Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Thirty Two; Kira

I followed the directions Tex had reluctantly given me and quickly found my way back to the door that led to the cockpit. As I walked it occurred to me there was logic to the layout of Test Eagle, but guessed it would take me a little while longer to get the hang of it.

At the cockpit door I saw Kira, now cleaned up and dressed in the uniform spacesuit all the Freedom Fighters wore. A snug fitting black button up suit. I enjoyed the view for a second, but then i realised that as I was now a member of Freedom Fighters Inc, I might actually be required to wear one as well.

I was torn by this revelation, as a kid I had wanted nothing more than to become an astronaut, my disinterest in spaceships aside, and wearing such a suit would, to the child I had been, be the pinnacle achieve of my life. However, I'm twenty nine years old now, and my body has had time to develop strange lumps and bumps in unusual places. I pictured myself in one of the suits and couldn't image anybody, or more to the point Kira, finding me - beer belly and all - attractive. At least my own clothes did something to disguise my rather lumpish shape.

"Jimmy," said Kira, "There you are."

"I was just," I pointed back the way I had come, thinking desperately to come up with what I would tell her I had just... Inspiration struck, "Bubbles said Bocco was here." Tex, or rather the Tex in the cell downstairs, had made it clear to me that I was not to include Kira in my fact finding mission, he claimed it would put her in danger.

"Yeah, he's this way," Kira frowned. "Where've you been?"

"Just wandering around, trying to get accustomed to the place," I replied casually.

"Did you find anything interesting?" she asked.

I answered quickly, "No! Nothing at all, quite boring really."

"Right," she flashed her white teethed smile at me, she clearly believed me, my status as ship's idiot saw to that. "Well why don't I show you where Bocco is, and then you should get familiar with your duties onboard."

Kira led me back through the ship, along a corridor that ran perpendicular to the one I had just left.

We walked in comfortable silence for a moment. Funy thing about silence, one minute it can be comfortable, the next, well, uncomfortable. I even felt it happen, walking quietly along, very comfortable with the silence. Then it suddenly occurred to me that I should say something, and then the silence felt uncomfortable, and I was reluctant to break it.

"So, Kira is your real name?" I asked, hating the sound of my high pitched, whining Australian accent.

"Yep," she smiled.

"It’s very," I struggled to find a word, and failing settled for, "Original." That is, I added silently to myself, unless you happen to be a character in a sci-fi fantasy story.

We arrived at a door. Kira stopped and asked, "Are you ready for this?"

I nodded, unsure of the question.

"He's nothing like the Bocco you met before."

"How different can a bear be?" I asked.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Thirty One; Jimmy Takes Control

I dragged my eyes away from Bubbles’s cleavage for fear of leaning too far forward and hitting my head on the window that separated us.

“I’ve got to think,” I said, though not to the imprisoned Freedom Fighters Inc.

I pressed the microphone button again, so they couldn’t hear me. The four prisoners clearly thought I was going for the button that would open the door, and an identical expression of glee crossed each of the four faces, which in itself seemed a little odd.

When they realised I had merely turned off the microphone they all adopted the same angry expression and yelled at me through their still open intercom. “What the hell?” and, “Hey, come on man!” and, “Just open the door, Jimmy!”

I turned my back on them and paced away from their cell. I had to figure this out. I needed to get this right.

I went back to the cell door and hit the microphone button. “Okay,” I said, “Sorry guys, but I’ve gotta figure this out. When I’m sure the guys up stairs are aliens I’ll come and get you out.” They all started to speak at once, so I held my hands up for silence. “I won’t give the game away. The way I see it, if they were going to kill you, they already would have.”

“Don’t be an idiot Jimmy,” said Axel.

“Sorry guys,” I said, “but this is how it’s got to be. Just be give me a little time.” Feeling pumped and ready for action, I turned the microphone off again and went to the ladder.

I’d climbed about five rungs when I stopped.

I returned to the door with a little less bounce in my step than a moment before.

Four sets of sullen eyes stared back at me.

I pressed the microphone button and asked, “Er, guys, how do I get back to the cockpit?”

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Thirty; Jimmy Holmes

"What about Kira?" I asked.

"She's in danger too," said Axel who had been quiet until now.

"Open the door," said Bubbles, who fluttered her eyelashes at me.

"How'd this happen?" I asked, my hand going for the button that would open the door but not pressing it.

Four sets of eyes were fixed on me as Tex replied, "They took us by surprise, while we were waiting for Kira to return from her mission. It was over before we even knew what was happening. They stunned us and the next thing you know we're locked up down here."

"Stunned you?"

"Yes," replied Tex, "One of them comes down here once a day to fetch us food."

