Better Off Dead
The Alliance Spaceship Rip, the latest in a series of brand new state of the art Alliance vessels had left dock at Draconis Space Station more than three weeks ago. Their mission to explore the most uninteresting sectors on the fringes of Alliance space was well underway but Bettoore still could not come to terms with the fact that he was serving beneath the most incompetent Captain in the entire fleet. His uncle Huglier Thanthou.
|He had worked hard and he knew that he was one of the best officers in the service. He deserved to sit in the Captain’s chair.|
When Commander Bettoore Thanyu had been called back to the space station Draconis to receive his next assignment, he had laughed off suggestions by his friends that he would be promoted to Captain and given his own ship, but secretly Bettoore had hoped that his friends were right. He had worked hard and he knew that he was one of the best officers in the service. He deserved to sit in the Captain’s chair. So whilst Bettoore had carefully maintained the façade of disinterest, he had truly hoped that his friends’ speculations were correct. Unfortunately for him, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
|Bettoore had sauntered into Admiral Snowman’s office and come to an abrupt stop when he came face to face with his uncle Huglier.|
Mustering up as much swagger as he was able, Bettoore had sauntered into Admiral Snowman’s office and come to an abrupt stop when he came face to face with his uncle Huglier. The supposedly recovering alcoholic and shame of his family, was unexplainably wearing an Alliance uniform of no less than Captain’s rank. Most of what had followed next was a blur but Bettoore had none the less understood that he wouldn’t be getting a promotion, at least not for some time. He was to serve under his uncle and to make him look good and who did he have to thank for this? His grandmothers. One the President of the Alliance, the other the Queen of Bim.
|Between Bettoore, the small crew and Rip, the ship’s AI the exploration of trivial phenomena on the edge of Alliance space had been going swimmingly|
Since taking command of the ASS Rip, Huglier had left it almost exclusively in Bettoore’s capable hands, preferring to spend most of his time alone in his cabin. This arrangement had suited his nephew just fine. The ship’s crew was purposely small and made up of extremely competent but unimportant individuals. Bettoore supposed that this was to insure that any mess that Huglier made during his time as Captain could be hushed up quickly with as little fuss as possible. With the exception of himself, if the crew happened to be killed or disappeared during their mission, no one of any consequence would be asking questions.
Much to his chagrin, Huglier had explained that he had been fast tracked through the Alliance Academy and promoted directly to Captain to facilitate his arranged marriage to Lushus, a giantess and Queen of the planet Og. Apparently Lushus had been harbouring a crush on Huglier since her teenage years when as a friend of Bettoore’s younger sister Roxy she had spent many summers at the royal palace on their homeworld Bim.
|Huglier had explained that he had been fast tracked through the Alliance Academy and promoted directly to Captain to facilitate his arranged marriage to Lushus, a giantess and Queen of the planet Og.|
As far as Bettoore was aware his uncle wasn’t actually interested in the marriage. Like Bim, Og was a matriarchal society and Huglier would have to enter Lushus’ harem after his marriage. His position and tenure as Captain was merely designed to give him a little prestige going in. After all his intergalactic reputation as a notorious drunk whose drinking problem was so bad that it was a death penalty crime to sell or serve him rumbullion, an alcoholic beverage originating on Bim, was in no way desirable for the consort of a Queen and did nothing to enhance Bim’s otherwise stellar reputation.
Between Bettoore, the small crew and Rip, the ship’s AI the exploration of trivial phenomena on the edge of Alliance space had been going swimmingly, that was until this morning when Captain Thanthou had appeared on the bridge and ordered the ship’s heading be changed. They were now bound for Upendi.
“Why are we going to Upendi?” Bettoore asked as he relinquished his seat in the captain’s chair so that it’s rightful owner could take his place. “Have new orders come in?”
Huglier glared at his nephew with distaste and sucked his breath through his teeth in a sort of elongated reverse whistle “Who de rass you is to axe me da?” he demanded flaring his dark blue nostrils back and forth. “I’s the Captin up in here, ya hear? D’own question me.”
Bettoore took a deep breath to calm himself before he replied, he had no idea why his uncle refused to speak properly and insisted on pronouncing his Habba-labba (the lingua franca of the Alliance) with such a thick Bim accent. At last, knowing that no matter how unprofessional a wretch his uncle proved to be, he would still do his best, Bettoore said “I’m sorry sir, I merely wanted to know what to do in regard to our previous orders.”
