous.

‘We could just keep it in my safe?’

‘No,’ Valeir said softly.

‘Fine. Have it your way.’

They headed down the stairs into the hubbub below. Some of the more aware life forms nodded their heads towards the pair. Some scattered into the backs of stalls lowering their heads in keenness to get away. They stopped for a moment and stared up at the statues, The Sent Forms, which had been placed pride of place in the central reservation. Their owner, a squat, bald human called Greb, slid out from behind a particular wide stretch of stone.

‘Ehhhh San Ya, Val Val, how goes it?’

‘I’m busy Greb. Move this will you – it can’t stay in the docking bay.’ San Ya flicked him aside and inspected the swirling marble heads above.

‘But it wont fit through the sub tunnels. Perhaps we can come to an arrangement.’ He smiled a gummy grin and tapped a jingle-laden pocket.

‘Come on Greb, that won’t work on me and you know it. Move it.’

‘You’re killing me San! You’re killing me.’ He raised his hands in a mock beg-prayer.

‘Bugger off Greb – get it moved.’

They moved on past the thousands of boxes and into the main sub-tunnel. Here the stalls were pressed tight against the walls and Valeir had to duck and dodge the banners, bunting and washing-line like displays of goods that hung tight across the walls. They were heading down into the engine market for the first part of their plan. The Engine market was the hub for all tech enthusiasts or just those with a slightly illegal and broken ship that would not do being repaired at the Capitol. It was a huge hanger filled with steam and smoke and grease. It was also home to renowned Walran engineer and former Chief Technician of the Walran Empire Fleet, Terius Flax. If there was one person who could deactivate the device it was him.

They entered his metal shack through the smoke curtain, a thick set of flaps that coated you in grime as you slid through them. Inside was a series of wide, tall steps that rose towards the wall. On the limited surfaces was every conceivable bit of tech you think of. Comms split open and unfurled like pictures out of anatomy book, holoscreens that fizzed and crackled like lava and towering fronds of stiff cut off wires like metal palm trees. But not only the surfaces, the walls were hung with all artifacts. There was an expanse of android arms, some twitched at the cusp of life, below that were hundreds of blue prints, tech-specs of ships and stations and buildings. High above, near the curved ramshackle roof, on a hover-platform was Terius, he was pouring over an item harnessed to the wall. Occasionally he would stretch his hand-flipper over the side and a bit of metal would fly up into his palm. Magna-grabbers, San had seen them before.

‘Terius you tech-head get down here I need you.’

‘Go away San. You only bring trouble to my door.’ Terius had a deep, chocolaty voice that wrapped around the room.

‘This is different. Come on Terius.’ She said mock sweetly. Valier looked on silently.

Terius zoomed down on the platform in front of them and stared at them. His whiskers were twitching under his goggles. After a moment he erupted into a huge belly laugh that rippled though the blubber of his body.

‘What is it San?’ he said.

‘I need you to deactivate it.’ She reached into her pocket and produced the crumpled brown package. Terius knocked up his goggles onto his smooth grey head. She pulled the paper aside, within was round glass ball filled with rippling energy. Along the glass were small flashes of light in vein like pathways. Terius’s eyes widened into two round plates.

‘Where the hell did you get that?’ he whispered in awe.

‘So you know what it is?’ Valier said slowly.

‘Of course I know what it is. A scref-energy cluster stabilized in an unlockable terra-glass case. A planet bomb. And a nasty one. If you even turn it on this thing will lock onto the nearest planet and then… Oh San.’

‘My thoughts exactly,’ Valier chipped in again.

‘I know, I was weak. The collector’s rush took over.’ San said raising her hands.

‘Next time the collector’s rush comes over you San Ya you run it by me.’ Terius snarled. ‘Right well it’s going to take me a while but I might be able to set up a system to link into the terra-glass that’ll deposit the energy into a series of micro-clusters. In other words bitesized chunks. It won’t deactivate it but it’ll make into a fairly standard explosion instead.’

‘Thank you Terius. You’re a life saver.’ San hopped on the Walran’s platform and swung her tiny arms around her neck.

‘Planet saver more like. Come on we can’t do it here. Back to yours?’ Terius flopped off his platform with a thud.

‘I think that would be wise.’ Valeir said.