"Usually the one that looks like me," said Axel.

"Open the door," said Bubbles, fluttering her eyelashes again. I looked back at her and got the impression she'd undone the top button on her space suit, I was sure it had been done up a moment before.

"Why would they do this?" I asked, my finger hovering over the open button.

They gave me a collective shrug.

I still didn't press the button.

"Maybe I should talk to them?" I said, "I'm good with people."

Axel actually laughed, but it was Wrench who said, "Don't be a fool, they'll either kill you or lock you up in here with us."

"They killed Jax," said Tex.

I thought about that for a second, "You said, or rather the other you said, he ripped you off and jumped ship."

"Of course they said that," said Tex, "Do you really think they would have told you they killed him? And then offered you his old job?"

"Hang on," I said, "Kira knew about Jax, and she's been away."

"Just open the door Jimmy," said Bubbles, she had undone the top two buttons of her suit now. If no other reason than to see how far she'd go, I decided to keep the door closed for the moment. She had great...

"That's because," said Tex interrupting my thoughts, "that's what we thought, until we found his body."

I thought about this for a moment and snuck another peek at Bubbles cleavage.

"How do I know they’re not the real yous?"

"What?" they all asked at once.

"And that you’re not just pretending to be them so that I'll let you out?"

They exchanged worried glances.

"They could be the real yous, or rather thems, and you could be impostors pretending to be them." I thought about this for a moment then added, "And even if they’re not the real yous, how do I know that the real yous, which would be you, aren’t criminals or something, and need to be locked up, whether you’re you or they’re you? And even if they’re not you, you are, why should I care?"

"Because," said Bubbles, "eventually, they'll kill you and Kira too."

I looked at her. There was only one button still fastened on her suit, she really did have great...

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Twenty Nine; And Just Who The Hell Are You?

The siren faded into the background so I stopped running and caught my breath for a moment. If Tex or one of the others came to see what the problem was and found me, I’d do my best Homer Simpson impression and feign ignorance.

After a quick rest I moved on, wondering how I was ever going to find my way out of this labyrinth. The automatic doors whooshing open as I walked past them. I got to the end of a corridor, there was a ladder going up, but not one going down, so some how I had ended up on the lowest level of the ship, I was about to climb the ladder up and try the next floor when I saw the door at the end of the corridor, had light coming through the window panel. All the others had been dark until the doors opened and automatic lights flickered into life.

I wandered across to the door, but it didn’t open like all the others, so I peeked through the door’s window.

The room looked like a cell. There were benches that ran around the room’s outer walls, a water bubbler in the corner and toilet in the opposite corner.

Sitting on the benches were my new crew mates. Tex, Wrench, Axel and Bubbles, only Kira was missing.

They looked up and saw me looking at them.

“What are you guys doing here?” I asked.

Tex got up and walked over to the window, it looked like he pressed a button next to the door, then I heard his voice through a speaker mounted on the panel next to the door.

“What did you say?” he asked me.

“What are you doing here?” I repeated.

“You’ll need to press the button,” he pointed to the panel next to the door.

I pressed the button and repeated, “What are you doing?”

He ignored my question and asked, “Who are you?”

I frowned at him for a moment, the said, “Jimmy, Jimmy Sparrow, your new dish pig.”

“Dish pig?” he asked.

“Cleaner.” I answered, “You just hired me.”

He looked at me for a long moment then said, “You have to help us. The person who hired you, is an impostor. They’re all impostors. You’ve got to get us out of here.”

Wrench, Bubbles and Axel came to stand next to Tex at the window.


Bubbles said, “Aliens who have assumed our forms and taken control of the ship.”

"You're in a great deal of danger Jimmy," added Wrench.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Twenty Eight; The Known Universe’s Finest Bourbon

I tried to find my way back to the cockpit but somehow I just ended up going around in circles.

I was beginning to get an idea of just how big this ship was, though why a six man crew would need such a big ship was a little baffling, but then again maybe they just liked to show off, and remembering the ship's name decided that was definitely it.

Thinking back to the old sci-fi shows I’d seen I decided to try a few things.

“Computer,” I said in my best Jean-Luc accent.

Nothing, no bip-bip, no bing-bong.

I tried it again, this time as Riker, “Computer!”

Data; “Computer.”

I considered doing Janeway, but that particular way of phrasing my thoughts made me think of Seven, and for a good few minutes I forgot completely where I was and what I was doing.

This wasn’t working.

I scratched my head. I checked the walls for info panels, but found nothing. The interior of the ship was nice enough, smooth white walls, sliding doors, but nothing of use to me.

