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Big Momma Mead’s Meandering Motherspot for Trollops, Lushes, and Loons
By Francis W. Alexander
“A Martian, a Neanderthal, and a Human…”
Ah, already, I love it here. This is said to be the safest bar in this part of the galaxy. Many travelers make this their pit stop because they know Mother Mead doesn’t tolerate even the most minute speck of violence on her premises. It’s said that with her special powers she can spot trouble long before it germinates. The place is like a gigantic womb, where most of the patrons’ needs are met and they feel secure. And you never want to leave. The atmosphere makes me wonder if it’s not the place rather than the woman who is Big Momma.
This was my first time here. My name is Neb. I am a result of a human abduction. Humans would say my father was from the huge planet Gliese 163 C. My human mother would’ve named me Ben, but since my donor father kept me, he named me Neb in her honor. She eventually had a daughter whom she named Benzuala. Go figure. Anyway, I was sitting at the bar amid the soft whir of the rotor spinning around this place and giving it gravity. Some folks slightly floated above their seats and some patrons’ butts were hugging or hanging over their stools. There were vampires, werewolves, gasperoons, torknots, and other kinds of beings most human writers haven’t fantasized about yet. On this night, a robot, cyborg, and Martian were the last to enter, not all at the same time. Everyone in the place was staring at them as if they were ghosts or something.
The atmosphere was jovial amongst the orange glare of the lights. I was munching on my Bobluska fries, and sipping a green Murnig and Coke, and listening to their conversation as the three sat at the table closest to me. The cyborg, wearing a silver suit to go with his complexion, started off with a joke.
“Due to a universal event,” he said, “an asteroid’s thrown off course and aimed for Earth. A Martian, Neanderthal, and Human enter a space bar, and upon hearing the news give their solutions for how to stop it.”
“Consmaggle it with nuclear and hydrogen bombs,” the Neanderthal grunts.
“Knock it off course with lasers,” the human says.
“Let it hit,” the Martian says, “you pesky humans have been polluting our planet long enough.”
The Martian and cyborg laughed. I was with the robot, didn’t see humor in it at all.
“I don’t get it,” the robot said.
“Have you seen,” the cyborg asked, “the stuff earthlings send into space? Take a visit and you’ll see all the junk surrounding their planet. They’ve also sent things to their surrounding planets that benefit them now but which will eventually end up as worthless garbage.
“They’re even starting to make Mars a junk yard.” The Martian sneered.
“Oh my,” the robot said. His eyes blinked and I had a feeling the cyborg was sending him information.
“Collectible junk for someone,” Momma said as she oiled and buffed the counter. Someone at the end of the counter ordered a drink and after filling the glass, she slid the steaming violet concoction, which moved like a bowling ball on an oil slicked alley, straight to the customer.
“And they haven’t reached the stage of nonviolent solutions to their problems,” the cyborg said.
“They’re young,” Big Momma said as she wiped the inside of some wine glasses, “give them time, like you had.”
“That was the punch line,” the Martian said, “let it hit.” Again laughter stabbed the air, this time joined by the robot’s mechanical chuckle. He didn’t laugh long.
“You’re depressing me,” the robot said, “those images are troubling, especially the way they treat their robots. By the way, what are Neanderthals and humans?”
“They are beings from a planet called earth,” the Martian said, “although we all live on earths, these beings couldn’t think of a name for their planet, so they called it Earth.”
“What losers,” the robot frowned.
“Remember,” Mother said to the all of her patrons, “I’ll obliterate anyone who starts a fight.”
The three beings seemed to be good and plastered by this time although they only had two drinks. I was a little buzzed and still a wee upset over the earthling joke.
A scraping noise of the bar stool against the floor was a hint that the cyborg had risen. He looked at the Universal Blaster ride sitting against the wall to my left. The object looked like one of those earthling rocket rides you see in the mall, except it was in the form of a dragonfly and stationed within a round sphere as if the whole thing was fourth dimensional. If you looked at it, it seemed to change perspective, depending on where you were. He rose and, affected by gravity and his lack of sobriety; staggered, his feet inches above the ground, towards the object.