But then, just as they were about to leave the tech all around them buzzed into life. Whirrs and rings scattered out all around. Valeir covered his sensitive ears and screeched in pain. One by one a message popped onto all the available screens. San Ya stared in horror at the same words all around:

 

We know what you have. We want it. Regards, The Owner.

 

‘Who’s the owner?’ Terius said guardedly.

‘Trouble that’s who.’ San Ya scooped up the package and thrust it deep into her the pockets of her dress. ‘This is what I feared. If some proper shit like him is after this than the whole galaxy is in trouble.’

Valier, breathing heavily appeared to be coming round. ‘Who did you tell San?’ He snarled.

‘No one I swear.’ With the firm press of her tone Valeir knew she was telling the truth. ‘It might have been the seller, or something I don’t know. There could have been psychics on board? Oh who knows?’

‘Who is the Owner though?’ said Terius.

‘He’s, or at least we presume it’s a He. He’s a powerful agent. I’ve dealt with him before or at least I used to. At first it was just usual stuff – a shipment of worker bots. A few tankers of sketch fuel. And then stranger requests came – artifacts. Specific ones from dangerous places. And morbid things as well, souvenirs he called them. From crash sites, from war zones. The name kept cropping up too ‘The Owner’. It would be stamped across delivery receipts, or I’d hear it being whispered behind a stall.’ San Ya clutched her arms around herself.

‘But he’s banned San, after that cargo of Sonva he was trying to flog. He can’t come here. And neither can his goons. The system will cross-check them no problem – they won’t get even get past the exterior shields. We just keep it safe and go on with the plan.’ Valeir placed a comforting hand on San’s shoulders.

‘Right then. We go on as planned. I can, if I concentrate, speed up the process a little by filtering the energy into temporary units as I build the more permanent ones. Come on.’ Terius, with a brief look in either direction headed out the entrance flap. San Ya looked at Valeir warily and followed in the same direction.

 

The Market was as busy as always. From every direction came the smells, sounds and sights. As the standard lunchtime approached, thick beefy smells erupted from all around. At mealtimes, the market took an even more jovial atmosphere as customers broke bread with stall-holders and supped deep on drink. But all this was passing over the three burdened holders of the planet bomb. They would ignore the shouts over counters for their attention and the offer of food form friendly traders. At every corner they were listening. They were looking for signs on every slip of paper or running across each holoscreen. They were looking for two words – ‘The Owner’. Eventually they reached the docking bay.

‘Not far off now.’ Terius said cheerily. They looked around. The bay was strangely quiet. San scanned the room with her eyes. Life forms were slipping out of the back into the storage areas. Ship windows and doors were shutting with a hiss. Her comm. unit sprang into life. ‘Mark 3 Vessel approaching’ it said metallically.

‘Mark 3?’ said Terius. ‘That’s massive.’

‘It’ll be him. That’s for sure,’ San said darkly.

‘He still can’t get through, those shields would withstand the inside of a star. He’s going nowhere,’ Valeir hissed.

San Ya stood for a moment. She looked at the other two as if she was about to explode. Putting her hands on her hips and growling she took off into the main bay.

‘Comm. put me in contact with the Mark 3.’

‘Of course.’ There was a light buzz as the contact was made.

San looked up into the sky outside the entrance to the docking bay.

‘Right Owner. I don’t know how you found out but you’re not having it so bugger off from my air space.’

A tinny, robotic voice fizzed into the speaker systems around. It seemed to come from everywhere at once.

‘My associates are already here.’

Between San Ya and the entrance was the statue of The Sent Forms. At first she thought she was imagining it, but the white twisted forms were getting darker. They coloured like ink dropped in a glass of milk. Then they started to twist further into shapes. Out of the solid stone burst smoke. They churned and swished until it they formed into figures. Each one had a mouth like a dropped scream and two endless holes for eyes. Even in all her long years San had never seen this lifeform before. They certainly weren’t registered.

‘Okay. Okay what the hell are those?’ Terius said, sliding up from behind.

‘No clue. I have an idea though, about the item.’ San whispered out of the corner of her mouth.

The figures held up hands towards her.

‘Just give it to them San.’ Valier purred. He was trying to be kind to her she knew. He wasn’t being cowardly. Everything in the market had gone quiet. She wondered if these figures had emerged in other places across the market. They could be everywhere.

