Rat Running (and stumbling)

Posted on Posted in Drama and Fiction

The beer in my mug swirled slowly; behind me there was chattering at the bar. I stared at the fleck of suds sloshing slowly about and wondered why I was even bothering.

“Incoming Priority Message” my com search-engine whispered. What the hack? I don’t talk to anyone. I tipped the glass and pursued the suds and dug in my jacket pocket for the com, unlocking it with my thumb-print. The message across the front read “string ‘Rat-Signal’ detected” and below it was a bit of text from the Rat Channel. Holy … ! Then *Ack* – beer isn’t any better for breathing than vacuum, as I chugged the rest and pushed back from the bench. Some guy’s stranded. He needs fuel. And I’m a measly 1000ly away! If I drop the hammer in Longshot I’ll be there in an hour. I’ve got to run!

“Run” isn’t the right word for it, really. It’s more like a crab-shamble as I’m simultaneously wiping beer suds from my mustache, trying to flog my brain into alertness, and comming my way through endless menus from the system outfitter: let’s see, I need limpets and a controller and I can lose the advanced scanner and sell the Diso Ma Corn I was hauling… I probably looked like someone having a nervous breakdown as I shuffled down the companionways toward the dock area, clicking <OK> over and over in spite of the “emergency outfitting request surcharge” warnings. Even at a slight loss I cleared enough on the corn that it didn’t matter. You can shuffle really quickly down a companionway if you use one elbow on the wall to navigate. Mostly.

Until you get to the crossway, and run headlong into a people’porter with a dozen dockworkers on it, going at high speed. The last thing I remember was seeing my com fly off on an arcing trajectory and then it felt like someone was slamming my head into the floor over and over again. Or was I in high school? I blacked out.

The coffee in my mug swirled slowly; behind me was the chattering of the emergency med serv’s printer. I stared at the cloud of creamer and wondered why they don’t just call it “whitener.”

The pretty station med behind the desk looked at me perkily and smiled, “Did you hear about the rescue?” Med ripped the imposing stack of paper off the printer and handed it over to me. It said something about “Services Rendered” and “Invoice.”

“No, what?” I mumbled. The tape on my chin and forehead protected where they’d derma-glued everything back together once the bleeding had stopped. I was avoiding the sight of reflective surfaces because I was pretty sure that what I’d see was indistinguishable from a dockside bum, only with more blood and a fancy com-unit with a broken screen. Oh. The screen. I started fumbling around with the interface on the outfitting system, trying to cancel Longshot‘s reconfig.

“Some guy was stranded, out of fuel. CMDR Anuranium from The Fuel Rats rescued him! It was amazing! Everyone is talking about it.” What a smile. I wish people smiled at me like that.

“Well, that’s awesome,” I finish my coffee, and stand up. Shuffle to the companionway. Maybe I’ll head back to the bar and if anyone asks me what happened to my face I’ll tell them CMDR Anuranium beat me.

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