“I’m going to give this thing a try.”
“It’s fun, but dangerous,” a six armed Twanawaddledee shouted from near the front of the place.
“My mind travels at billions of strands per second,” the cyborg said as he stepped into the area near the eye like structures in the front, “It won’t be a challenge.”
“Plus,” the robot said, “He can communicate with me, if he gets lost.”
“If you ride this ship,” Mother said, “to make it go, you shout or think, “whew.” You must beware, because if you go too far, you’ll end up entering one of the infinitely many universes and perhaps never find your way back here. You’ll know when you’ve gone too far when you see the distortions and psychedelics that make it seem as if you’re on drugs. To stop, you simply say, ‘stop’.”
“I know, I know,” the cyborg said as he scanned the instructions. He leaned back on the seat and grinned.
“And,” the huge woman said, “We close in one hour.”
The cyborg threw his hand on his noggin as if about to faint and then said, “Whew!”
I joined the Martian and robot as they stood/hovered around the machine and watched the cyborg ride the machine like a little kid on one of those space rockets they have in human malls. Apparently, his mind was riding the waves of time but his body was right there slightly floating in that seat. By the look on his face he was enjoying himself, so much so, that I contemplated entering the machine, the next time I came here.
It was just as entertaining watching the machine as it was hearing his responses. Mouth agape, I looked on as various colored bubbles, coming from different directions, continually formed, enlarged, and flowed over the ship and each other. I suppose they represented different universes.
I followed my instincts and changed positions and sure enough, the ship seemed to be moving. I was obviously undergoing a mental massage and, I was hooked.
“Klesporacite,” he shouted. I guess that was his way of shouting “yahoo,” because he kept saying it. “You guys should see this.”
Yep, I was going to ride it.
“Beautiful,” he sighed.
The peace didn’t last long. His silvery face turned pink. Something was wrong.
He said something like, “I’ve got a bug.”
“Whoa, Glascomin, Wellinpink, …”
His skin changed to yellow as we looked on, shocked.
“Oh dear,” the robot said. “Stop.”
“Stop,” the cyborg shouted. He wiped his brow, yet seemed in a trance, obviously still there, wherever that was. The bubbles stopped moving. I started to count them and got as far as twenty before he spoke.
That was close,” he continued. “I’m nearly on the road to nowhere and everywhere. Whew, that was…”
“No,” the robot shouted.
We watched in awe as the bubbles and the cyborg’s body disappeared.
The Martian closed his eyes, obviously to use whatever powers he had to channel the cyborg.
“I’m trying to steer him back,” the robot said, “but it’s all random numbers and probability tables.“
“How long will it take,” I asked, knowing that Big Momma closes within the hour.
“I calculate getting him back in 65 hexyons or fifteen of your earth years at the earliest.”
“I’ll help,” said the Martian.
“How many Martians, does it take to unscrew a cyborg,” I shouted. Oh, it felt so good to be so buzzed.
The Martian gave me his evil eye. “Shut up, Earthling half breed.”
“How many,” someone shouted from the side of the room.
I could feel Big Momma’s influence. She didn’t have to say anything. As for myself, the Martian’s comment was not an insult since it feels wonderful being a part of so many cultures.
“None,” I said, “they let the robots do it.” I knew the robot wouldn’t get the joke, and he didn’t.
But someone else did.
“I’m offended, you billouwag!” The rustle of chains swiped my attention. An iron octopus crawled towards me, its steel appendages clanging on the floor. I didn’t know what I said to offend him. Momma’s influence grew stronger like a magnetic fog, but apparently, he didn’t care. His stare felt like golf balls burrowing into my face.
“Be careful,” someone said, “Big Momma don’t…”
“I don’t give a nataffoble what the big chibtaflar likes,” the thing said as he approached.
He got to within a couple meters from me, then poofed out of existence. Like a popped balloon that disappears, it was. But the noise was like a fart. I was both frightened and humored.
