~by Jon Stonger
From the Logs of Captain Dave:
"You have got to be pulling me through a black hole!" said Doc. "This can’t happen. I know the universe is a cruel, perverse and unjust place, but this is too much."
"What is it?" asked Decker.
"I can’t tell you. It’s too painful. Just go to your favorite galactic website."
"You mean Engineering Tricks for the Underappreciated?"
"No,” said Doc. “Your other favorite website. Everyone’s favorite website."
"I don’t know what you mean."
Doc rolled his eyes and forwarded Decker the link.
"Oh, you have got to be pulling me through a black hole!" said Decker. "This can’t happen. I know the universe is a cruel, perverse and unjust place, but this is too much."
"That’s what I said," said Doc.
"And now I know why."
As Captain, I felt that this dialogue had gone on much too long without me.
"What’s going on?” I asked. “Why is everyone cursing the universe?"
"Come look at this," said Decker.
I walked over to the engineering station and looked over his shoulder.
The site of the Lady Amapororo is permanently closed. I, Prince Doofnor of the planet Atavismia, will marry Lady Amapororo at a very big expensive ceremony in the capital city of Anachronos. Since I will be her Lord and Husband (and eventually King- that really gets the ladies going) I do not want any of you louts looking at any more of these pictures, videos, holograms . . . you get the idea. And no more private appointments! And delete all of material you have saved. And no looking at it!
Prince Doofnor of Atavismia
"So?" I said. "A princess is marrying a prince. One day he will be king and they will live happily ever after."
"She’s not exactly a princess," said Doc.
"Sure she is,” I said. “Look. She’s marrying a prince. Anyone who marries a prince must be a princess. It’s a rule."
"I don’t think you understand," said Decker.
"I don’t think you understand," I said captainingly. "I’m pretty sure it’s a rule, and I think it’s even in the Company Regulations and Aphorisms Manual. I’ll go check."
"You could ask Egbert to bring it," said Doc.
"Who?" I asked. I thought I had memorized all of the crew already.
“Hey, Egbert!” called Doc.
"I’m coming," said the voice of the ship’s only sentient luggage from the back of the ship.
"I’ve heard Ama called a lot of things, but I don’t think ‘princess’ was one of them," said Doc.
"I’ve heard her called an ‘entertainer,’" said Decker.
"Yep," said Doc.
"I’ve heard her called a ‘harlot,’" said Decker.
"I’ve heard her called a –"
"Don’t defame the name of a princess!" I said, as Egbert levitated into the bridge with my Extra Shiny Hardcover Edition of the CRAM.
"You do know you can just search the CRAM from your computer?" asked Egbert.
"Really? I think this feels much more authority-ish," I said.
"Authoritative,” said my luggage.
I began thumbing lovingly through the pages of the CRAM while Doc and Decker continued their research on the galactic web.
"Hm. This is interesting," said Doc.
"I’m not so sure Ama agreed to marry Prince Doofnor. I think she may have been kidnapped!" said Doc.
"What makes you say that?" asked Decker.
"There’s a note at the bottom of the website saying: Help. I don’t want to marry Prince Dork-nor. I’ve been kidnapped. There will be a reward (not monetary)."
"Aha!" I exclaimed in triumph.
"Yes Dave?" asked Decker.
"First, it’s Captain Dave.”
"What was the second part?" asked Decker
"You said, ‘aha.’"
"Oh. Right,” I said. “I’ve found the rule stating that whoever marries a prince is a princess."
"Ok," said Decker.
"It’s Company Aphorism A-12, 34722-b, subsection –"
"We believe you," said Doc.
"So," said Egbert, sliding a bench over to Doc’s station to help him levitate higher, "one of your favorite sites got cancelled? That’s happened to me before. Bummer."
"It’s not just my favorite site,” said Doc. “It’s everyone’s favorite site."
"What’s so great about it?" asked Egbert.
"I have some files saved. I’ll show you."
Doc started going through several holograms.
"You can go faster, you know. I have very good visual processors."
