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Sam’s Place
U

The red lights flashed. “Warning, entering sector 404-298-773; sector is disputed. Protection under intergalactic laws not guaranteed.” The computer, always so unemotional, imparted the message with a skittish sense of urgency. “Thanks for the warning.” I turned the computer off and slowly wrapped my fingers around the controls. Spread out before me was the cosmic graveyard known as “Dream’s End”. Ships of all sizes and shapes floated in the vast, starry expanse. Rouges, raiders, and “recyclers” of all sorts and intentions were said to roam this haunting, chaotic wasteland. As I slowly glided through the debris, no one crossed my path or came into view. Out of the corner of my eye, I could occasionally see something scurrying into the lifeless hull of a ship. The sparks coming from the ransacked bowels of these dead leviathans could have been last flickers of life or blow torches. I turned on my EM receptors to get a better idea of what was out there. Amid the white noise and feedback, I could hear fragments of very faint conversations in a multitude of alien languages. I looked up and there they were; two helpless planets, each about the size of Jupiter. As I watched, their surfaces were slowly being peeled back, like an onion. Billions upon billions of scavenger bots flew from the surface to the metal cage that imprisoned the celestial bodies. They looked like locusts with long tubes dangling from them. I steered to the right, slowly. I wasn’t here to visit them. I found a piece of something skimming along at a reasonable speed. I carefully nestled into a crevice to hide from the scavengers. I was quite happy with the results until I heard a faint tapping coming from behind me. A scavenger bot was also using this piece of junk as a hiding place. My Stinger must have been an irresistible meal to him. I got out of there and maxed out the engines, rolling, spinning and diving all the way, but I couldn’t shake him – or his five companions. “Navigational systems off line.” The computer was back to its usual, unemotional state. A nearby asteroid gave me an idea. I headed straight for it. “Gyroscope failure. Take ship in for service immediately.”

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“I don’t think I would like the service in this neighborhood.” I quipped. The ship began to wobble uncontrollably. I compensated as best I could. “Memory core three compromised. Take ship to qualified service personnel.” “They’re in the ship?! That’s it.” I zipped into a crevice that a sheet of paper shouldn’t have been able to pass through. I could hear the hull scraping against the rock. A menacing crack shot through the cockpit window. The slow hiss of escaping oxygen told me that it was time to end my sightseeing. As I exited the asteroid, I could see the five dead scavengers drifting along the invisible currents. Finally! Below me was Sam’s place. I touched down in a domed parking lot nearby and slowly got out of the ship. It was badly dented and chewed up. I listened carefully – oh so carefully. I plunged my star blade into the cockpit, right behind the wing. I pulled it out and examined the bot; it was skewered on the tip of my blade and still squirming. I lifted it off with my tentacles and crushed it. “Sorry – no free rides.” I looked upon the legendary night club. Sam’s place – where anything goes, anything comes, and anything is for sale. This was really it: the original UDA Samuel Hain, the one Captain Isaiah Montrose took to the edge of our tiny solar system. I could almost see their ghosts now, still roaming those gutted out halls: Garin Halverson, Nara Arteau, and Strontium Jones all engaged in their duties. How this mythical ship ended up here was a mystery no one would ever unravel. The dance floor was dark and crowded; music was being relentlessly pumped out. The DJ wore a yellow box over his head; each face of the box was a different mood. There was a happy face, a sad face, an angry face, and a scared face. Just as the tempo changed, he spun the box around and his emotions changed. The most unusual thing was that he was chained to the floor. Underneath him a wild variety of revelers danced; there were Shikaisee, Khemthemthem, Goothalk, and Japhirdan. And those were only the ones I could identify. “Welcome to Sam’s.” The words were friendly, but I couldn’t quite tell if they were male or female. I turned around. “This must be your first time.” The greeting came from a human looking being, with two arms, two legs, and a head. Its skin was hairless and blacker than midnight. It studied me with wild yellow eyes. It was wearing nothing but a silver collar around its neck and as my eyes drifted downward, I expected to see reproductive anatomy of some kind. However, all I saw was smooth, formless skin. The creature laughed. “Is this what you’re looking for?” She unlatched her collar and I saw a multitude of slits. Yellow, wormlike appendages peeked out of the holes, only for a moment, and then slid back in. She smiled and the collar was back on. “You really must not have gotten out much as a child.”

