Today’s post starts the next novel in the series I am making out of the disastrous novel I wrote and published in 2007. Being the part of the story undergoing the most rewriting, today’s post, as many of these posts will be, is a rough draft.
Canto 101 – Rimbaud Outstation
It was, by my reckoning, early morning when we came out of jump space at a deep-space location known only to pirates and corsairs. The spot in deep space contained no stars or planets. Only the huge, insanely-placed interstellar truck stop known as the Arthur Rimbaud Memorial Outstation and Weapons Storehouse.
Ham was in his usual pilot seat. Sinbadh sat next to him in the co-pilot chair. I was standing behind him with the cabin boy Sahleck next to me waiting for everybody’s breakfast orders. Sinbadh wasn’t cooking for a change, so we were forced to contemplate synthesized foods from the material synthesizer that were only marginally edible at best.
“Tell me, Professor Marou, why is this thing named as a memorial to Arthur Rimbaud? And who the heck was he?”
“If I remember correctly, Ham, he was a Nineteenth Century French poet and arms dealer who lived a debauched life, died young, and may have inspired the Surrealist movement in Art and Literature.”
We were looking out the front viewing portal at the outstation itself. It was a brightly lit, transparent diamond shape, the central sun-source, located in the apex of the top pyramid, illuminating all the space and spaceships around it. As we neared the equatorial docking bay, we noted that a badly damaged Blackhawk Corsair was being worked on there.
“Razor Conn, maybe?” Ham asked me, turning around to eyeball me.
“Shad Blackstone, more likely. It has been through something terrible, though,” I said in a vast understatement. “This is one of the safe points the Blackhawks and ships of the White Duke use when they are in trouble.”
“So, ye knew about this here place from yer White Duke connection, eh, Googol me boy?” said Sinbadh in his bad fake-pirate accent.
“Can you tell me what to punch in for breakfast?” asked Sahleck plaintively.
“Banana with peanut butter sandwich, my lad,” said Sinbadh. “In fact, one for each of us blokes here.”
The Lupin boy scampered toward the galley.
“We can’t eat that drehk. Why did you order that?” asked Ham.
“Yes, I thought Lupins didn’t like peanut butter on anything, because it sticks to the roof of your canine mouth,” I added.
“Ah, but it be the favored food of Elvis. And besides, the synthesizer makes everything else on the menu taste like cattle poo.”
The Leaping Shadowcat cruised slowly into the docking bay and made a soft landing on the tarmac.
“Why does the sign over the door say Pray for him?” Ham asked.
“That’s what it says on Arthur Rimbaud’s tombstone. I assume Banzai Joe wants you to know he is French and that he can provide wine, women, song, and bullets here, just like a dissolute poet.”
Three peanut butter and banana sandwiches later, we disembarked from the Shadowcat, the three of us plus Duke Ferrari.
When we got down from the exit ramp we were met on the tarmac by Banzai Joe himself along with three serving girls who wore only ribbons in their hair and a serving tray with drinks and aperitifs on their hands.
“Wha… why are these ladies naked?” asked Ham, blushing fiercely.
“Messieur, s’il vous plait, we are French, no? And French spacemen are Classical Worlders, yes? Appropriate raiment, c’est nue!” Banzai Joe was a young-looking handsome guy with an oily manner. He was fully dressed with a leather bomber’s jacket on with a rising-sun decoration on the front.
“We are not taking our clothes off for the sake of your silly religion, sir,” said Duke Ferrari with a rather stuffy air.
“Oui. That is fair. We have this station far away from the Classical Worlds. Our staff are all nude. But most of our guests, unless drunk or gambling and losing, they are not.”
“We are on our way to Coventry, my good man,” I said, trying to give the others room to compose themselves.
“Ah, Oui. That will mean you are needing food and drink, and probably fuel. A good jump six, or two easy threes, I am thinking.”
“Yes, that will do quite nicely. And we are friends of the White Duke,” I said.
“Yes, Professor Marou. I know you. It all comes free for the friends of the White Duke.”
“Good man!” I patted Banzai on the shoulder in thanks.
“Umm… I don’t know how to say this, but you all are needed in a special accommodation this fine day. There is a game afoot.”
“Oh? Whatever do you mean by that?”
“Friends of the White Duke, you see. You will attend, yes?”
Ham looked at me with a questioning look on his handsome young face. But it was obvious he knew things could not be talked about openly in a place that was not a special accommodation.
“We will find out later, I suppose?” I said to Banzai.
“Oui. We will all find out later.”
The girls passed out drinks.
“There’s a very good French restaurant on this outstation,” I said to Ham and the Duke. Sinbadh’s Lupin ears perked up right away at that.
“Yeah,” said Ham. “Let’s go get the taste of bananas and peanut butter out of our mouths.”
“A fine idea, bucko,” said Sinbadh. “A very fine idea indeed!”
I had to admit, the food sounded good, and the nude girls were beginning to look very interesting as I sipped my wine.