‘Don’t be such a turncoat Val. I have something. I need you to turn off the outer shields.’

‘You have to be kidding? Let his whole fleet in?’ Terius said patting his flipper to his head.

‘Just do it, get over to the switch and when I give the nod, turn it off. I’ll distract them.’

The two men looked at each other warily. San had done some crazy stuff in her long life but this time it seemed she had lost it.

‘Oh and Terius leave me your Magna-grabber.’

Terius slipped off his glove and handed it to San Ya. The dimensions changed and crackled as it strapped itself to her hand.

‘Put the weapon down in front of you and we will leave your little market alone.’ The figure’s deep voices spoke as one.

‘Okay okay. Keep your smoke together. Here.’ San Ya reached into her dress and produced the battered looking packing. She placed it carefully on the floor. ‘Just for my records – what are you? Oh god that sounds a bit specieist doesn’t it? Sorry. But what’s your designation?’ She inched slowly round them as if to have a look.

‘We have none.’

She inched round a little further taking a look at them from all angles. ‘Must come in useful that magic trick. I wish I could appear and disappear at will – it would keep my traders on their toes. Or toe equivalents. Do you have toes? I imagine it would be hard to keep together a smoke toe.’

In her inching she knocked into a stall sending some copper pots flying across the floor. She was a couple of meters from the giant open mouth of the cargo bay.

‘We have the device. Thank you. We will go,’ they said as one.

‘No!’ said San Ya. ‘I can… I can get you a designation. Surely you must want one? You could enter central space proper. Access Empire boundaries. You must want that?’

She walked along, still facing them, until she was in front of the docking entrance. They had turned with her. All they must have seen was a tiny woman cut out against the enormity of space.

‘Now!’ she shouted. With a hiss the shields sparked out of life. She held out her magna-grabbed hand. It buzzed with life. The planet bomb shot from across the room through the life forms and into her hand. ‘Will you look at that?’

The life forms burst with smoke. They were angry San could tell that. But she didn’t care. It was her market and she made the rules.

‘Give that back.’ They said furiously.

‘Yeah yeah of course I will.’ She clicked a few buttons on the device. It whirred into life. ‘Whoops.’

‘San! What are you doing?’ Valeir shouted from across the room.

‘Making sure no one uses this again.’ She said with a smile. The planet bomb rose into the air and shot towards the dead planet below. ‘Shields up if would Terius. Also maybe fire up the warp engines if you can.’

She turned to the lifeform. ‘Remind the Owner if you will that he has a lifetime ban from my Market and he is to stay away. Hope he has a good set of shields.’

San Ya smiled as the exploding planet beneath propelled her great market to a new home.

 

2 Weeks Later (Ea1 Standard Unit).

 

San Ya sifted through the piles of paperwork. Since the incident, as everyone kept calling it, she had kept quiet. Firstly they had found a new mooring, this time in the 05, a little closer to the central galaxy, but she thought it might at least pick her up a bit more passing trade. Valeir had chastised her relentlessly for such recklessness, saying the shields might not have held but the radio silence on The Owner had been reward enough. She peered out of the window of her office. The planet beneath was beautiful. A gas planet that swirled with whites and greens and golds. Much nicer, she thought, than that dead red rock before. There were so many questions to follow up she knew that much. Where had the device been made in the first place? Who sold it her? She grimaced at little. She knew she should really check up on her sellers.

The comm. buzzed and chimed. She sauntered over and flicked it on. It was Valeir. Oh no, she thought.

‘San, there is someone here to see you. He says it’s urgent.’

‘Who is it?’

‘A Captain…erm…What was it?’ There was a rustling exchange off the line. ‘A Captain RainCha.’

San smiled. She’d been wondering when he’d come and show her his new toys.

‘Send him in.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon

 

GALATIC COORDINATES: 98-50-01-01

 

SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: (See Spotify Playlist at End), Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry. Mama Said, The Shirelles. Shame Shame Shame, Linda Fields. People Get Up And Drive Your Funky Soul, James Brown. The Cisco Kid, War. Superstitious, Stevie Wonder. Thank You, Sly and the Family Stone. Clean up Woman, Betty Wright. Mighty Mighty, Earth, Wind and Fire. Slippery When Wet, Commadores. Bootzilla, Booty Collins. Brick House, Commodores. The Lady Wants Your Money, Wild Cherry.