I walked along the corridor, opening each door I passed, by simply standing in front of it as though I intended to go inside. I even tried to trick one door by sneaking up on it, but it knew I was there and opened contemptuously. I took a peek inside each of the rooms the doors led to, and found all sorts of things, mainly stores, food and drink, mechanical and computer equipment that completely baffled me just by looking at it. In one room I found a giant aquarium.

In one room I found a stack of plastic crates that were all labelled. I saw one pile that bore the legend, Jim Beam; The Known Universe’s Finest Bourbon*.

I tried to open the crate, but it was sealed tight and I had no idea how the damn thing was supposed to open. I briefly wondered how the Test Eagle’s crew of freedom fighters came to be in possession of crates and crates of bourbon, but then stopped worrying about it and lifted a crate over my head to break open on the floor.

The crate landed but remained unopened, however a loud siren blared in my ear so I left the room and hurried down the corridor away from the scene of the crime.

*exclusions apply.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Twenty Seven; Random Decisions

"Yeah he's on the ship, did you think we'd just let him go so he could ruin our plans?"

"Can I see him?" I asked, "The real Bocco, that is?"

Bubbles frowned at me, "What for?"

I shrugged, "I don't know. I've never met a talking bear before." In truth I had no idea why I wanted to see the real Bocco, but in retrospect I think I just wanted to keep myself busy and avoid thinking about my worsening situation.

"You'd best ask Tex," said Bubbles.

"Cool," I got up and went through the door at the back of the cockpit.

The ship interior was huge. As soon as I left the cockpit I was face with four alternative directions, the corridor branched off to the left and right, and a ladder went both up and down.

I remember reading in a Stephen King novel that when people are faced with a random choice, right handed people will always go right, and left handed people left. Been right handed I went left, I’ve never liked the idea of been pre-programmed or predictable, though I guess after been informed right handed people go right, going left would be the predictable thing to do. I stopped after four short steps and went back.

I stood at the intersection for a few minutes trying to figure out which direction I should take. In the end I climbed onto the ladder and descended to the next floor, the book hadn’t said anything about up and down, so I picked down because it was easier than up.

On the next floor I went right.

It didn’t take me long to become completely and utterly lost.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Twenty Six; Getting Old

I sat at the window watching the changing landscape beneath us. We had left the mountain range and were currently flying over wide green fields and expanse of dark green forest.

The others left the cockpit, only Bubbles remained, which was a good thing considering she was flying the ship. She cranked up the stereo system and a noise I thought would make my ears bleed came out of the sixteen surround sound speakers that were mounted on almost every available surface.

I couldn't understand many of the words, though I'm fairly sure they were in English. The ones I did understand painted some very unpleasant pictures, and I suddenly thought I knew how my old man had felt about the music I had listened to as a kid, and with a shudder, I realised I had just recycled one his favourite, and one of my most hated, phrases.

Make my ears bleed.

What was I? Sixty years old?

Had I crossed that invisible line that seperates the young and the old?

"Shit, I'm only twenty nine years old," I told myself, and started to nod my head to the music, frightened I might suddenly transform into my father and find myself sitting there in tartan slippers smoking a pipe and going on about how much we needed the rain.

Bubbles glanced at me in the rear view mirror when I started to sing along to the words, which was odd, because there really was no need for a rear view mirror in a cockpit with no back windows.

"Do you like this?" Bubbles bellowed over the music and turned it up with a grin.

I winced, and then nodded.

"Why don’t you come and sit here fly boy?" Bubbles indicated the spare seat next to her.

"So, how you doing?" She had turned the music down.

"I've been better," I answered truthfully, then winced again realising that was another one of my father's catchphrases.

"Yeah well," said bubbles, "From what Kira says, you haven't had much luck recently. Been pulled from your own world by a pair of mischievous Zugars," I wasn't sure if that was a joke but I laughed anyway thinking it sounded funny. "Must be a bit of a kick in the arse."

"Yeah," I answered, then wanting to take my mind away from my bad luck I asked, "So how come you've got all this technology and the Leprechauns, haven't?"

Bubbles raised an eyebrow, then said, "Zugars. It isn't nice to call Zugars leprechauns."

"Oh, sorry," I stammered.

"It'd be like them calling us monkeys."

"I see. I didn't know."

Bubble smiled, "No I guess you didn't. Well, the easy answer for that is, they just haven't developed as much as we have," it took me a second to realise she was answering my initial question. "and for whatever reason, they don't seem particularly interested in buying any from us."

"Wow," I said, "That bear suit Kira wore was really something."

"Yeah, we had to model it on the real Bocco."

"The real Bocco?"

"Tex is with him now."

"He's on the ship?"