Doc sped it up until everything was zipping by in a blur.
"It’s just as well in case Dave glances over and realizes she clearly isn’t a princess and cancels the rescue and ruins the whole episode," Doc whispered to Egbert.
The slide show finished. Egbert tried to shrug, but he had no shoulders.
"She seems fairly soft and curvy,” said Egbert. “And not much in the way of zippers. Hold on. I’ll forward you some of the really good stuff. If anyone asks where you got it, you don’t know me."
Egbert levitated off the bench and towards the back of the ship. Within seconds a file had appeared on Doc’s monitor. Wondering what could be good enough to make a being shrug off the charms of Amapororo, Doc opened it.
The first picture was of a voluptuous purse with one of its shoulder straps undone and some flimsy lace emerging from the partially opened zipper.
There was a suitcase with its main compartment opened slightly. The lid was lifted just a few inches, with the inside still dark.
There was an overnight case open in front of a mirror so you could see the bottom of the inside of the case.
"Pretty good stuff, huh," he whispered conspiratorially.
"Wait,” said Doc. “Let me send it to Decker."
"Hey, why are there pictures of luggage appearing on my monitor?"
Doc went to close the window, but Egbert made him watch a video of a valise being unpacked by a rucksack, and a hologram of a trunk slowly unzipping all of its compartments.
"See? You don’t need that other galactic website,” said Egbert. “You can use this one instead."
"Yeah. Thanks," said Doc.
"No problem," said Egbert as he levitated towards the back of the ship.
"Noble crew," I began captainingly as I addressed my loyal crewmen over the loudspeaker.
"We’re right here," said Decker.
"We’re not really noble," said Doc.
"There’s only two of us."
"Three if you count Egbert."
Doc and Decker had valid points. I turned the volume down a couple of notches.
"Noble crew, a great crisis is before us,” I said. “There are not many systems that still hold the values of royalty and entitlement, yet these were values that were in place at the beginning of the CRAM, and values that shaped the founding of the Bloated Alliance of Rich Planets. These values state that if a girl is born to a king, then she is a princess, and if she gets in trouble, then she must be rescued."
"Are these the same values that led to the exploitation and oppression of half the galaxy?" asked Decker.
"You think it’s only half?" asked Doc.
"I was just guessing. Let’s look it up."
"Ok,” said Doc. “Are we counting places that are oppressed now, or in the last hundred years, or ever."
"Well, if we run ‘ever’ it will come back as just about everybody, so let’s do the first two," said Decker.
"Ok. We can set up the computer to run both simulations through the database of known worlds –"
"Ahem," I said loudly into the microphone to get my crew’s attention. They are a zealous lot, and I knew my speech had inspired them, but we needed to stay focused on Princess Ama.
"We need to do several things before we prepare for the rescue of the princess," I said.
Doc and Decker continued working intently on their computer monitors. I’m sure they were listening. After all, I had a loudspeaker, and all of the connotations of wisdom that came with it.
"First, we need to find out where the princess is being taken for the wedding. Secondly, we need to find out what foul fiend has taken her, and third, we need to find out where this abomination of a wedding is being held so we can plan our assault."
"Ok,” said Decker. “Ama is being taken by Prince Doofnor to the capitol city of Anachronos on the planet Atavismia to be married in about the time it will take us to get there. Now what?"
"Excellent job Decker,” I said. “How did you find that out so quickly?"
"It’s printed on the website," he said.
"Oh. Then we need to consult the star charts and plot the fastest course to Atavorosonia," I said.
"Atavismia," said Decker.
"Yep. We already did that too."
"You both seem really excited to rescue the princess,” I observed. “I hope you are doing this out of your own sense of helping the entitled and not just for the reward."
"Don’t worry. There’s no money in the reward anyway. What reward could we possibly be interested in if it didn’t include money?" asked Doc.
"Yeah. There’s no money, so we must be doing it out of our sense of duty to the entitled," added Decker.
"Very well then,” I said. “We only have a few days until the wedding, and we need to work on our rescue plan."
