Sunday, February 12, 2006

Brox Beeble

The ship swooped through the void like a sparrow hawk, its sleek metallic form shifting in the non-existent breeze that carried it towards its powerless prey. Mere seconds from impact, the creature reared back, wings billowing, retros glowing, pulling it to a sudden and graceful halt over the lifeless Temper Mettle. The cockpit tilted down to settle a predatory gaze on the small craft while the stabilizing tail twitched behind it—even the landing claws extended like talons. Its form was outlined by blacklights, and the steely skin was painted with stylized feathers.

Above Roker’s console, the holographic image of a muscle-bound black man with wild dreads sprang to life. He seemed to be wearing nothing more than tribal paint and a loose green vest, though the image didn’t extend below his waist. A pair of luscious red-heads flanked him, giggling softly to each other.

The two captains stared at each other for a full second before the one on the screen cracked a smile like a blue giant while Roker simultaneously slumped so low in his chair that he nearly slipped beneath the console.

“Holy shit! Roker, ma man!” the man bellowed, roaring with laughter. “What the hell are you doin’ driftin’ out here?”

Crimson glanced incredulously between the screen and the man slumped in the recliner.

“Hiya, Brox,” Roker replied sheepishly. “Just, ah, running some cargo.”

“Runnin’ cargo? Bull-shit. The only respectable reason you got to be sittin’ out here with the lights out is if you got company. I’m not… interruptin’ nothin’, am I?”

Brox shot a meaningful glance towards the hidden half of Roker’s body. Crimson looked like she was about to have a core dump.

“No, no,” Roker said quickly, clearing his throat and sitting up. “I mean, uh, she’s in the shower…”

Laughter boomed through the cabin.

“I’m just messin’ with ya, man. You never could lie worth hell. Besides, you’re bleedin’ ions all over the place. Got a leak?”

“Not that I know of.” Roker fidgeted awkwardly. “I don’t suppose you’d like to buy some cabbage?”

“Cabbage? Are you sick? What the hell would I want cabbage for?”

“Prime season at Roma Stati—”

“Roker, I know you’re cool. I know you’d never be caught dead driftin’ lifeless because you couldn’t pay your power bills.”

“I’m cool. It’s cool. My bills are cool.” Roker grimaced unpleasantly, spoiling his attempt at looking like everything was cool. “I just have some… other… business… stuff.”

Brox laughed devilishly.

“Well, well, well. I got Mr. Jonathan Roker, the Jonathan Roker, by the curly hairs.” Brox looked so pleased with himself that he even shooed the red-heads away. “How much are you in the hole?”

Roker’s eyes flicked to Crimson, who was silently mouthing a total.

“Fifty,” he mumbled.

“Just fifty?”

Crimson scowled and mouthed a few more words, none of them numbers or particularly polite.

“Er, three-hundred and fifty. Give or take.”

“Give or take how much?”

“A hundred. Or so.”

Brox was getting more delighted by the second.

“You could push yourself to Roma Station,” he offered gleefully.

“Ok, ok. Five-hundred fifty-five. And twenty-three cents.”

“And how much cabbage you got?”

Roker tapped a few virtual keys on the console. Some specs flew across the screen.

“I sampled one crate myself," he said. "Top quality.”

“We ran the ship for a week off his emissions,” Crimson cut in with a smirk.

“Don’t bother with the sales job, man,” Brox said, putting his hands behind his head and smiling. “I can pick whatever price I want. Eight thousand.”

Crimson blinked.

“But it’s only worth—”

“Brox. We’re buddies. You know I don’t make a lot off this stuff. Gotta be at least twelve or you might as well leave me here to die.”

“Nine’ll buy you enough supplies to make a passenger run from Roma and get back on your feet. And you’re only getting that ‘cause I owe you one.”

Crimson’s brow furrowed.

“But it’s only worth—”

“If you gave me eleven then I’d owe you one.”

“If I gave you ten then you’d owe me one.”

Roker nodded. “Deal.”

Brox grinned. “Deal.”

“BUT IT’S ONLY WORTH FOUR THOUSAND!”

Crimson huffed, her face turning the colour of her hair.

“Who’s side are you on?” Roker protested. He turned back to the screen. “Link up. I’ll meet you in the cargo bay.”

“Suckaaa,” Brox guffawed as his hologram disintegrated.

Roker vanished into the back, leaving Crimson standing over the console, bewildered.

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