Chapter Twenty Seven

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Twenty Five; Test Eagle

Tex examined the contents of the pan he'd been stirring then tossed the pan and whatever he'd been burning away from himself in disgust.

"Let's piss off then shall we?" he said in a cavalier manner captain Kirk would have been proud of.

Tex and Kira disappeared inside the ship. I watched Kira go and hoped she usually got around in a bikini but somehow doubted it. The rest of the crew moved about familiar tasks, and I found myself standing idly, wanting to help, but not wanting to get in the way.

Wrench approached me and held out a hand. "She's looker ain't she?"

"Oh yeah," I said and wondered if I'd ever get to spend the night in bed with Kira again, though hopefully without the bear suit.

I turned to Wrench and saw him gazing lovingly at the ship. "Yes sir, there ain't many like this."

"Hmm," I answered this time. Try as I might I have never been one of those blokes to get excited about cars, bikes, or trucks and though I often find myself in social situations with people who I barely know referring to their mode of transport as though it were the love of their life, I've never fingered out how to respond to their vague and ambiguous comments.

"She sure is a beauty," works well in a limited capacity, but as soon as they start talking about cylinders and fuel injections and turbos and whatever else it is car people talk about my eyes glaze over. They usually fail to notice, mesmerized by the love of their life and leave me with the impression the talk is nothing more than erection fuel.

I try not to let them know how incredibly boring they are, but it seems my body is less concerned about placing me in socially awkward situations than it is in listening to rev heads describe crank shafts, mufflers and interiors.

"Test Eagle," said Wrench and for a moment I wondered what he was talking about.

I looked up and saw the words stylised in English lettering on the side of the ship.

"Come on, I'll show you around."

I stood staring at the words, Test Eagle.

"Come on," repeated Wrench.

"It's written in English," I said.

"You understand that do you?" Wrench asked.

"Yes, but, how?"

"Beats me," said Wrench and when I listened to him I realised I was no longer hearing the overlay of a translation. The words were Wrench's own, as he'd spoken them. With the leprechauns I had always heard them and a translation over the top of them. I had always experienced the same problem with Bocco too.

Tex appeared at the door and interrupted my thoughts, "Come on. We're going."

I followed Wrench up the stairs and clambered inside Test Eagle. The steps led into the back of the cockpit. Bubbles was sat at the controls; a wide bank of buttons and levers and knobs and displays. Wrench saw me gaping at the controls and said, "Beautiful stereo systems ain't it?" he grinned happily and announced, "I installed it myself."

When I looked back at Bubbles and the controls I could see the controls she was concerned with took up much less room than the audio equipment.

"Hold on boys," Bubbles laughed and hit a button. I felt the ship move under me. Bubbles gripped a joy stick with both hands and span the craft manoeuvring it through the opening and out into the bright sunlight.

Following everybody else's lead I strapped myself into a harness, and then lent over to look through a window. We were moving at a good speed away from a range of mountain peaks.

I watched silently as we flew away from the only chance I had of getting home.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Twenty Four; Freedom Fighters Inc

After a moment's silence I asked, “What now?”

“What do you mean?” Kira asked.

Wishing to avoid thinking about my fate for a moment I asked, “About the fire crystals, Ziggy and Zain?"

“What about them?” she said with a frown.

“You’re just going to leave all those poor people to their lot?"

“Yep,” Tex answered for her. “Unless somebody pays us to do otherwise. We were paid by the government to get dirt on your boy Zain, and we got it.”

“Much good it’ll do them now,” I said.

“Not our problem,” said Kira, “We’ve already been paid.”

In a voice that sounded far too small and pathetic to my own ears I asked, “And what about me?”

“Yeah, what about him?” the other woman asked.

“Well,” said Kira, “I thought...”

“No way!” said tex and turned back to stirring whatever was bubbling away in the small pan.

“Ah come on,” protested Kira, “He’s perfect.”

An unwanted grin incapacitated my ability to control my facial expression.

Kira saw me and shook her head, “Look at him!” she urged the others, and they did. I felt the grin slide off my face as, Tex, Wrench, Bubbles and the man whose name I was yet to learn turned scornful gazes my way.

“He’s completely hopeless,” continued Kira, and what was left of my grin turned into a frown. “We won’t have the same trouble we had with Jax.”

“Well, that’s true,” said Bubbles.

“Can you cook?” Tex asked me.

Sensing this was a break or make moment I lied, “Oh, yeah,” the gambler in me sensing that was the correct answer.

“What do you say?” Kira asked Tex who seemed to be in charge.

Tex looked at Kira for a long moment then asked, “You’re not going soft on us are you?”

Kira shook her head.