 

Close up on cigarette. Raise camera as I swig a whiskey. Right?

 

Ok. So I’m here again. Lord knows I always say it – that I won’t, but here I am. Picture the scene. A freakin’ dive at the rat end of the asteroid belt. We’re central in the galaxy but proper fringe central. I mean if this is the plughole of the capital sector we’re clinging on to those tiny bars where spinach gets caught. Hell, we’re clinging on to the spinach. It’s an absolute petri dish of races here at Salty Joe’s. I’m talking mean shit from the edges – sector 6 kinda shit. You know, those big things that evolved in those dark cold planets. Or those things from those low grav places that are all heavy but seem to spring – you know what I mean? There was a group of them on Ea1’s Got Talent last year? Now I know I’m a human but don’t get me wrong I’m not prejudice – far from it but you look at those things. Sometimes your own biology rejects it. Guess that’s my problem not theirs. Anyway. Ahem – I’m not sounding good here. What I’m trying to say is this place is dodgy as shit. They serve race-specific alcohol to anyone who asks for it – that shit can kill a human dead – one shot. I once saw a fight in here between an energy being and some liquid thing. I didn’t even know it was happening until I was drenched and blind for a week after. But I guess if there ever was a place in this goddamn shit-hole of a galaxy to call home it would be here. The kinda place you’ve hated, you’ve loved, you’ve cursed the day, you’re praised it lusciously, all in the same evening. Home.

Salty himself on duty tonight, he slides over and looks at me cocking his head. He’s a Walran is Joe and dresses like an old fashioned chef – even though he’s not been near a kitchen in years.

‘El Capitan,’ he says. ‘What’s the matter?

That’s me by the way. I’m El Capitan. Or more accurately Captain RainCha, formally of the Empire Defense Squadron Libra Division (Hons) – presumed dead.

‘Joe Joe Joe. What do you mean?’ I say dramatically. He raises his fleshy eyebrows.

‘Now don’t get me wrong Rainy – I’ve seen you come in here a few times with your tail between your legs but tonight you look… creepy man.’

‘Creepy?’ I say, knowing he’s right. There are ridges under my eyes I’ve not seen since the army.

‘Yeah man. Even the Despids over there said you were freaking them out,’ he says, nodding to a group of hooded, vultures with thick black goggles in the corner.

‘Yeeash how bad I look?’ I didn’t need to ask the question I looked fucking weird.

‘All I’m saying is you look strange. But not bad – I dunno man – where you been?’

We pause. I look at him. He looks at me. Okay this is the part where I tell old Salty Joe another story. So I may as well tell you too.

 

Hit the lights. Slap that bass.

 

So roll back three weeks ago. I’m on the storage planet W15. I was heading for the Capitol. Sort of. At least I was heading in the general direction of the galaxy centre. You know, I had to see a man about a dog. But I got waylaid. The throughways were closed, something to do with a huge space-station crash. Its cracked engines had flooded the space with interference meaning at least a couple of weeks before the Neutralizers had finished cleaning up and I could get through. Anyway, the guy I was travelling with, a huge Bonso named Ray, said he’d drop me at the nearest planet and see what I could do from there – his mate said he could offer me a lift to another sector, Ray was off home – I’d just have to sit tight for a bit. He was a good guy Ray, we had met years ago at a race-course in the 04. I noticed him because he was hanging down from the rafters of the concourse swinging like an acrobat from his leathery grey hands. I had never met a Bonso before – they tended to stay less central. I mean I’ve never had an issue with them – things evolve. Humans did why shouldn’t the apes too? All they did was get intelligent and move away. Cool. Fine by me. Fucking humans man. But yeah, me and Ray hit it off and I’ve been sketching lifts off him on and off as he hauled goods across the galaxy. If I asked him how he could be so nice to a human he always just smiled that huge grin and laughed.

I’m always sad when I see someone fly away. It’s the space. Even with comm.-tech you just never know do you? You never know when you’ll see them again.

W15. Fuck me storage planets. Ray dropped me on one of the landing pads. And the sight was incredible. In every direction as far as the eye could conceive – plastic and metal. And then like crows on a corpse were spindly metal cranes silently heaving boxes. It was like seeing nanomedics in the body. Tiny little operations happening again and again. It was grim but fucking hell it was beautiful. And all I could think was – imagine. Just imagine the fucking riches in this place. I mean I had a bit of spare time? So I got my rope.