We arrived at the capital city and parked the Delineator in lot 00, which was easy to remember, because it was one of only 2 green ones.
Doc, Decker, Egbert and of course, me, Captain Dave, were prepared with a brilliant plan which we will not reveal in advance in case Prince Doofnor is reading, or in case you know him.
We will also not mention the plan in case it doesn’t work. Then whatever we end up doing will be claimed as the plan, said Doc to the reader.
Hey! How did you get into my narration?
Cut it out. You’re messing with perspective.
"Ok," said Doc.
Anyway, we looked very stylish approaching the Conventions And Verbosity Emporium.
"Hey, wasn’t there a CAVE like this somewhere else?" asked Decker.
"Yeah, but it was shaped like a smiley face," said Doc.
"Right. That’s why I’m getting that uncomfortable feeling," said Decker.
"Decker, did you get the invitations forged?" I asked.
"Then how are we supposed to get into the wedding?"
Right on cue, a voice rang out across the parking lot.
"Invitations! Anybody have extra invitations! Buy an invitation from Lufa! Anybody need invitations?"
The voice belonged to a tall slender being with a deep voice and several eyes.
"We need invitations! It’s an emergency," I said. Once the salesman Lufa realized our plight, he would be sure to offer us a better deal. We might even get the invitations for free in the name of princess rescue.
"An emergency?” asked Lufa. “Hm. Well, I would normally offer these to you at 500 credits a piece, but since it’s an emergency, I’ll go as low as 450."
"Deal. I’ll take –"
"Captain, wait." Doc pulled me aside briefly. "We don’t want this man to know we’re together. He might tell Prince Doofnor, or worse yet, someone competent accidentally in his employ."
"Just give us the 450,” said Doc, “and we’ll buy our own tickets, I mean, invitations."
"Good thinking," I said.
"I was inspired by your bargaining."
"All right,” I said. “We’ll split up here. Switch from comfortable, open air banter to terse, radio banter. I’ll see you at the rendezvous."
I monitored the bargaining conversation through my PCW, which I did not know you could do until the window popped open just now.
"450? Are you nuts? We don’t even want to go to this stupid thing,” said Doc. “I’ll give you 50 credits for the pair."
"50 credits? Don’t insult me,” said Lufa. “This is the biggest wedding of the light year. Everyone wants to see the famed Amapororo one last time. 400 credits a piece."
"I’ve got enough pictures of her on my drives to last me the next 50 years. And light year isn’t even a unit of time. I’ll give you 100 for the pair."
"100? I have 7 little larvae at home. How am I supposed to feed my family? 300 credits each."
"I’ll be honest with you. The main reason I’m even going to this thing is to spike the punch with some of this stuff," said Doc, surreptitiously showing the man something in his pocket.
"Ok. That makes me laugh,” said Lufa. “I tell you what. We’ll go 200 a piece. 400 total, and I’ll throw in a sticker to get the luggage past security."
"It’s a present for the princess."
"Still needs a sticker."
“Decker, are you sure I don’t need an invitation?” asked Egbert.
“The sticker will be fine,” said Decker. “You’re pretending to be a gift, remember?”
"I’ll give you 150 for the pair, and throw in a little sample of the good stuff here," said Doc.
"You are a skilled bargainer,” said Lufa. “200 for the pair, and enough of that to get me through the day."
"Throw in the luggage sticker and you have a deal."
Doc, Decker and Lufa shook hands/grippers. He offered them both a cup of tea, which Doc then flavored with a powder he was carrying. I assumed it was an artificial sweetener, because if he used the powder for spiking the punch, then all three of them might be affected, and that could endanger the mission.
I arrived at the entrance.
"I’ve arrived at the entrance,” I whispered into the PCW. “I’ll call you when I enter the ventilation system."
"Ok," said Decker. I heard laughter in the background.
"Are you still drinking tea with the being who sold us the invitations?"
"We just finished," said Doc.
"Hurry to your posts."
"We were just discussing what an impressive bargainer you are, Captain Dave," said Doc. "Decker and I had to pay 200 credits. We have no idea how you talked him down to 45 so quickly."
