Canto 105 – Don’t Nobody Bring Me More Bad News
The Outstation is a unique form of living arrangement. It is a sealed, self-contained environment in the middle of an empty parsec. Nothing around for many light years, no stars, no planets, no people, no nothing, and, hopefully, no black holes either. It has to be totally self-sufficient and self-sustaining.
The Rimbaud Memorial Outstation was in the middle of a whole lot of nothing, and so, it was critical that it was there to provide a little something for space travelers tired of parsec after parsec of nothing.
The crew of the Leaping Shadowcat appreciated it because it was a large gap full of nothing between the system of Farwind and the system of the planet Coventry. But they weren’t the only ones who needed something to be there in the middle of the nothing.
Shad Blackstone in his black cape and black gangster hat wearily took a seat at the table we were all sharing in Banzai Joe’s French restaurant.
“You look like you’ve been through hell, Mr. Blackstone,” Duke Ferrari said.
“You don’t know the half of it. Tang descended on Dancer with his whole Imperial fleet and two pirate bands besides.”
“Did they take the planet?” Ham asked, horrified.
“No. Their target wasn’t the planet.” The oriental man massaged his forehead with a black-gloved hand.
“What did they get?”
“The target was our defense forces. They obliterated the Blackhawk Corsairs as a fighting force.”
“Is Razor dead?” Ham asked.
“No, but he and I are the only two ship captains that still survive with intact ships. The rest are space debris. And they got the White Duke.”
“Wait a minute!” I said, breaking into the conversation. “You know the White Duke at Dancer was just a clone, don’t you?”
“Professor Marou, you didn’t know this, but he was the last clone. The real Duke died some time ago.”
I was stunned.
“Can we rescue Duke Keyser?” Ham asked naively.
“Gravely says he sacrificed himself to buy time for the rebellion. Tang won’t move on Tron and the New Star League until his mind-sucked every bit of secret information he can get out of the old clone.”
“Do we need to go warn Outpost?”
“No. That’s where Razor went. You need to complete your mission to Coventry. That’s a high population world with a manufacturing system that can turn the tide if it is on our side.”
Captain Trav Dalgoda, his ultra-nervous first officer, Dana Cole, and the Outstation’s leader, Banzai Joe came into the restaurant arguing.
“I am just saying…” said Trav too loudly for indoors, “That if I knew there were Space Nudists here, I’d have ordered my whole danged crew to get naked before I gave them shore leave!”
“It is not necessary, Messieur Goofy. Classical Worlders do understand that some people in some places must wear something. But since Rimbaud’s is completely enclosed and temperature controlled, it is only natural for people with the Divine gift of perfect human form to wear nothing in places where nothing is perfectly fine.” Banzai’s reasoning seemed sound to everyone but Goofy Dalgoda.
“You say perfect? I saw what the Space Nudists look like. Even the prettiest girls sag in some places and have spots and blemishes in some other places. Even I, a perfect male specimen, only have one eye when I’m naked.”
“Captain, you actually have two eyes. You just wear an eyepatch for no reason.” Dana looked forlorn as she reminded him yet again.
“Well, now, you see? If I were to go completely naked, I wouldn’t be perfect because I wouldn’t have the eyepatch over the eye that I am not supposed to have because I am a pirate.”
“Messieur Goofy, why should people raised as nudists need to go clothed in a completely controlled space like this. It is not in the nature of people who normally practice the social nudism. And the right is established for them because this Outstation was established by businessmen from Samothrace and New Paris. In fact… by me and my partner.”
“Don’t call me Messy-ur Goofy. Call me Captain Goofy. And why are we arguing about this? I am fully in favor of Space Nudists. The ones who are good-looking anyway.”
“You are… in favor? I thought you were arguing against it, Captain Goofy.”
“Ah, no. First Officer Cole, take off all your clothes right now so I can win this argument we are not having.”
“Just do it, Cole. You kept wanted to get naked in the shower with me whenever I was playing with my Ancient Doomsday Bomb!”
Dana Cole reluctantly got naked while those of us waiting for our French cuisine watched, some of us amused, and some of us greatly embarrassed.
“So, Goofy, won’t you join us. We’ll order some chat vomit sur du pain grillé beurre,” said Ham with a big grin on his face.
“Oh, sounds good,” said Trav, sitting down and indicating that his naked first officer should sit next to him.
“Okay…” said Banzai Joe. “On toast… right away… as soon as we can find a cat.” He scurried off to the kitchen to avoid laughing in front of everyone.
“Only the best for your friend, eh, Ham?” I asked.
He just smiled. He was strikingly handsome whenever he smiled.
“So, you will go on to Coventry now that your man Dalgoda is here?” said Shad Blackstone.
“Yes, as soon as our mission is refueled and resupplied,” said Ham.
“And we apparently need to hurry to get back to Tron and Outpost in time,” said Duke Ferrari.
“But we may get slowed down by terrorists,” said Goofy.
“Terrorist? There are no terrorists here,” said Shad Blackstone.
“No? They let me land here. And I have an Ancient Doomsday device on board my spaceship.”
“You refer to the Tesserah?” asked Shad.
“Of course. I said it was on the space ship, didn’t I? The other doomsday device is sitting here next to me with no clothes on.”
Dana Cole turned crimson with embarrassment… pretty much all over her bare body.
At that moment we spied the first of them. A chef chased out of the kitchen a three-legged Space Goon.
“He is a little terrorist, that one. I was trying to make some chat vomit sur du pain grillé beurre which is hard enough when you have to get the chat to cooperate. That little three-legged terrorist just ate the chat. Swallowed the thing whole, it did.”
“And what’s worse, if there is one Space Goon, there will be more on the way. Especially if there are cats to eat,” said Duke Ferrari morosely.