Now, the landing pads are high up but I’m nimble, I’m young (ish). And I thought well there must be something down there. Something I could…acquire. I think Ray knew this but was keeping his fur clean. So I grab my rope and tie it round my waist. There’s no one around apart from a few buzzing info-bots over head so I tie it to the railing. I know it was stupid, I really did – I mean I didn’t even have that much rope. But yes I jumped over the side.

The sight from the top was great but here, as the bots and the crates swung past you it was incredible. It was less of a body and more of a hive. Industrious was the word. I watched wide-eyed as the boxes slotted into place by a whizzing drone only to be scooped up and moved by another. I inched down on the rope, it would take me an hour or so but if inched carefully I should make it to the surface for what it was. And then? I mean there has to be a hatch or something – there’s always a hatch right?

But fuck. Just as I’m settling in to my lovely lofty descent with these delightful scenic views there it comes. Hurtling towards me like my own stupid realization. A drone with its blade spinning to holy hell. It cuts my rope in two.

 

Shock close up. Bundles rope in hand. Turns to camera for a second. Falls.

 

Okay, hold up. Keep that pause button firmly down child. Here’s a confession: I’m not a model citizen of the galaxy. Whoa I know, I would gasp too. Good reaction – full marks. I guess it’s that I was once – I totally was. I grew up on Ma1, finished my schooling. Joined the army and then. And then. Let’s just saw humans are dicks. And I know – I am one. Since then it’s been this – hitching rides, planet hopping, job hopping. Salty Joe’s. Until this story. Until what happened next.

 

So, sorry, we’re falling right. Wheeeeeee…yeah?

 

So this is me in the freakin’ shit. I thought I had been here before but fuck this was really it. Why hadn’t I waited? All I literally had to do was wait. But oh no. Not me – not Captain RainCha I had to go and prod the beast. I just had to dangle my legs over the edge. I started to think about all the things I could have changed in my life. All the things I could –

 

Ha. No I fucking didn’t. I was falling to me death – all you can think of is that. It’s a pressing matter. Trust me.

 

The surface of the planet was fast approaching. It came at me filling my eyes with grey. It didn’t look so beautiful now. But just as impact came I felt it. That slight tingle with a metal edge. It pricks your skin just a little and you can almost taste it. The grey was taking on a blue tinge. Teleport.

 

W15, to my distinct relief had a lifeform security system. I’ve looked into them since – nifty bits of kit. If any life form approaches a storage box in any fashion deemed either ‘irresponsible’ or ‘threatening’ the system just plucks them out of the air and deposits them inside. It’s like a video game – you die, you go back to the checkpoint. That’s what happened to me I died and I flashed up good as knew in the checkpoint. Turns out though the checkpoint was exactly where I didn’t want to be.

 

Fuzzy and a bit sore, I materialized inside a grey box. Not too thrilling I know. Even in the circumstances, in the planet of the grey boxes it wasn’t too much of a surprise. But there in the room outlined in silhouette were two Gorbegs. Two, big, ugly Gorbegs. Their grey-ridged eyebrows bristling with hair. They both had overbites with rough tusks erupting from brown gums. They were muscular and had long wide legs. Back when they were first registered humans called them Rhinos. Not quite okay…on Ea1 rhinos didn’t go Bonso, they’re still rhinos. Anyway, race relations aside, these guys looked mean and stupid. A combo that has not been great for me in my life. As the tinge of the teleport faded I found I recognized them.

‘Oh fuck,’ I say. ‘Not you guys.’

‘He he he,’ the left one, Teff wheezes like the stereotype goon he is. ‘Finally caught up with you haven’t we?’

‘He he he.’ The other one Beff mirrors.

‘Look. It’s not my fault, I had no idea those android sheep were actually real.’ I mean, I did, but time and place. I look back at them. ‘I thought the replication was just super realistic.’

 

Ok hold up. Scratch sound on the record. We’re going back a bit.