"45? But I paid . . .yes, 45. I’ll contact you later."
I stood in line for quite a while at the entrance to the CAVE. The receptionist greeted me with a familiar looking smile.
"Do I know you from somewhere?" I asked.
The girl looked puzzled, and then her eyes widened in what could only be surprise. Her smile never moved.
"Weren’t you at the CRAM conference?" I asked.
The girl tried to scream, but it came out as a sharp squeak through her surgical smile. She turned and scampered away. I stamped my own invitation and walked in.
Decker had said something about loading the blueprints for the CAVE onto my PCW, but I didn’t really know how that would work so I wrote the directions down on a napkin.
I spent about an hour looking for the entrance to the ventilation system. After a while all the fluids I drank to hydrate myself before the mission caught up with me so I started looking for a bathroom.
Once I started looking for a bathroom, I found the entrance to the ventilation system immediately.
"Doc, Decker, come in," I said.
"Yeah," said a voice that sounded like Doc.
"You’re supposed to say you read me loud and clear."
"Of course we read you,” said Decker. “It’s a digital signal."
"Hm? Anyway, I’ve entered the ventilation systems. Proceed with stage 2."
"And I have to use the restroom."
"Shouldn’t you have taken care of that before?" asked Doc in his capacity as ship’s physician.
"Probably. Dave out."
"I wonder if he knows we can still hear him," said Decker.
"I don’t know," said Doc.
"I heard that," I said.
"Exactly. You don’t really need to sign out,” said Decker. “We’re linked over a gamma encrypted local interference network."
"Obviously,” I said. “Nonetheless, I’m done talking now."
"Why don’t you check in with Egbert?" asked Doc.
"Your trunk. He’s the one we sent to rescue Ama. The rest of us are really just decoration."
"I thought I was rescuing the princess."
"Of course you are. I’ll check in on Egbert. Egbert, where are you?" asked Doc.
"I’ve infiltrated the princess’s gifts,” said Egbert. “Man, there is some really nice luggage back here."
"We don’t have time for that," said Doc.
"Wow. Someone gave her a Delta Centaurian handbag. A little small for my tastes. Ooh, is that a special edition Vilosh VII Valise? Those are really nice. I wonder if she’s sentient –"
"Egbert. The mission."
"Oh, all right. This princess better be worth it."
"I continued crawling down the ventilation ducts, hoping there might be a bathroom somewhere –"
"Dave?" asked Decker.
"You’re narrating out loud again."
I continued crawling down the ventilation ducts, hoping there might be a bathroom somewhere along one of the shafts. After all, it’s only courteous to provide restroom facilities to people sneaking around in your ventilation system. I will have to remember to put one in the Delineator.
"Decker," I said.
"You’re ship’s engineer, right?"
"Something like that."
"Remind me to order you to put a restroom in the ventilation ducts in the Delineator when we get back," I said.
"Sure thing," said Decker.
"I came to an intersection of two broad ducts –"
"Still narrating out loud."
I came to an intersection of two broad ducts. I tried to consult the map I had written on the napkin, but I had apparently blown my nose in it at some point and the map was hopelessly obscured. Fortunately, I was a captain, and I could rely on my sense of direction to find the princess.
Also, there wasn’t a lot of room, and turning would be a really tight fit.
So, I went straight.
"I’m approaching the door to the princess’s chambers. I’ll put it on speaker," announced Egbert.
"Okay," I said. "I’m still making my way through the ventilation ducts."
"We know," said Doc.
"Hm. There are two guards at the princess’s door," said Egbert.
"Use your luggage pass," said Decker.
"Ok," whispered Egbert. "If that doesn’t work, I’ll just knock them unconscious and pick the lock."
Laughter filled the airspace.
"You better hope that pass works then," said Doc between laughs.
"Maybe you can use your trunk fu," added Decker.
"You guys don’t think I can take them? All right. We’ll just see who’s laughing in a few minutes."
