Saturday, 16 March 2013

Ginger Kevin's Purple Moray [Short Story]

Ginger Kevin's Purple Moray

Location: Irkutsk Orbital Station, the Alioth System.
Date: February 3251

    'Why oh why did I buy a purple Moray Starboat?' Kevin thought to himself as he sat at the counter at the 'Wandering Bashkort's Bar'.  He had just arrived at the Irkutsk orbital station, in the Alioth system, after a long voyage from the Ioveso system where he had bought the Moray.  Kev rested his elbows on the counter and massaged his temples.  A moment later, he looked down at a tumbler in front of him that was full to the brim with 'Super Strength Kumiss' - some distilled Turko-Russian drink, or so he had been told by the barman who was selling it to every Tom, Dick and Harry that walked in there.  Mind you, the grim taste of the milky alcoholic beverage was the last thing on his mind.

    For the last couple of months, Kevin had been searching high and low, scouring the independent systems of the Northern frontier, desperately trying to find a Moray Starboat.  His ship at that time was a Gecko.  It was a great ship for long distance travel, which was useful to small time couriers like Kev.  But it was highly ineffective when it came to combateering.  This was because the Gecko was a small ship which could only hold one measly missile, a solitary shield generator, a prissy pulse laser, and enough fuel for a one way trip.  In contrast a Moray could hold around five shield generators, four missiles, a whopping great beam laser, plus enough fuel to make several emergency getaways.  A Moray was just what Kevin wanted.  But where ever he went, from shipyard to shipyard, no matter how underpopulated or overpopulated, remote or connected, technophobic or technophilic the system was, he could never find that ship.  There was always a Cobra, a Viper or an Adder for sale, but never a Moray.
    The Gecko was a ship that he had 'inherited' from his former boss, Adnan Escobar: a gun running, drug dealing profiteer from way down South, around the Beandce system.  Escobar, he had been told, had 'gone missing' on a business deal somewhere, and no one had seen him since.  This was not particularly surprising since the man had been trading with brigands, pirates, terrorists etc, who would and could easily kill a man for no better reason than a sideways glance, or a frown at the wrong time.  Such people are very sensitive about their status, their so called prestige or 'honor', and don't take kindly to those who show them disrespect.  After all the individuals position as 'pack leader' is largely dependent on them 'keeping face' and ruling over a mob of equally violent psychopaths.  Thus it wouldn't have surprised Kev if his boss had been killed by one of these characters during a business deal that had turned sour.
    Following his boss' death, Kevin, as the vice president of the company (a role that he had served in name only), had taken command of the business (which was called 'Escobar Enterprises'): a few warehouses and offices, half a dozen retail outlets, a few planet-side shuttle craft and a Gecko interstellar ship.  He let the gun running and narcotics dealing part of the business fall by the wayside, and focused on the legal, peaceful, elements of the business: principally selling consumer goods in the Ackedze and Beandce systems, as well as some import-export trade and haulage.  A year later, the old customers finally stopped hounding him to sell them weapons.  So, with the business now secure and growing slowly, Kev decided to take a gamble: he would liquidate some assets and buy a second Gecko so he could fly northward in search of new business opportunities, while leaving his business partner to keep the company running while he was away.
    Kevin headed Northbound: passing through the Empire, the Federation and finally arriving in Alliance territory.  On the route he encountered many more of the macho bully boy types that he had had to deal with back in Ackedze.  This time though they were not in lightly armed trader ships but heavily armed combat craft.  And instead of engaging in trade in a semi civil manner (by exchanging goods for cash), they were intent on killing him and scavenging the remains of his ship.  The more extreme end of the macho scale weren't even interested in the potential booty they could get from the carcass of their defeated foe.  Oh no.  Their only concern was to tally up as many kills as possible.  Like some lothario who is always on the prowl to carve the next notch into his bedpost.  They always want one more lay, one more kill, to up their rating.
    It was during these numerous stressful battles against pirates that Kev had realized that he needed to get a superior ship.  He needed more shield generators, more missile pylons and a bigger laser.  He flicked through a copy of 'Jane's Guide to Interstellar Ships' and set his heart on a Moray.  It quickly became an obsession; and he wouldn't be satisfied until he finally owned one.  Alas, finding a Moray is a much harder than you might imagine.  Shipyard after shipyard, planet after planet, system after system, and still he hadn't found one.  He was beginning to wonder whether he would ever get his hearts desire.
    Then, one average day in Aachen Town (Alioth), struck by a hunch, he filled up his Gecko's fuel tank and decided to fly off to a nearby system.  His destination of choice was the technologically backward, religio-socialist system of Ioveso.  An unlikely choice for a prospective ship owner.  But his hunch paid off.  He walked into the local second hand shipyard, and there it was!  A Moray!  A second hand Moray Starboat!  'Thrill of thrills!'  Joy of joys!'  Overcome with desire, he pounced on the ship like a Cheetah at a Thomson's Gazelle.  Like a thirsty man who'd been walking through a desert for weeks and finally stumbled across a muddy, pest ridden Oasis.  He didn't care for the quality of the water.  The quality of the ship.  It was this desperation that was his undoing.  In his fit of enthusiasm, delirious with desire, Kevin had forgotten to engage his brain before he signed the deal with the used ship salesman.  The result of this was that he forgot to sell any of the Geckos additional components: Naval Standard ECM, shield generator, various computer systems etc etc.  All of which totaled up to around thirty thousand credits.  This was a huge sum of money; and was the equivalent of about nine standard months of hard, very dangerous, work for a second rate courier like Kev.