 

Sometimes to make ends meet you gotta think creatively. Now, when I said before I I’m not a model citizen of the galaxy – yeah I mean it. Look, it’s not my fault – this galaxy is big… I just end up falling through the cracks a few times. I got caught up with these guys by accident. The Owner, that’s what they call him, yeah with an actual capital letter, The Owner. Ridiculous right? But I overheard these guys in Salty Joe’s (Of course) – they were saying how the Owner (scoff) was obsessed with old Ea1 animals – and was filling his complex with them. They were saying that he wanted android ones though, not real ones. I mean I can sympathize – if they’re only for show you may as well have fake ones. But either way me and Ray, who happened to be sat next to me, had just swung by Ea1’s supply planet, you know the one they terraformed way back when? Well we had we just been to drop off a parcel but…

 

Cut to me and Ray in spaceship with a flock of sheep.

 

I think you can put the rest together. Let’s just say The Owner wasn’t too happy when he first tried to fix a fault in his ‘android’ sheep. Whoops. My bad.

 

‘Wait. Wait. Wait. Capitan. Android Sheep? You’re bullshitting me. That’s Phillip K. Dick.’

‘Shut up Salty Joe. Are you gonna let me tell this story or not?’

 

Anyway. Gorbegs. A grey room. teleport….

 

‘Too late now. You cross The Owner – you pay,’ Teff grunted.

‘God you two are so predictable. Did they actually cast you like actors? Cos you can’t be real. Casting call for two big hefty stupid goons? How did you get me here?’

‘Er… None of your business.’

‘Not Ray? Not my lovely Ray?’ I say heartbroken.

‘Not the Bonso.’

Ah fuck, I realize. My ride. It must have been these goons who told Ray they’d give me a ride. I’m an idiot.

‘He he he,’ he laughs as he sees my face break with realization.

‘And I guess I’m coming with you.’

They both laugh as they lumber towards me.

 

So when I wake up we’re taking off. I can see the grey mass below getting more obscure. Or at least that’s what I presume I would see if this place had any windows. I know we’re taking off because I can hear it. That wherrrrr-whoooossh of ascending metal. This ship is a big bastard. I’m tied up to a vent or pipe or something but I can feel the draught from behind. This must be a cargo ship. I’m bound tight in what appears to be shipping wrap, like bubble wrap but proper protective – the type they use to transport vases and shit on the ultra fast liners. This stuff would survive a dipping in a volcano. These guys think I’m going to try and escape – which obviously I would, of course I would. I feel around. My hands are handcuffed too I can metal nested amongst the wrapping. Fuck me I think. I’m going to have to double check all of Ray’s ‘lifts’ in future.

‘Where are we going?’ I say. The two goons are sat ahead throwing some corn-based concoction into each other’s mouths.

‘None of your business.’

‘To see The Owner right? On Seadon 2?’

‘Nah he lives on Ea1 now,’ The one on the left says, I don’t know which one’s Teff and which one’s Beff now.

‘Shit don’t tell him that Teff’ Ah so it was Beff. Ea1. I think – hmmm that’s interesting. Why is that interesting?

‘Wait so we’re heading to Ea1?’ I say. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I realize.

‘Yeah. But I’m not telling where he lives.’ Beff.

‘Yeah. Like obviously it’s Ea1 but we’re not telling you his address.’ Teff.

I remember what Ray had said. I mean it’s the reason I’m in the mess in the first place. The path to capitol past Ea1 is flooded from the space station crash. Fuck.

‘Right,’ I say. I’m trying to sound legitimate but panic is really sneaking into my tone. ‘I’m not making this up I promise. Although it will really, really sound like I am.’

 

‘Very convincing.’

‘Shut up Salty Joe.’

 

‘What are talking about?’ Teff says.

‘Well the reason I ended up on W15 was because the route from here to the Capitol was infected. There’s been a crash or something and it’s flooded. I’m telling you we can’t fly through it.

‘You’re making it up! You were just there to swipe things.’ Teff.

‘Yeah stop making it up!’ Beff.

‘Right boys we’re friends yeah? We’ve had some laughs but really, seriously, we need to turn back.’

‘You’d love that.’ Teff.

‘Oh god! Are you guys actually actors? This stuff is pure gold. Of course I’d love that.’ I start to struggle; the shipping wrap is holding me tight. ‘Teff. Beff. Turn this ship around. Right now.’

‘We’re gonna go even faster.’ Teff.