"Hey, what’s that thing doing here?" asked one of the guards as Egbert levitated as menacingly as luggage can towards the door to the princess’s chambers.
"I thought all the presents were supposed to stay in the storeroom," said the other guard.
"Yeah. Wait, it looks like he’s got a luggage pass. I think we can let him –"
There was a Bzzt! followed by an Aaaghgh! and then a Thud.
"What in the Name of the Cosmic Joke? Ow! Wait! What is that thing?"
"Egbert?" I asked both tentatively and captainingly. There was no response, but we did hear a low whirring, followed by some beeping and buzzing, then the sound of a door sliding open.
"I told you guys. No more freebies until after the wedding. Wait. Who are you?" asked a feminine voice that probably belonged to Princess Amapororo. It sounded a little more smoky and sultry than the usual princess voice, but I suppose there is some variance even in royal vocal chords.
"I am here to rescue you on behalf of the Delineator," said Egbert.
"And Captain Dave! You have to mention me!" I reminded him gently.
"Don’t forget us. We don’t want to be left out of the reward," said Decker.
Egbert ignored us.
"A rescue, hm?” said the princess. “This one probably won’t work either. At least you didn’t try to climb through the ventilation ducts like those other idiots."
"Of course not," said Egbert. "Who would do such a thing? I have a much better plan."
"I suppose you want me to climb into you and we can sneak back out the way you came?"
"That’s the idea,” said Egbert. “I have very powerful levitation and propulsion, so the ride should be very smooth."
"Well, why not,” said Ama. “Galaxy knows I’ve climbed through worse."
"If you need to pack some things, there’s a Vilosh VII Valise in the storeroom that I can program to come back and pack for you and then meet us on the ship."
"I will lower myself to the floor, you climb in,” said Egbert. “Okay, watch the, ouch, careful, my name’s Egbert by the way."
"Mm, Egbert, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Amapororo. You can call me Ama. I think you have very nice zippers."
"Really? Well thank you,” said Egbert. “Just lie back and I’ll close the lid. There’s a light inside, and some nice compartments."
"Yes, some of them, and ooh, I, ahh, I see you’ve found one of them. Very nice. Ok. We’re leaving now."
There was a faint whirring sound as Egbert started to levitate, followed by a thud.
"Is there a problem?" asked the princess.
"Hm? No, of course not. I’ll just transfer the auxiliary power . . ."
The whirring sound was louder now, but there was no thud, so Egbert must have gotten on his way.
There was silence for a few seconds, then a bump.
"Damn door,” said Egbert. “I’ll just back up a little and, uh, you might need to stop with the zippers for a minute. I need to get through this door. Okay. We’re through. Captain Dave, are you listening?"
"Yes. What is your status?" I asked.
"I’m leaving the bridal chambers with the princess inside," said Egbert.
"Excellent. I’m still progressing through the ventilation system —" there was muffled laughter from inside the trunk, "and I should be joining you soon. In fact, I see an opening up ahead."
"Are we still on?" whispered Doc.
"Yep. 50 credits he gets lost, 50 credits there are three or more rescuers," said Decker.
"I don’t know how you think he won’t get lost," said Doc.
"How can he? I loaded a detailed map into his PCW,” said Decker. “And Ama may be popular, but I can’t imagine that many other people trying to rescue her."
"I’m exiting the ventilation system now,” I reported. “This should be the princess’s chambers but it looks more like a kitchen. There are . . . Hey, what are you guys doing here?"
"We’re here to rescue Amapororo,” said a strange man with a large green horn. “What are you doing here?"
"I am here to rescue the princess," I said.
"Princess?" asked another rescuer.
"Yes. Princess Amapororo. She’s marrying a Prince, after all, so she must be a princess."
"Hm. I suppose that makes sense," said a third being.
"What about him?" I asked, pointing to a sandy haired teenager in a tan tunic pouting in the corner.
"He’s just mad because he’s trying to rescue the wrong princess,” said one of the rescuers. “He’s from some backwater desert planet, and he didn’t even bring a blaster."
"So are we trapped here?" I asked.
