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Fish Story

Fish Story, Part 2

Posted on Apr 12, 2010

[Part 1] I squeezed into the cramped cockpit and wedged myself between the back of Ayren’s seat at the navigation console and a locker labeled WEAPONS. (I’d checked it already — it was locked, of course.) Ayren leaned back against the headrest and looked up at me. “You’re all right?” she whispered, and I nodded as another laser blast rocked the little craft. “I was afraid you were getting tossed around back there.” “I was.” We were getting shaken up like beans in a tin can, and I had banged every extremity against metal bulkheads in my little sortie from the cockpit. “They’re just shooting across my bow.” The pilot, in front of us, stretched forward to peer out the cockpit window, speaking not to us but simply thinking aloud. “Close enough to knock us around. Man, that is some precision shooting. Why aren’t we dead?” The fat chef, overflowing the copilot’s seat next to her, gripped the armrests with white-knuckled fingers. “Can’t this thing go any faster?” “This is it, pal.” The pilot scowled at the chef. “Maybe your employer doesn’t have the inside track you think he does. How could he get that transporter information and not know my ship’d be no match for those cruisers?” Another scarlet laser blast seared past the window, jolting the ship in its wake. “Did you find a replicator?” Ayren whispered. “Yes.” I crouched down till I was face to face with her. “It’s gumblejack, all right. But you won’t believe this–” “Oh, here we go. They’re moving in for the kill,” the pilot announced, slumping back in her seat and turning to the chef. “I can’t exactly say it’s been nice knowin’ ya, Von Muon.” The chef whimpered. Out the window, we could see several of the immense cruisers passing us to surround us, matching our speed and holding a steady distance of perhaps a kilometer. Ayren’s eyes were wide as she stared at me. “If they were going to kill us, they’d have done it already, wouldn’t they?” “I don’t know, sweet,” I whispered. “I hope so.” I kissed her mouth quickly. “I love you.” She smiled nervously out of the corner of her mouth. “I don’t want to die,” she said, a mere murmur. A tingly wave of electricity passed through us, and my hearts stumbled over a couple of beats. Me either, I thought, and clutched Ayren’s hand. But we were still alive moments later when every console in the cockpit spit out a shower of white sparks and systems whined as they shut down. Lights overhead and on the consoles flickered out, and the air-recirculating fan above Ayren’s head sputtered to a stop. “Some kind of electromagnetic pulse,” the pilot said. “We’re dead in the water.” Something was approaching from one of the cruisers: just a moving dot of light at first, heading directly for the cockpit window, and as one, it seemed, we all four leaned back as if we could escape it and then...

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Fish Story, Part 1

Posted on Apr 12, 2010

This story was written in the early 1990s, and was intended to appear in a zine I was to publish called ‘A Single Soul,’ which would collect all of my Ayren stories. It was never published, and this story appears for public consumption here for the first time.    “The last time I fished this particular stretch, I landed four magnificent gumblejack in less than 10 minutes… The finest fish in this galaxy, probably the universe. Cleaned, skinned, quickly pan fried in their own juices till they’re golden brown… ambrosia steeped in nectar. The flavour is unforgettable” –the sixth Doctor in “The Two Doctors” “What’s the matter, Doctor?” “I’m hungry.” I was whining, and Ayren was getting irritated with me. I was standing at the refrigerator door in the TARDIS galley, bent at the waist, staring in at the overladen glass shelves. Zaurakian treefruits, cheeses from Habar and Mira, leftover Algenib mountain-steer steaks, sliced boarham from Bellatrix, the fresh grainbread we’d picked up the day before on Cebalrai… None of it called to me. I closed the door and stretched, sighing. “You’ve been like this for days,” Ayren said. I thought the bowl of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia she was eating whispered my name… but no. “Snap out of it. Have a sandwich or something.” I slumped down at the table next to her and propped my chin in my hands. “No, no, no. That’s not what I want. I want… Oh, I don’t know,” I groaned. My head lolled down to my folded arms on the table. What was this inconsolable longing? Was my body crying out for some vital nutrient I wasn’t getting? Were my taste buds bored? Was there something absolutely exquisite I hadn’t eaten in decades? … Gumblejack. “Gumblejack,” salivating at the mere thought. “By Rassilon, that’s it.” “What’s gumblejack?” Ayren asked. I lashed out and grabbed her wrist so tightly she jumped. “Sweet, it is the most incredible thing that will ever pass your lips.” Oh, how to describe it? “Remember Deneb? Remember how awful the food there was, how dull and bland and tasteless it was? How wonderful it was to get back here and have real food?” She nodded. “I remember Deneb.” “That’s how everything, everything” — I squeezed her wrist — “will taste after you’ve eaten gumblejack.” She cast a doubting look at her ice-cream bowl — she’d scraped it clean. I lifted her wrist and kissed her pulse, gazing into her eyes. “Gumblejack is better than sex,” I promised with a grin. With a laugh she said, “Well then, you’d better not have any without me,” and glanced sidelong at the refrigerator. “I don’t think any gumblejack will have materialised there. You’ll have to use the replicator.” She knew I disliked the replicator and the metallic tang of everything it dispensed. But it wouldn’t give me gumblejack anyway. “That won’t work, I’m afraid. There’s only one place in the galaxy you can get gumblejack…” *** Muon Von Muon squeezed...

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