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“No, I haven’t – miss – or do I call you sir?” “Now I know that you’ve lived your whole life on the Cluster!” She laughed again. “We Neredites have five sexes – it just depends on where your ‘sex’ is. My name is Shevu.” The Cluster? I thought I would save that for another day. “I’m looking for Hyphym.” “Well then, you’re in the right place.” She motioned for two others to come over. One of them was also a human looking creature; the only anomaly I could see was a few feathers on its arms. They were magnificent however, like delicate splashes of gold, green, and blue on its graceful limbs. This being made a chirping, trilling noise, like a bird. The top of its head was covered with alternating bands of yellow and purple fuzz. Two long tongues flicked out from its mouth. The other being looked like a blue human with a pronounced forehead. A black and red fin ran from the top of the creature’s head all the way down its back. “Pleased to meet you.” I bowed respectfully – for I didn’t know what else to do. “The one with the feathers and the two tongues is a Kithu. Her name is Spiceling. The one with the forehead and fin is a Borgan. His name is Xelevan.” There was something in Shevu’s smile, something in her words that implied a larger mystery. “Dealing with a Nethasian? I’m not sure Shevu.” Xelevan looked me over from head to toe. “Especially this one. Not military, probably not a raider, maybe Intelligence Ministry?” Spiceling let out a series of chirps and tweets. Words appeared on the large pendant she wore around her neck: {He is a Star Blade. I have not met one before – neither has Hyphym.} As they led me to a back room, I felt the stares of some of the patrons. There was something about being a Nethasian that my sensei never told me – something I would have to discover for myself. “From another galaxy?” The words had a hard time squeezing through all the noise. “Definitely. They’re like nothing you’ve ever seen before.” Came the reply from somewhere amid the sweat and bodies. “Perhaps these refugees will crash land on a planet close to home.” The rest was drowned out by the DJ. The ship shuddered and the lights flickered. Everyone started to float upward – everyone except the DJ. Now I knew why he was chained to the floor. Spiceling and Xelevan grabbed nearby chains that were attached to the ceiling. Spiceling motioned for me to do the same. When the artificial gravity was restored, I was gripping the chain, dangling twenty feet above the floor. We descended the chains and entered a spacious room. I wondered if it had been Captain Montrose’s quarters. Hyphym was sitting in the center, on what looked like a giant, metallic lotus that shifted from orange, to blue, to green, to black. He was talking with a Khemthemthem trader and a

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seedy looking Shikaisee. There were glass tubes throughout; small bits of nano-technology swirled about inside. Several silver robots stood by; their sleek bodies reflecting the dim light. There were others in the room, but the incense and shadows hid their identities. The atmosphere was definitely quieter here, although the throbbing music could still be felt and heard. “Nethasian.” Hyphym smiled. “I heard you deal in Nethasian artifacts.” “Nethasian artifacts yes. No deals with Nethasians.” The Khemthemthem and the Shikaisee stepped closer to me. “Maybe my biology bothers you, but I’m sure my credits don’t.” “Credits. Plenty of credits. Many customers.” “So that’s the challenge, eh? How to make the rich Goothalk richer.” “Challenge talking with you. Nethasians raid my home.” “But not this one.” “Nethasians invade his colony.” Hyphym pointed to the Khemthemthem. The robots powered up and advanced. “I’m not responsible for that.” “Nethasians always responsible. In their genes.” A hooded figure glided into the room. “I’ve heard that Goothalk will always make a fair trade – with anyone.” “Nethasians not fair.” Before the robots could land a blow, they were cut in two. The mysterious figure whirled around and stood between me and the others. Then all chaos broke loose. I was holding my own against the Shikaisee and the Khemthemthem, but they were fighters. I got a good workout and learned a thing or two about fighting opponents who weren’t human. But the rest were absolutely defeated by my mysterious savior. She moved about gently, subtly; yet her strokes were lightning fast and unbelievably accurate. As she left the room, she carved a “C” surrounded by a heart into the wall. Her blade screeched loudly against the metal. I think she was using the annoying sound to send me an additional message.

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I walked through the doors of Cairo Mars Guild clutching my prize. It was an exquisite 24th Century vase that contained the ashes of the great Ryu poet Naga. I made sure that every gesture, every glance, and every smile was respectful. This adventure made me feel quite alien – even among the aliens. I had a newfound appreciation for my home on Mars – and the woman who brought me here. Mistress Janelle’s office was decorated with grills from 20th Century automobiles. They hung on the yellow, stucco walls like trophies. Interspersed among them were hubcaps of all kinds – also from ancient earth automobiles. “You’re back.” She closed her oracle and stood up. “I have completed my mission Sensei. I believe the Ryu will be very pleased.” “I’m sure they will.” There was something wrong. Her tone was too formal. “They were expecting this two days ago.” “I understand Sensei.” “Were there any complications?” “None that I couldn’t handle Sensei.” “This is the longest mission you’ve ever been on – you must have seen and heard many things.” “I did Sensei.” She took a light pencil and traced a symbol in the air. A “C” surrounded by a heart, emitting a serene blue glow, hovered between us. “Did you happen to see this?” “I did Sensei. Did you not trust me?” “I don’t trust your instincts Thurkis. They will get you in trouble. If I hadn’t been there, they would have gotten you killed.” I could feel the anger welling up from deep inside. I closed my eyes and paused for a moment – like the Star Blades taught me. “I didn’t know that Hyphym and his cohorts would react so negatively to me. I had no idea of what other beings thought of Nethasians. If I had known more about my people and my culture, I would have approached the situation very differently.” “Thurkis, you should have come to me before going to Sam’s Place.” “Would you have stopped me?” “Maybe….I don’t know. I would have told you to be careful.” “Why, because Sam’s is a dangerous place – or because I’m a Nethasian?”

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“Probably both. Thurkis – Nethasians are invaders, destroyers, and killers. They’re hated by almost everyone.” “Everyone except other Nethasians.” “Yes. I don’t want that for you. I didn’t want you to become like them. You can be so much more, Thurkis, so much more.” “But I wouldn’t be Nethasian.” I bowed low and let the silence finish our debate. Then I left the room.

Bfk

© 2013 Benjamin F. Kaye