Every soul in the place went back to their business, like the beings in that space bar in the first Star Wars movie. In spite of the troubling moments, a warm feeling overwhelmed me. I looked at Big Momma who smiled.
“He’s home,” she said, “He’ll just have to find a way to return for his ship.”
“I’ll get on the machine,” the robot said.
“That’ll be good,” the Martian said. “I’ll get into my gaseous state and bring you home.”
“I turn off the machines in twenty minutes,” Big Momma said.
Horrified, I watched as the robot disappeared. Undaunted, the Martian sat in the seat and shouted, “Whew.”
He too disappeared.
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Hiding in Plain Sight
By David Lee Summers
Commander Zelith’ra climbed through space station Qanda Five’s central hub to the observation and command center. As she reached the top, she heard the quiet murmurings and gentle laughs that accompanied normal conversation. Periodic pings and chirps sounded as controls and relays were activated—business as usual in the station’s nerve center. She pushed herself free of the ladder and floated to the windows facing the Taurin home world, Lenthor. Despite all her years in the space service, she never tired of seeing the blue-green world speckled with drifting white clouds. The space station drifted over Vespina, her home country, but only the oceans, rivers and mountains gave any clue to the location of national boundaries.
While admiring Lenthor with her two forward eyes, she took in the activity at the consoles around her with the other three. The windows facing Lenthor’s sun were polarized, keeping the light at a comfortable level. As she surmised, all activity appeared routine. The space station Qanda Five contained labs and small-scale, zero gravity manufacturing facilities for several corporations. It also served as a communications relay station and weather monitor. Above the command center’s windows hung plaques from municipalities grateful for the station’s service spotting dangerous storms in time to get most of the population to safety. Just short of fifty years old, Qanda Five was not the most prestigious space command, but Zelth’ra was proud of the outpost nonetheless.
“Commander,” a young technician looked up from his computer screen. “I’ve just picked up something on the scanners, approaching fast.”
The digits of Zelith’ra’s middle limbs wiggled as she tried to remember the tech’s name. If there were gravity and she stood on the deck, it would have looked like she tapped her forefoot. “Is it the shuttle we’re expecting from Zhamador?” She referred to Lenthor’s largest nation and Vespina’s trading partner—at least for the time being.
The tech checked his computer. All five eyes blinked at once. “No, it’s too small and it’s in a weird elliptical orbit, not rising from the planet.”
“Check with ground control. Do they have the object on their sensors?” She snapped her fingers. Mera’tas was the young Taurin’s name—a promising young technician.
While Mera’tas called in the query, another tech beckoned the commander. The shuttle was approaching from dirtside. Zelith’ra looked at the two screens simultaneously. Although the shuttle and the object were on similar trajectories, it was clear they were in different orbital planes—and although they expected the shuttle to dock, it was clear the smaller object would approach far closer than was comfortable.
Daran’iq, co-pilot of the space shuttle Naram, thought Qanda Five looked like a long, thin insect. The banks of solar panels, extending out to the side were like wings or even legs. Excited chatter on her headset yanked Daran’iq from her reverie. She bared her sharp teeth as she struggled to understand the fast words in the unfamiliar Vespinan language. Why couldn’t they just speak Zhamadoran?
As she listened, she gathered a technician on the station had contacted Ground Control, requesting information about some strange object. Daran’iq tapped the pilot on the shoulder and pointed to the radio’s channel indicator. She wanted to avoid drawing their passenger’s attention. He was a Vespinan scientist named Prod’i, traveling to the station to conduct a series of null gravity medical experiments. His equipment was in the shuttle’s cargo bay along with supplies for the station. Prod’i had been in their business all through launch and in the early stages of the flight. He’d finally fallen quiet—either he figured out they knew what they were doing, or he had grown bored. Either way, she didn’t want to pique his interest anew.
The pilot, Rix’ta, tuned his headset to the channel Daran’iq monitored and frowned.
Daran’iq scanned the area. After a moment, the sensors located an object, but it was traveling too fast for her to get an accurate estimate of size.