Tex turned to look at me. “Okay, this is how it works. We are Freedom Fighters Inc. We’re a six man crew. I’m the gaffer, Kira is deep cover ops, Bubbles over there,” he indicated the other woman, “Is our pilot. Wrench is the tech, and Axel,” he nodded his head in the direction of the fifth member, “is our weapons specialist.” He paused for a moment then said, “We lost the sixth member of the crew a few days before we took this job so we haven’t had time to replace him. The bastard ripped us off and jumped ship, so we’ve got a spare seat on board if you’re interested.”

I thought about it for a moment, and then asked Kira, “You’re certain I can’t get home?”

“Unless you want to go back in there,” she pointed down the corridor we had just left, “try and find Ziggy and Zain, and persuade them to send you back.”

I took a deep breath and asked, “What do you need me to do? Man Ops?” Wrench raised an eyebrow at me so I pressed on, “Work at tactical?” this time Axel turned a stony gaze on me. I’d seen a few episodes of star trek in my time so I wasn’t concerned; I hazarded another guess, “Engineering? Science station?” I was starting to run out of ideas, “Alientology?”

“No, I need you to cook, make our beds, wash our sheets, clean the heads, polish the silverware and stay out my way as much as possible. Got it?”

I nodded, “Yup.”

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Twenty Three; Bocco The Babe

I once worked as one of those guys in a panda suit, you see standing outside crummy suburban stores with small marketing budgets. I worked four hour shifts waving at passing traffic and putting up with the local teenagers taunts. When that suit came off at the end of the shift I reeked. My hair was plastered to my head, and my clothes soaked through with sweat, it was disgusting.

Yet this woman, this vision wearing a skimpy black bikini looked like she had just finished a glamour shoot. Her hair was perfect, and her tight toned skin, glistening with sweat. The curve of her, ahem.

I drew my eyes away.

No, you don’t believe that any more than I do.

I gawked at her as she bundled up the bear suit and carried it over to the cavern where the other humans were gathered. “Close your mouth Jimmy,” she said, “You’re gawking.”

“Did you get the info?” one of the men asked.

“I missed you too, Tex.” She smiled sweetly, “It’s all on the onboard computer. I got the lot.”

Another man asked, “I’ll bet those remote cameras got him didn’t they?”

“Sure did Wrench.”

Tex? Wrench? Kira? I thought to myself.
Who named these people?

“How’d you know where to find us?” Wrench asked, “This isn’t the pickup point. When the lights went out and I couldn’t get you on comms, I thought we might have to come in and extract you.”

Kira said, “I found your sign.”

“How’d you know which way to come?” Wrench insisted.

“I asked Jimmy,” she smiled and nodded my way.

“How’d he know?”

“He didn’t, he’s the unluckiest man I’ve ever met, I picked the opposite to what he said.”

“Excuse me,” I said feeling like a complete idiot, “Could somebody tell me what the hell is going on here?”

“Who is he?” the one called Tex asked .

“The bait,” Bocco, no Kira, answered.

“Bait?” the other woman joined them and sat next to the fire, then before Kira answered said, “You didn’t tell him,” and laughed.

“I didn't tell him,” Kira laughed too.

“Hello,” I said in my most petulant voice, “Could somebody tell me now?”

“Sure, Jimmy,” Kira finished stowing the bear suit in a side locker on their space ship and walked over to me. I tried to keep my eyes locked on her face, but it wasn’t easy. “I’m a contractor, we’re contractors,” she indicated her companions.


“Yes,” she smiled that dazzling smile again and it occurred to me I had spent the night sleeping next to this woman without ever knowing it.

"Life's so unfair," I said before realising it.

Kira looked at me for an instant then continued, "We were contracted by the Zugar-Zipperat government...”

“Zain?” I interrupted, and one of the men actually sniggered.

“No, the people Zain worked for,” she replied.

“Worked for? Don’t you mean...”

“No,” this time Kira interrupted me, “I mean worked for, as in past tense. We were contracted by the Zugar-Zipperat government to keep an eye on him and see if he was working with Ziggy.”

“Ziggy?” now I laughed, “He hates Ziggy. He was trying to catch Ziggy!” I explained as though she hadn’t been there.

“I’ve got proof for the Zugar-Zipperat government that he was working with him, and that together they stole the fire crystals.”

“Huh?” I was feeling like more and more of an idiot, which made sense because that’s how I usually feel in the presence of beautiful women.

“The whole practical joke thing was just a distraction.”

“Dragging me into their horrid little caves was just a distraction?” I was outraged.


I thought about this and then asked, “How do I get home?”

Kira had the decency to look abashed before saying, “You don’t.”

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