‘Yeah put your foot down T.’ Beff.

 

Oh for fuck’s sake. No way out this time. The ship surges forward. I can just see in the distance through the windshield, a mass of purple waves lashing across the black sky. The ship lurches to the side. I see the goons look back at me. I mean I did tell them. It lurches to the other side. I can feel the wrap cut into my wrists with the movement. The ship swings upwards and then spins upside down. Whatever’s out there is fucking things up – no wonder Ray went back. I see Teff and Beff crash to the roof come floor. I hang tight like a set of fucking wind chimes. If my body’s ever found they’ll think I was being used as some macabre Christmas decoration. Then I feel it, like a wrenching whomp of energy. Shit, I think, the orbit stabilizers have gone. They’ve gone before but Ray knows his way around an engine. But here I am, no Ray, just two goons and me tied to a fucking pole. The ship has gone too near a planet, or at least something big. And its locked onto the gravity. There’s going be a moment and then – yep there it is. Drop.

 

Freeze frame on me shitting myself.

 

Salty Joe flicks his flipper at me as if to say ‘you’re winding me up’. I raise my hands. I know that’s what happened. He pours me another drink and leans on the filthy counter.

‘So you’re planet falling? Then how are you sitting in my bar smart ass?’ He smiles and then grimaces. ‘You’re not one of those space ghosts I’ve heard about are you?’

‘Yes Salty I’m a space ghost,’ I say. I’m looking down at my arms, thinking about what happened next. They are shining just a little. ‘Ok you’re not going to believe it…’

 

So we’re falling. And no before you say there is no teleport this time.

 

I can feel the buffers kicking back. We’re slowing down but we’re still going to crash. For sure. Up ahead is a smoking rock of a planet. All craters and smog. Eugh. And that purple is back. The waves from before are congregating around the planet. Sorry – we’re crashing aren’t we? Enough of the scenery. This time I really do think about my life. I think about why I left the army. All those humans lined up. Me one of them. Trudging across planets that weren’t theirs. You can’t discover a planet if there is already people there right? I think about hiding at the edge of the galaxy after my ‘death’ – about the beauty of the fringe planets. How I wished they would stay uncategorized forever. I think about how long I’ve been running since then, not even running, wandering, not even that – clinging on. Clinging on to a galaxy that doesn’t want me. Doing no one any good. If this is my death, I think, then I accept it. I can’t wander forever.

 

We crash. Blackout. End.

 

Well…not quite.

 

And I’m alive. By some miracle of this god damn universe I’m alive. I’m fucked up don’t get wrong but boy is this heart still beating. I can see around me the crash, flames and big jagged bits of metal rising up like monsters. The front where Teff and Beff were has completely disappeared – it must have crushed on impact. How am I alive? This is a legit space crash. That’s the standard no survivors. I feel like I’m lying on a bed. It’s not the craggy rock I saw from the ship but something soft and squashy. Fuck. I start to laugh. They wrapped me up. In case of accidents. I was precious cargo. Those goons saved my life. But even so I can feel I’m not going to last for much longer. I ease my head up and look down. My leg had broken. When I see it pain rushes through my body like my brain’s finally caught up to what’s going on. There’s a deep gash in my side where sluggish black-red blood is seeping out. Since my army days of course, I don’t have the nanomedics installed – I can be kept track of otherwise. I looked around. A stretch away was a cargo box spilled over. I couldn’t quite make out what was inside but there were white boxes. Not just white but green. Medical supplies for sure. It was my only hope. I started to crawl over. I couldn’t believe it. There was a lurch from above. A huge beam of metal broke free of its mooring above and smashed through the cargo crushing it completely. I lie back – this time in the dirt and the rock. All around was that purple from before. It was as if the planet was covered in it. In the air were the ribbony spools or purple energy and floating across the floor was smoke. I lay back to die. There’s nothing else to do. But this is the bit you won’t believe. The bit why I’m still here at Salty Joe’s telling this story. Out of the corner I see a weasel.

 

That took you by surprise didn’t it?