"No, not really,” said the being with the green horn. “Someone put some really great stuff in the punch, so we’ve just been hanging around getting loaded."
"There’s punch back here?” I asked. “I figured it would be in a bowl."
"A bowl? There’s thousands of people here. It’s piped through to fountains all over the complex. It took some doing for whoever spiked this to get back to the source, but we sure do appreciate it."
"Nice job guys," I whispered.
"No problem. By the way," asked Doc, "just how many people are there to rescue the princess?"
"Counting the angry kid from the sand planet?" I asked.
"No!” said Decker. “He’s rescuing the wrong princess, so he shouldn’t count."
"Ok. There are 1, 2, 5."
"Do you mean 3?" asked Decker.
"Right. There are 3 other rescuers."
"Cool," said Doc.
"Pull me through a black hole!" said Decker.
"Cash or transfer?" asked Doc.
I wasn’t sure what they were talking about, but they had done their job with the punch, so I couldn’t complain.
"I must be continuing my rescue, so I will see you guys later," I said to my fellow intrepid warriors. I turned to leave.
"That’s the pantry.”
"Right," I said.
"Of course,” I said. “I was merely testing you."
"Oh. Did we pass?"
"Uh, sure. Ok guys, I’m back in the hall," I said to Doc and Decker.
"Did you look at the map I loaded for you?" asked Decker.
"I accidentally blew my nose on it."
"Not the one on the napkin. The one on the PCW! You cost me 50 credits!"
"There’s a map on the PCW?"
"Egbert here. We’re just leaving the storeroom where all the princess’s gifts are stored. We needed to program a valise to go back and pack some of her things."
"You just wanted that valise on board for yourself," said Doc.
"Shut up,” said Egbert. “We’re in the middle of a rescue. You wouldn’t want the princess to be on board without clothes would you?"
"Ok. Bad example,” said Egbert. “I’ll never understand you humans. She has almost no storage space. Ooh, look out."
"What was that?" I asked.
"Nothing," said Egbert.
"It sounded like you hit something," I said.
"Just having a little trouble keeping the nose up. Hey! Stop playing with my zippers. We can do that on the ship. I’m trying to navigate here."
"Is something wrong?" I asked.
"Nope. All under control," said Egbert.
"Doc and Decker, what are you doing?"
"We’re drinking punch," said Doc.
"Not the spiked punch?"
"No," said Decker.
"Of course not," said Doc.
"What’s your estimated time to the rendezvous?" I asked.
"We’ve been here for at least 20 minutes," said Decker.
"Egbert? Are you ok? How’s the princess?"
"Everything’s fine,” said my luggage. “Just a little trouble on the turns. It’s ok, though. Val has caught up with us."
"Who?" I asked.
"The princess’s Vilosh VII valise with all of her things,” said Egbert. “She’s coming with us to the ship."
"Of course the princess is coming to the ship," I said. That was the point of the rescue.
"No, not her,” said Egbert. “The valise."
"Whatever. We’ve got room for an extra suitcase," I said.
"Don’t you insult her like that! They don’t make common suitcases on Vilosh VII."
"How far are you from the rendezvous point?" I asked.
"Dave, how far are you from the rendezvous point?" asked Decker.
"First, it’s Captain Dave, and second, I’m sure I’m not far from the rendezvous."
A voice boomed over the loudspeakers.
"Attention! Attention! This is Prince Doofnor! Something terrible has happened! Attention! Did I already say that? Anyway, the lovely Princess Amapororo, my bride and future queen once I become king of Atavismia which will happen pretty soon because my dad’s pretty old, has been kidnapped! Video surveillance of the princess’s quarters, which was apparently on a galactic website for 12 credits a month, has caught the princess being stuffed into an oversized suitcase and removed from the Conventions And Verbosity Emporium!"
There was a smattering of applause from the guests.
"I am not a suitcase! I am a sentient trunk! How dare he!" hissed Egbert.
"Mm, of course you are, and a big strong trunk too," said the muffled voice of Ama from inside Egbert.