“What in the Trickster’s name is that?” Prod’i interjected from the passenger seat. He pointed out to a deep, red object that shot by overhead, on a direct heading for the space station.
“I don’t know,” growled Captain Rix’ta. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Technician Mera’tas looked up from his console. “Ground control cannot confirm the existence of the unknown object.”
“I have visual confirmation,” called another tech, floating by the windows with a pair of binoculars. Zelith’ra pushed off from Mera’tas’s chair and floated over, taking the binoculars. She scanned for several seconds before she spotted the sphere. It glowed deep red, like a dying coal nearly exhausted—not even hot enough to burn flesh. The object moved fast enough that Zelith’ra had a difficult time keeping the binoculars on it.
“The object’s on a collision course!” called Mera’tas.
“What?” Zelith’ra floated back to Mera’tas’s station. “How long until impact?”
“Two minutes, maybe less.”
“Sound the alert! All personnel to emergency stations,” called the commander.
Alarm klaxons sounded and whirling red lights flashed to life. Technicians pushed away from the vulnerable windows and queued up to descend through the hub to safer quarter below. A lump formed in her throat as Zelith’ra continued to watch the object. She was proud of the orderly and professional evacuation, just as they had drilled for years. Mera’tas was the last one to reach the hub. “Commander, all personnel are clear. Time to leave.”
“Of course.” Zelith’ra pushed herself away from the nearest console just as the mysterious red object slammed into the space station a little below the observation dome, sending her world tumbling. The red lights went out and a sound somewhere between a screech and groan sounded just as a windowpane gave way. The air in the command center whipped up into a maelstrom.
Shuttle Naram’s crew watched in horror as the round object continued on and slammed into the space station. A great fountain of sparks and debris shot off into the void and the station tumbled toward Lenthor, looking somehow less like an insect and more like a child’s plaything tossed haphazardly into the air. An automated distress beacon sounded over the radio.
Daran’iq checked her scope. “The object continues on. Minimal course change.”
“What about Qanda Five?” asked Captain Rix’ta.
“They have a serious hull breach and they’re tumbling, but they’ve fired thrusters, trying to get control,” reported the co-pilot.
“Plot an intercept course for the station,” ordered the captain. “Can we help them?”
Daran’iq set to work. She was remarkably dexterous and typed with her primary limbs while she controlled the scanners with her secondary limbs. “At the rate Qanda Five is falling in toward Lenthor, we’re going to have to make two orbits to get to them if we want enough fuel to get back to the ground.”
The pilot nodded. “What about the object that hit the station?”
“We can intercept it within half an orbit,” reported the co-pilot.
“Feed the data into the ship’s computer,” ordered the captain. “Let’s see what we can learn.” He pushed the acceleration handle forward even before the final course calculations were in, a determined scowl on his features.
Prod’i spat a Vespinan curse, but gathered his wits and spoke Zhamadoran. “You can’t be serious. I thought the Game of Wits was over between Zhamador and Vespina. The station’s your first priority no matter what its nationality. We can figure out what hit it later.”
The captain whirled around on the passenger. “This has nothing to do with musty old national rivalries. Whatever hit that station is a threat to all navigation. Your country’s ground control could not get a lock on it, and we only saw it at the last minute. Pursuing it puts us on the best course to help the station—presuming they can save themselves.” Daran’iq heard a catch of worry in the captain’s voice.
“And what if they can’t stop their descent?” Prod’i leaned forward with the authority of a Taurin used to intimidating students.
The captain closed his forward two eyes for a moment. “In that case, there’s nothing we could do for them. We’d burn up in orbit right along with the station’s crew.”
“Intercept course is in the computer,” interjected Daran’iq. “We should have a visual on that object within an hour.”
Prod’i snarled and folded his arms, but didn’t say anything more as the shuttle shot past the empty space where Qanda Five had been just moments before.