 

It’s running along the purple energy ribbons. I dart my eyes the other way. There’s another one. It rises up on its hind legs for a moment and sniffs. They’re purple too. They’re completely coloured that soft pinky-purple of the rest of the planet. Suddenly in my face is another one. Sniffing around. I shout out and try to bat it away but I can’t, all I can feel is waves of pain from my leg and side. I’m stuck. Oh god, I think, they’re going to eat me. A space crash I could deal with but not being eaten alive by purple space weasels. I curse the day I even crashed on that planet. Strange in the circumstances I know but its what I thought. And then I thought not planet but moon. It was a moon. But how did I know? I hadn’t seen it’s adjacent planet I’d been too busy crashing and being tied up. The weasel on my chest sort of smiled. As much as a weasel can do any way. Behind I could see there were more. They were congregating around me. I’ve claimed it a few times but this is really where I thought it was the end.

 

But it was the beginning. Is the beginning.

 

The weasel dived into me. Literally. It jumped up and my chest absorbed it. One after another, eight weasels jumped into my chest and disappeared. Now they didn’t sort of claw their way into me. It was like absorbing light or radiation – I didn’t feel it but I knew it had happened. Hell I saw it happen. And then the pain stopped. I looked at my leg – purple light was growing over the break. The same on my side. Whatever these things were they weren’t here to hurt me. I sat up feeling my fresh body stretching into place. I flexed my hand just to check if it was real. And then out of it a weasel appeared. It nuzzled my finger and curled into a ball. In my mind the words ‘we’ll help you Captain’ appeared like the switching on a light. I stared in disbelief. I stumbled upon an uncategorized moon and boy was it good one. These little critters were symbionts. And they had chosen me as their life partner. I didn’t just feel healthy man I felt fucking fantastic. I felt powerful.

 

‘So. Wait. So are they inside you… like right now.’ He slides back slightly from me.

‘Salty please let me finish.’

 

So I stand up and survey the crash sight. I try my other hand. Another weasel appears. They look exactly the same but I can tell it’s a different one. It has a different look on it’s face – it’s a bit surly this one. I stretch out my fingers it shoots out like a laser.

 

Oh yeah baby. The old captain’s got dem superpowers now.

 

It smokes and fizzes into a rock and then appears good as new on my hand. It looks a bit smug now. So yeah quite unexpectedly everything’s coming up RainCha. But alas there over the crest of a jagged hull clawing their way up are Teff and Beff.

‘How did you survive?’ Teff growls.

‘Yeah you weren’t in the impact pod,’ growls Beff.

‘Well you did wrap me in hyperspace protection padding.’ I say. The weasels have made themselves scarce.

‘Well where’s the damage on you?’ Teff.

‘Yeah you should be at lease a bit cut up?’ Beff.

I smile.

‘Nah I’m good. Just landed well,’ I say.

‘Well we’ve still got a job to do.’ Teff says menacingly.

‘Yeah we’ll finish you off now instead.’ Beff menaces.

 

I see it first in their faces first. It goes from that tusked grimace to a sheer open mouthed shock. Then the shock ripples through their bodies as they start to run the other way. All I did was raise my hands.

 

I stand up. Salty smiles at me and laughs full-bellied.

‘So go on,’ he says. ‘Show me.’

I look each way and then quietly produce my hand outwards. A weasel appears and flexes out, the little flicks of purple energy spark over the bar. Salty goes out to touch it. It nips him on the flipper.

‘Ouch you little bastard.’

‘Oh yeah they’re hella naughty. Sorry should have told you that.’

‘El Capitan. And his naughty boys. Nah not cool enough for you. Captian RainCha and his bad boys.’

I think for a moment.            ‘Captain RainCha and the Bad Boys of the Purple Moon. One day they’ll write a comic book about me. And that’s what it’ll be called.’ I say and laugh.

‘Ha! You wish Rainy! So what’ll you do now?’

‘I said didn’t I just as the ship was crashing I needed something. Something to change. And where there are humans – there is trouble. But with these boys in tow…’

I turn and see the vulturous Despids from the corner have shuffled over. They are about a foot taller than me their cloaks billow with grime.

‘Alright gang. How’s it hanging,’ I say. Their leader, I presume, steps forward.

‘Did you say that you are wanted by The Owner?’ It says threateningly.

‘Uh oh. My big mouth.’

 

I wink at Salty and spin round on one foot. I spread my hands wide. In the reflection of their goggles I see eight purple weasels spring out of the tops of my arms.

 

Credits roll. ‘til we meet again.