Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Eeshkik's Last Watch

“They’re doing it again,” said Eeshkik. “The humans. You know, the ones we’re supposed to be watching. They’re launching something new. The North American ones.”

The only crew member to so much as glance at her was Kakal, who was wearing a shirt that ironically featured the human letters ‘e’ and ‘t’. He gave her a stare with his huge black eyes and tapped the side of his pretty green head in the gesture their species uses to communicate, “So what?” No one else looked up from the game they were playing.

In the defense of the entire uncaring crew of The Muse of Stars, the game they were playing was one they’d picked up from the planet they orbited and had been tasked with studying. Also in defense of the crew, they were circling Earth waiting for the planet to settle down long enough to make first contact, and while they had only been doing this for half a year, their civilization had been doing it for centuries and the planet was pretty much as studied as it was going to get. In a few weeks, they’d get to go home and some new saps would be left watching the endless wars the local barbarians so loved to engage in. Still, Eeshkik was their captain, so she felt they really should pay at least a little bit of attention to her when she said stuff.

“I’m captain here,” Eeshkik proclaimed. “You need to listen to me!”

Geklac met her gaze. “You’re only captain for another ten minutes. Then it’s Acklec’s turn.”

“I’m aware of the rotation.” Eeshkik sniffed. “But I’m captain for now, and I need someone to write up this new satellite.” She paused for a minute. When no one volunteered, she said, “Geklac, get started.”

“But I’m winning!”

“I don’t care.”

“You’re not winning,” said Kakal. “I see your raise. Anyone else in?”

The other two who had still been in the round nodded their heads to indicate they declined and quietly folded their cards. “Alright, then,” said Geesh, who had been dealing. “Show us what you have, boys.”

“Yeah, let’s see what you went all in with,” Kakal told Geklac.

Geklac did a little shimmy as he flipped his cards. “Full house. Three kings and two eights.”

Eeshkik’s eyes widened in dismay on Geklac’s behalf. The kings were sitting in the middle of the table, on what was called the river, meaning everyone got to use them. Betting all of his chips on the hand had probably been a mistake. Sure enough, Kakal gave an amused huff and revealed his cards to show that he also had a full house, but his was kings and aces.

The curse Geklac handed out doesn’t translate well into English as humans don’t have the body parts referenced, but if you can imagine the most disgusting thing someone could say about your mother’s nether regions, you’d be close.

With a hum of annoyance, Geklac pushed back from the table, rose, and stormed off to find a computer to enter the data on Earth’s latest launch into. Eeshkik slid into his vacated seat, her eyes going to the chronometer. Eight minutes and she wouldn’t be captain anymore. She leaned back, putting her feet in Kakal’s lap. She’d hoped doing so would prompt her husband to massage her calves, but he instead tapped the table to prompt the next deal. Which was proper; personal relationships were expected to be ignored when one was serving as captain. Even if you were down to seven and a half minutes on the job.

Cards went out to everyone at the table, minus Eeshkik, because captains also don’t get to gamble with the crew. “Seven minutes…” Eeshkik muttered under her breath.

Another two minutes passed, during which half the table folded and two new cards came out on the river. Then everyone flinched as the claxon started blaring.

“Collision imminent!” screamed the computer.

“What the Ghost?” Eeshkik exclaimed as she leapt up and rushed to the control room with the rest of the crew running behind her. “Geklac, report!”

“It’s coming straight at us!” Pointing at a screen, Geklac brought Eeshkik’s attention to the display that tracked all the crap the humans had littered their planet’s orbit with. One object was quickly approaching their ship. “How do they even know where we are?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Eeshkik snapped. “Kakal, emergency procedure gamma!”

“Gamma launching!” came the swift response. “Everyone hold on to something! In three... two... one...”

Everyone who could grabbed hold of chairs or the handles spread around the compartment. Everyone else went flying as the ship lurched into motion.

“It’s following us!” reported Geklac. “And I don’t think we can outrun it without stardrive.”

Sure enough, the display indicated that whatever weapon the humans had lobbed at The Muse of Stars had altered course to track with the ship. Which meant that the humans had developed the technology to overcome the jamming illusions all Kuykkan vessels put out when trying not to be seen by primitive civilizations. And had launched a weapon without so much as broadcasting a hello. Talk about rude.

Eeshkik gurgled in exasperation. She still had four minutes left on her shift. “How much time do we have?”

“About a minute. It’s still gaining.”

Well, there was no helping it then. “Fine,” grumbled Eeshkik. Initiating stardrive inside a solar system would be unspeakably dimwitted; the odds of hitting an object before you see it are just too high in such a crowded place. Which meant they had to destroy the weapon despite the fact that this would confirm their presence. The humans had spotted them anyway. “Zap it.”

“Zapping aye,” said Acklec. A few second later, he followed up with, “Target eliminated.”

The crew cheered, but Eeshkik glowered at the chronometer. Still two minutes left on her shift as captain, which meant that the piles of paperwork required anytime the zapper was used were going to be her responsibility, as well as the nightmare task of writing a report trying to explain that humanity now posed a threat to anyone close to their planet.

“Set a course to the other side of the astroid belt,” the captain said in a defeated voice before slinking off to her cabin as she griped internally about how if all of this had happened just five minutes later, it would have been Acklec’s problem and he would be the one spending the next several shifts dealing with bureaucracy. Some things really weren’t fair.