Commander Zelith’ra managed to reach the hub and pull the hatch closed behind her. Despite the world spinning and tumbling around her, she held the ladder with five of her limbs and took a pair of deep, calming breaths, thinking she likely added several gray hairs to the fur ridge along her back. Without the luxury of more time, she quickly descended two decks, and entered the emergency command center. Technicians brought stations to life. She didn’t have to give any orders. They fired the braking thrusters of their own initiative.
She made her way to the command seat and strapped herself in. She took another calming breath to keep the hot bile down. The station creaked, groaned and popped, but after a minute the tumbling gentled. She was able to focus on the readout above Technician Mera’tas’s console. Their descent gradually stabilized. “Give me a full power burn on thrusters seven, eight and nine for five minutes, on my mark,” called the commander.
Mera’tas nodded, he pushed three old-fashioned toggle switches and his hand hovered over a button.
“Now!” called the commander.
The technician hit the button and a keening whine went through the station’s metal. Two minutes into the burn, the whine turned into a more ominous shudder, as though the station would rattle itself apart. Despite that, Zelith’ra’s forward eyes remained locked on the readouts. Finally, Mera’tas cut thruster power. As he did, Zelith’ra felt the comforting hollowness in the pit of her stomach that indicated freefall.
“We’re in a stable orbit,” reported Mera’tas.
Zelith’ra looked over to the communication’s officer. “Contact ground control. What in the Trickster’s name was that thing?”
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An Ingenious Adventure
By Jason Sizemore
Garwin Hayes worked the road shift and hated every minute of it. His coworkers were assholes, the bosses were indifferent, and the sun was overbearing. What an unprecedented run of bad luck! Being sentenced as a mandatory employee of the Las Vegas city works was most indignant, but to be forced to serve during the month of August was impinging his eighth amendment rights. Garwin pounded the ground with a worn pickaxe, wishing he could be like his favorite cartoon bunny and dig a hole to Albuquerque. Sure, it would be just as hot, but at least he wouldn’t be working. A drip of sweat crashed to the dusty ground. That was drip number 312, and it wasn’t even noon yet.
Everyone knew that geniuses weren’t supposed to work hard. Garwin was a ‘flash genius’, with the ability to memorize all thirty-six volumes of Henchel’s Universal Equations manual, but not the logic to understand the content itself. And worse, at random times, his store of information disappeared and all his flash memories reset. There was no building up of intellect, just periods of time when he knew stuff.
A grimy road worker interrupted Garwin’s work. He wanted to know if Garwin knew something. “Hayes, how many fingers am I holding up?” The worker held out both of his middle fingers.
“Two,” Garwin said. “Two.”
“Two. That’s the number of reasons I don’t want to see some stupid Chez Cola parade. Reason one, I want to sleep. Sleep is good. Reason two, Chez Cola is not good.”
Chester prodded at his sleepy comrade. “You don’t dig the Chez Cola? Don’t you know it tastes so good?”
Chester gazed through the single window in Garwin’s apartment and recited lines from one of Chez Cola’s most popular jingles. “Earth-grown sugar cane, unadulterated water vein, all mixed with Chez family best, we make the cola, you do the rest!”
“No thank you,” snapped Garwin from under his blanket.
“But Holly Richards is going with us,” said Chester.
Garwin’s flash genius recall never forgot the picture perfect Holly Richards: those long, blonde curls; a smile so sweet and white that it reminded him of angelic purity, and a perfect set of tanned, curved legs. Oh, the curves!
“Holly, you say?” Garwin said, hoping to hide his rejoicing.
“Yes sir, Holly of the perfect smile and curly hair,” answered Chester. “I know how Holly gets you worked up.”
Garwin stirred. Perhaps he would take a few minutes to enjoy the parade, if only to see Holly again. How Chester attracted such ladies, Garwin did not know, but he wanted to hug the big man for finding Holly.
Chester McGee, Garwin’s best friend, was not a man of wealth. Nor was he a particularly handsome man. A burly, colossal guy, Chester stood almost seven-feet tall, and was hefty and round-faced. Garwin appreciated his friend’s size. It gave him a degree of security in his own world of insecurities.
“Are you jacked up?” Chester asked.