"Everyone begin searching for this rogue luggage! There will be a reward for anyone who finds and smashes the kidnapper!"
The guests began searching halfheartedly for anything resembling luggage. A few purses were destroyed, but for the most part everyone had consumed too much punch to do more than stagger around and giggle.
"Dave! Egbert’s here, but we need to leave. Where are you?" asked Decker.
"Um, well . . ."
"Captain Dave, do you still have to use the restroom?" asked Doc.
"Boy, do I."
"Good,” said Doc. “Start looking for the bathroom instead of the rendezvous."
Within two minutes, I had found my crew at the meeting point. I still had to go though.
We dashed out of the CAVE and into the parking lot. I felt sorry for those poor bastards parked in Lot 29 Black or 8 Red, because those were much harder to remember than Lot Green 00.
We needed to hurry. One of the smiling receptionists had spotted us. Guards were meandering from their posts to join the pursuit.
"We need to hurry. The guards are after us. Prince Doofnor can’t be far behind," I said.
"We’re going as fast as we can,” said Decker. “Egbert is running low on power."
"Wait. Now that we’re outside, why doesn’t Ama get out and walk?" asked Doc.
"I’m comfortable in here, thanks," said a muffled feminine voice.
I was beginning to worry that we might have to leave Egbert and the princess behind, which would kind of defeat the purpose of the whole mission. Now would really be a great time to be rescued, but what previously introduced character could possibly help us?
Just then a horn sounded, and Lufa the ticket scalper levitated up in a long low cart, sort of like a golf cart but longer, more like those things they drive old people around on in spaceports.
"It looks like you could use a ride," said Lufa with a smile.
"Oh yes, thank you," I said.
"Where is your ship?" he asked.
"Excellent! A wonderful place to park,” said Lufa. “I will take you there for 1000 credits."
"That seems like kind of a lot. Would it help if I told you we were being pursued by Prince Doofnor and he is very angry with us?" I asked.
"Ok. 1500 credits."
"50 credits," said Doc. "And we want drinks during the trip."
"Excuse me, I believe I was talking with the Captain,” said Lufa. “Shouldn’t he be in charge of negotiations?"
"He realizes that negotiating with him puts you at such a disadvantage, that he is willing to let one of us try, just so you will get a better deal. Right, Captain Dave?" said Doc.
"Of course,” I said. “I will allow you to negotiate out of sympathy for this noble hustler."
"I think you might want to just pay me this time,” said Lufa. “The troops are approaching. I will take you to your ship for 700 credits."
"It’s only a twenty minute walk, and it’s a nice day,” said Doc. “We’re only taking a ride to help you. 100 credits."
"Doc," I whispered conspiratorially and captainingly, "the guards are getting closer."
"Yes. You heard him. Better hurry. 600 credits."
"But you wouldn’t want us to be captured,” said Doc. “After all, it might slip out that you offered to help us escape. 150 credits."
"But I could say I was delaying you by haggling and ensuring your capture. 400 credits," said Lufa.
"But how did we get into the CAVE in the first place? 200 credits."
"Good point. 200 credits it is. Climb on, the guards are closing fast."
We all jumped onto the back of the cart, except Egbert, who was struggling to levitate that high, and the valise, who seemed to be afraid to climb on. We all jumped back off the cart and pulled the luggage on board. Then we jumped back on again. Decker dropped his PCW, so he had to jump off one more time and then jump back on again, but the rest of us just stayed on board.
The guards were indeed closing with at least moderate speed. Another few minutes of haggling, and they might have had us. Instead, Lufa pushed the accelerator and we zipped off across the spaceship parking lot.
Egbert and the valise went inside the ship immediately. We had outdistanced the guards by enough that the rest of us stopped outside the ship for a few minutes. Prince Doofnor would surely follow us for a very exciting second part, but for now we were safe.
We even had time for a cup of tea.
Read Jon’s previous story ‘They Lost my Luggage?’ here.
Purchase Dames, Donuts and Death (The Adventures of the Delineator) on Kindle.