The above image is from a poster by an unknown artist. You can buy it on Amazon.
It was offered as prompt on my Wording Wednesday Project

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Queen's Holy Orb

As the three gnomes sat in a tree, Minz, Moin, and Maleka felt rather overwhelmed and quite sorry for themselves.

“They just keep playing with it,” Minz moaned, her eyes on the pair of very large canines batting The Queen's Holy Orb around the clearing. The trio of gnomes were at their wits’ end. Clearly, they couldn’t just let the dogs continue to play with the religious artifact they’d been charged with carrying through the forest from its old home in Egdasmont to its new home in the recently built cathedral in Umnaspurt. But the dogs were massive, both taller than Maleka, who was herself much larger than Moin, who was in turn taller than Minz. And the dogs were obsessed with The Queen's Holy Orb, to the point of ignoring the similar sized ball the gnomes had already tried to distract them with. Although, on the plus side, they were also too obsessed with The Queen's Holy Orb to try to eat the gnomes, something the gnomes greatly appreciated.

“Hey, dogs!” yelled Maleka. “That belongs to the church! It was a gift from Queen Elspin!”

The dogs were not impressed. They didn’t so much as glance at Maleka as they wrestled each other for the honor of being closest to The Queen's Holy Orb.

Moin leaned forward, balancing so that his arms rested on his legs as they dangled from the branch he sat upon. “There are two dogs and three of us. If two of us could each distract a dog, the third could grab The Queen's Holy Orb.”

“Sure,” agreed Minz. “But how would we do that?”

“We could jump on them.”

Minz and Maleka stared at their companion. “Jump on them?” Maleka repeated. “You mean after we ask them nicely to lay down and be still? Hey, dogs! My friend wants to jump on you! So if you could stop running around and lower yourself closer to the ground, that would be awesome!”

No one was surprised when the dogs failed to comply, choosing instead to growl at each other as they tried to push The Queen's Holy Orb in different directions. The growling made Minz shiver. She’d had a bad experience with a Pomeranian as a child that had instilled a great distrust of all canines into her psyche. She’d been the first to climb the tree and was determined to be the last to leave it.

“What if we hit them with something?” Moin said. “You know, knock them out? Don’t you always carry a pouch of sleep powder, Minz?”

“I do,” the shortest gnome answered. “But I’d have to hit them right on the nose, which would be hard to do from up here. And there’s only enough for one of them.”

Maleka made a thoughtful noise. “Okay. So we’d have to send someone down to hit one of them right in the face and then hope the dog doesn’t try to eat that person while waiting for the powder to kick in. But that would still leave one dog obsessed with The Queen's Holy Orb. If we assume we couldn’t successfully jump on him and steer him away, what could we do?”

All three gnomes shook their heads, stumped.

“Do we have any food?” Minz asked, remembering that dogs like food.

Between them, they found a hard candy that had seen better days, a melted piece of chocolate, and a quarter of a donut that Moin had been saving for later. They tossed the donut and one of the dogs did actually notice it, but only for as long as it took to swallow the baked good in one gulp.

“Well,” said Moin. “I think I would have been better off eating that myself.” And the others couldn’t argue otherwise.

“Could we steal a dog whistle?” Maleka asked. “One of us could run far away and blow it, then the others could grab The Queen’s Holy Orb when the dogs ran to the whistle.”

They all liked that idea, but no one had any leads as to where they could find a dog whistle.

“We could pray?” Minz offered. “I mean it is a HOLY Orb, right? So maybe the gods would try to protect it? You know, if we told them a pair of dogs was playing with it.”

The other two shrugged and they all bent their heads while Maleka addressed their deities. “Oh heavenly parents, ill has befallen the most sacred Orb of the Heavens. Please help us free The Queen’s Holy Orb from the beasts that have taken possession of it so that we may see it interred in the cathedral in Umnaspurt. Um… We offer you this piece of chocolate and hard candy in addition to our adoration as we pray that you will come to the aid of us, your unfortunate children. Thank you for listening. Amen.”

“Amen,” the others chorased.

Then they all looked around expectantly, their shoulders falling as no bolts of lightening struck the dogs. Moin sighed. “Maybe they didn’t hear us? Should we try again, but louder? Maybe if we all spoke at once?”

Frustrated, Minz ripped a pinecone from the tree they sat in and lobbed it at one of the canines. It bounced off with no effect other than to make the dog let out a bark of annoyance. No one was surprised as throwing things at the dogs to get them to run away was the first thing the gnomes had tried.

From somewhere behind the gnomes, a door opened. A human voice cried out, “Hestor! Brunhilda! Dinner!”

The dogs’ heads snapped up. Before the woman had finished calling for them, they were sprinting toward her, The Queen’s Holy Orb completely forgotten.

“Ah,” said Maleka. “I suppose the gods don’t work instantly.”

The gnomes slid down the tree and the taller two picked up The Queen’s Holy Orb between them while Minz kept a lookout to make sure the dogs weren’t returning.

When the trio finally made it to the cathedral in Umnaspurt, they handed The Queen’s Holy Orb over to the bishop and went straight to the pub, where they offered a toast to the gods but swore never to take another job from the church.

The above image was painted by Alfred de Dreux. 
It was offered as prompt on my Wording Wednesday Project