    He put his chin on his hand and sighed at the thought of all those credits mindlessly thrown away.  'What a drag'.  The second hand Moray wasn't even kitted out with some basic navigational systems.  He'd had to fly the blasted thing back to Irkutsk on manual ie without an autopilot.  A task that required the pilot to be awake almost constantly, so he could make minor alterations to the trajectory and velocity of the ship.  The only saving grace was that Alioth's deep space was totally pirate free.  And this was thanks to the effective Alliance police and military.
    'Five days and nights with barely no sleep.  Or should that be 'barely any sleep'?  Grammar was never my strong point.  Or is syntax?  Oh I don't know.  My brain's gone to mush.  Man, I need to get some sleep, badly.'
    He took another sip of the potent liquor, and pulled a face at the strong aftertaste. "Good grief this is strong stuff!" he croaked to himself in a hoarse voice.
    "It's distilled from Mares milk lad.  Put hairs on yur chest that will." said the thick-mustached barman as he passed buy on his way to serve another customer.
    'Mares milk!  What a ridiculous thing to say!' Kevin thought, 'How on Titan can you milk nightmares?  I know dream-reader contraptions can do a lot these days, but that's taking the biscuit!  What are you supposed to do exactly?  Capture them, ferment them, and then distill them!  What a barmy notion.  Mind you, it would explain the aftertaste.'  He took another sip of it to reassure himself of how bad it tasted.  Ick.  He shuddered at the taste.  'Anything to take my mind off that darned colour.'  He shook his head just visualizing it.  'Of all the possible colours in the universe, and it just happens to be purple'.  So he took another sip of the 'Super Strength Kumiss'.
    Just then the front entrance to the bar opened.  A few footsteps were heard, and the noise from background conversations fell to near silence.  Kev didn't take much notice, he was too engrossed in his drink and bemoaning buying a poorly kitted out purple Moray: 'The only Moray I stumble across, in all of the known galaxy, and it has to be in the technophobic Ioveso system of all places.  Marvellous.  Just marvellous.'
    Then, a gruff voice sounded from near the entrance to the bar: "So then, which one of you is the mincer with the purple.."
    That caught Kevin's attention.  His gaze lifted up from the tumbler in front of him to the drinks cabinet behind the bar.  'Oh dear'.
    "..Moray starboat.  With the registration number.."
    'Please let there be another purple Moray starboat here in one of the other five docks.  Please.'
    He dropped his head in his hands in despair. 'Ah nuts'
    "..parked in docking bay three.  I don't much appreciate nancy boys round on our turf now do I boys?"
    'Great, a macho bully boy who's probably touchy about his own sexuality.  Just what I need.'
    Kev slowly brought his feet from under the bar, and placed them flat on the floor, before standing upright.  This caused his heavy stool to noisily scrape across the floor, immediately, and intentionally, drawing attention to himself.  The rest of the customers in the bar remained quiet.
    Kevin picked up his tumbler of Kumiss and turned around to face the man who wanted to meet him.  Wrong.  Three men.  Not exactly small either.  Squinting slightly as he surveyed the burley man and his two sidekicks, Kev replied: "That would be me then."  He took four steady paces toward the man, just out of arms reach.  Kevin was desperately trying to think on his feet, wondering how he could come out of this encounter with at least two ribs still intact.
    Kev put on his best Aristocratic English accent and said with a raised eyebrow: "I'll have you know, my good man, it's not purple actually.  It's a very delicate shade of Imperial lilac, with specks of autumnal lavender."
