The red-headed woman stumbled, lifting her hand against the bulkhead for support. She wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her flight jacket, wincing at the sharp odor. Her shorter, light haired companion took a step back and asked, “Is it over?”

Captain Giselle Gili looked back where the sick had puddled on the floor. Did they have maintenance bots on this station? She hoped the vile spew wouldn’t be enough to short anything out. Giselle straightened took a deep breath and nodded her head. “I think the worst has passed.”

“If we were on the ship,” the other woman noted, “I would make you clean that up. Those acids and…” she peered at the muck, her forehead furrowed with effort. “What is that? What did you eat?”

“Nothing,” Giselle confessed. “And we’re not on the ship, Dede. No pulling the Chief Engineer card on me.” Dede Spivakovsky also served as First Mate, Chief Science Officer, Head Steward, and, when needed, Chief Medical Officer onboard the Gazelle. The small scout vessel required a crew of two. They both filled a variety of roles. “Now, where are we going?”

“A bar.”

“A bar? If we’re going to a bar, why did we drink that fermented… whatever… back at our quarters?”

“The bottle was getting old. I was worried it was going bad,” Dede answered sheepishly.

“Wait a second,” Giselle commanded, lifting her hand. “That drink wasn’t supposed to be fuzzy?!”

Dede shrugged her shoulders and started an unsteady walk down the hallway. “I’m not sure.” Scowling, the good captain stumbled along after her XO.

The two shambled through the space station hallways, gradually wandering into more dimly lit corridors. Mysterious crates lined the halls, their contents marked in alien languages and imposing-looking icons.

“This looks like the way to the docking ring,” Giselle noted, her lips slowly wrapping around each syllable. “Not a bar.”

“I swear,” Dede tried to comfort her boss. “It’s right around the corner.”

“Maybe that sign says something,” Giselle stopped and stepped closer to the wall. “What dialect is that? I can’t tell.” She pulled a torch from her belt to get a better light in the semi-dark.

Dede lifted a hand to touch the marks. “Captain, I think this is just some damage done to the wall.”

“Well, I’m fairly certain we’re not in a good part of the station.”

“How can you tell?”

“I think I just stepped on a body.”

The two crouched, taking care not to stumble onto the prone figure. The body looked pale in the light of Giselle’s torch. Ugly blue and yellow bruises dotted his face. Dede reached out to check the fallen man’s pulse.

“He’s alive,” Dede said, “but needs medical attention. I wonder what happened to him.”

“A robbery,” answered a low, basso voice from the shadows. A shift in the torch illuminated a massive figure sitting on a crate, not but two meters away. A wide- brimmed leather hat sat atop a broad face. The man brought together two hamhock- sized fists to crack his knuckles, then stood up to his full height, towering over the women. The thought of cured meat caused Giselle’s stomach to flip again. She stifled a burp.

“Now,” the voice said, “I would hate to damage such pretty ladies, so why don’t you–”

It looked like a wave, a casual flip of Giselle’s wrist. The solid thunk of metal biting wood carried over the silence of the hallway. The giant of a man looked down to see a blade of a dagger, positioned between his legs and embedded in the crate he just vacated. He took one more step forward before noticing another dirk in the Captain’s hand.

“You know what they say?” she taunted him. “The bigger the goods, the bigger the target.” A grin of uneven, greenish teeth spread out across the man’s squat face. He grunted and started to shuffle away.

She let him turn a corner before commanding, Dede. “Let’s get our new friend here somewhere safe. The two started to wrap their arms around the fallen figure and lift him from the floor.

“You know,” Dede grunted. “When I pick up guys, it usually requires more conversation.” Her captain’s laughter started as a chuckle, grew through a chortle, to bloom in a robust guffaw.

“What, Gis? It wasn’t that funny.”

“No, No,” Giselle assured her. Her giggles upset her balance and she laid her burden on the floor as she plopped down. “It’s not that… It’s… it’s…” She burped. “It’s just that I was aiming at his hat.”

Next –>