Garwin motioned to a stack of micro disks piled over a foot high. “My brain is brimming with knowledge. It’s been almost two weeks since my last flash.”
After Chester made Garwin comb his hair, the pair went downstairs to meet Holly on the street. She reclined on the front left bumper of Chester’s RX-369 Air Buggy. Her yellow pleated skirt danced in the street breeze, briefly exposing her tan, sculpted thighs.
“Sorry for the delay,” Chester said, signing his words with his hands and face. Holly smiled and nodded back. She signed back to Chester and the pair hugged. Then Holly pulled Garwin to her and gave him a tight, friendly squeeze.
“I love you,” Garwin said, voice low and husky, while returning the hug.
Chester slapped the genius on back of the head. “You idiot, she can sometimes hear words just by your body vibrations.”
Holly acted oblivious to his confession and appeared anxious to leave for the parade. But really, he sort of hoped she knew he loved her.
The trio hopped in the air buggy and soon encountered a mass of humanity all crowded into Governor’s Park. Garwin hunkered in his seat, his fear of falling to his death rendering him immobile. Chester and Holly sought a speck of open ground for a parking spot.
“Right there,” exclaimed Chester, “just in front of the stage, a space is opening!”
Holly floored it, sending Garwin and his stomach in a lurch. With a spin and quick drop, they landed in a spot just large enough to fit the buggy. They hopped out and fought their way through the crowd to the front of the stage.
Holly motioned, “Look!” A gigantic floating cola can appeared over the horizon.
“Can you tell me how high that float is, genius?” Chester asked.
Garwin made a quick appraisal, able to recall a simple trigonometric equation. He pulled a computer compact from his shirt pocket, gave himself a glance in the mirror before running the numbers. “Based on the heights of the surrounding buildings, I’d estimate 2,033 meters.” The floating cola can soon blocked the evening sun, forming a Chez solar eclipse.
The Chez mascot, a tall, furry cat named Bubbles, appeared in the procession. Bubbles loved Chez Cola; using a specially designed straw, the cat could drink a case of Chez in three seconds. But the real trick was why the cat got its name, belching Chez Cola bubbles from its mouth. The gassy froth would expel from the giant animal’s mouth and land on the ground, each bubble exploding in a loud pop.
Bubbles acted agitated. His tail slashed to and fro, forming a whirling breeze around the stage. If Garwin had to guess, he suspected Bubbles needed to make a visit to the litter box.
More guests of honor, floats, and countless high school bands rounded out the staged procession. Garwin found it all too quaint. And boring.
A flatbed hover truck stopped just meters away from where Garwin stood. On top of the flatbed stood a golden podium, decorated with the black and blue colors of Chez Cola. A fat man rolled off the hover truck and stepped behind the podium in the middle of the stage. He wiped the sweat from his round face and then gripped the microphone.
Holly signed, “Look, the CEO!” She climbed up Chester’s shoulders to get a better view.
The crowd surged with excitement, giving the CEO a rousing ovation. People chanted, “Speech! Speech! Speech!”
On Chester’s shoulders, Holly pumped her fists with the chant. For a moment, Garwin thought she might flash the crowd. It all reminded him of those creepy Fascist rallies he’d seen in the library archives.
The CEO was a fifth generation owner of the Cola Ventures Company. The label “Ventures” was a misnomer, as Chez Cola was the only product they manufactured. That’s all they needed. The world was hooked on Chez Cola and was the United States’ number one export item.
Chez Cola roadies stood along the edge of the hover truck and tossed cans of soda to members of the audience. The place buzzed with excitement.
The CEO raised his hands, silencing the crowd.
“The family of Chez Cola and the Cola Ventures Company welcomes and thanks each of you for attending the seventy-fifth annual Chez parade!”
The crowd cheered.
Garwin tapped Chester on the shoulder and whispered. “His voice has been modulated to fixate on our primate instincts to laugh and celebrate. I read about this last night in Propaganda Made Easy magazine.”
Chester shrugged, shaking Holly up and down. “I don’t care!”
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