    Kevin tried to make the colours seem as effeminate as he could.  His instincts seemed to tell him that he should rile these men up, try to make them blind with rage.  Then at least their anger would impede their ability to think clearly.  That way Kev could make a move or two without the risk of them blocking him.  Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be having the desired effect on his opponents, who stood in front of him with pseudo 'hard men' looks on their faces.  So he continued,
    "And, as a matter of fact, it is for my good friend Julian Cecil Smythe.  With whom I am on the most intimate terms."  Still no response from them.  So Kevin added one final push: "You should come and meet him my dear fellow, he likes rough miner types, and you'd certainly like him.  He has the softest smoothest skin you could possibly imagine."
    That had the desired effect.  The fat man in the centres face nearly blew up with fury.  Kev decided to make his move:  He threw the contents of his tumbler in the face of the central man to blind him temporarily.  The dark skinned guy on the left saw this and began to draw his fist back, ready to strike Kevin.  Kev countered quickly: he thrust the tumbler hard into the face of the dark man practically blinding him.  Then, seeing his opportunity, with a swift blow with his right elbow, Kevin knocked the central man in the throat, catching his adams apple before he could wipe the Kumiss out of his eyes.  The burly man crashed to the floor.  The last man, shocked, but not scared by the events lunged at Kev.  But Kevin was ready for him, and thrust a right handed punch deep into the guys solar plexus, winding him and sending him to the floor.
    He stood amidst the three incapactitated bodies and exhaled deeply.
    Kevin looked over the three men on the floor to be certain they were out of the fight.  Gaining awareness of his situation, he surveyed the eyes of the customers in the bar to see their reactions.  Were there any more fights coming his way?  Any hostile eyes staring daggers at him?  No, niet, nada, not a thing.  He took one last glance down at the men on the floor before reaching into his pocket.  He pulled out a coin, a pieza del octa - common currenc - and flicked it onto the counter.
    "That should pay for the drink." he said matter of factly to the barman.
    Turning around to face the entrance to the bar, Kev decided he should make a rapid exit, before his three new chums regained consciousness.  Walking out of the doorway, Kevin heard a voice from a darkened corner of the bar speak out to him in a thick Mexican accent: "Hey gringo!  You pretty tough for a nancy boy no!?  Did you get those pusillanimous powers when you bought your purple ship?  Maybe I should get my ship painted purple too, then I could kick some sorry puta's ass!"
    A few men chuckled at the absurd suggestion.  Kev turned his head and looked at the man and said in his fake aristocratic-English accent:
    "It's not purple my good man.  It's a delicate shade of Imperial Lilac, with specks of autumnal lavender."
    That joke went down like a plutonium balloon on a high-G planet.  There was no laughter from the crowd this time.  No noise.  Not so much as a snigger.  Just the 'zap' sound as a stray fly got vaporized by a UV lamp fly-trap.  All Kevin saw looking back at him was a bunch of grizzly faces, blazing eyes, nervous ticks and yellowed teeth, which indicated that the scene could quickly turn nasty.  He thought better than to correct the man by telling him that he wasn't actually a nancy boy.  'No point in pouring deuterium into the reactor' he thought.  So Kev swiftly vacated the bar and headed off toward the space stations dock, hoping he could avoid any more encounters with the locals, or the police for that matter, on the way.

                                                                                    * * * * *

    As he walked up to the front desk of the space-station dockyard, he saw a number of monitors behind the front desk which displayed live footage of all the docking bays; including his Moray.  After speaking to the receptionist, Kevin stepped into an elevator that would take him to dockyard number three, and his ship; muttering as he did so: 'Why oh why did I buy a purple Moray Starboat.'


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