Huglier sucked in his breath again, “Buoy, when I say we going to Upendi, all da you need ta axe is “How fass?””
Bettoore nodded and started to move to his usual position but Huglier stopped him in his tracks. “Wha part you going wid out saying it?” he asked with malicious glee, taking pleasure in embarrassing his snobbish nephew in front of his colleagues.
Bettoore looked at his Uncle unsure of what he was talking about. He was acutely aware that the other members of the bridge crew were listening and one person, a Panhuan ensign was openly watching with a nasty grin spread clearly across her doggish face. “What would you like me to say sir?”
|Huglier stopped him in his tracks. “Wha part you going wid out saying it?” he asked with malicious glee, taking pleasure in embarrassing his snobbish nephew in front of his colleagues.|
Huglier smiled, “We going to Upendi,” he looked at Bettoore, waiting for his response. When it didn’t come Huglier raised an eyelid and gestured with his hand to prompt Bettoore to speak.
Despite all of his intentions to be the perfect officer, Bettoore rolled his eyes and sighed as he gave the response he knew that his uncle was waiting for. “How fast?”
“Full speed!” Huglier smirked, “Oh and nex’ time mek sure da you answer me wid a smile ‘pon you lips, ya hear? D’own forget you got to call me Captin and Uncle.”
|A Panhuan ensign was openly watching with a nasty grin spread clearly across her doggish face.|
“Yes sir” Bettore replied as he slipped into his seat, making sure to make a mental note of the name of the ensign who had been laughing at him. Somehow, someway he would get revenge on her at a later date. Perhaps he would find some error in her work to discipline her for or perhaps she wouldn’t make it back to the ship after an away mission, Bettoore hadn’t decided how he would pay the Panhuan back yet but he would, he was determined of that.
“Do you know what the Captain is upto?” Rip whispered, the ship’s AI was still new and having trouble controlling his military android body when he chose to download a section of his consciousness into a humanoid body to interact on a face to face level with the crew.
Bettoore shook his head, “No. I have no idea what he’s doing.” It was true. Since arriving at Upendi the Rip had entered a geosynchronous orbit above Upendi’s main city and the Captain had insisted on teleporting down to the planet alone. It wasn’t in anyway dangerous for him to do so, Upendi was an Alliance world and had been so for hundreds of years but still it was unusual especially with no orders and no explanation.
“I hope that I don’t get into trouble,” Rip confided still whispering. A look of utter desperation passed across the metallic face as he wrung his hands in dread.
“You won’t,” Bettoore informed him, “But I probably will.”
This seemed to cheer the AI up and he smiled, “Oh, that’s all right then.”
Bettoore gave the android a sideways glance and made a mental note to watch Rip’s actions closely in the future. He could see that the ship hadn’t quite understood how relations between organics and electronics worked and he didn’t want to have to add him to his revenge list quite yet.
Rip’s head tilted to one side as if he was listening to something that Bettoore couldn’t hear. “The Captain has just contacted me, he wishes to be teleported aboard and he has two people with him.”
Bettoore’s eyebrows furrowed, just what was his uncle up to? “Who are they?”
Rip’s eyes focused and he looked at Bettoore, “One is Soursop Teal and the other is a Upendian female whose name does not appear in Alliance records. They’re on board and heading for the Captain’s office,” he replied, a confused look on his face.
Bettoore stood up from his desk and marched out of the room followed closely by Rip. Soursop Teal was a distant relationship of theirs, his uncle’s best friend and favourite drinking buddy. If he was onboard that certainly did not bode well for any of them.
|Soursop Teal was a distant relationship of theirs, his uncle’s best friend and favourite drinking buddy|
“Did my uncle receive any civilian communications after we left Draconis?” Bettoore asked, as he and Rip made their way down the corridor towards the Captain’s office.
Rip tilted his head to the side once again, “No, he didn’t but why do you ask?”
Bettoore didn’t reply, he was too busy considering the ramifications. If his uncle hadn’t received any communications since he had taken command of the ship it meant that he had arranged to meet his friend before hand. That in turn meant that he was planning something and whatever that was he had managed to keep to himself. Bettoore felt a chill run over him, the Captain was up to something and he couldn’t imagine what.
|Bettoore watched as Captain Thanthou ran his arms along the back of the chair where the beautiful Upendian woman was sitting.|
|Dis is my friend Soursop," Huglier said, indicating the man sitting next to the Upendian.|
Bettoore watched as Captain Thanthou ran his arms along the back of the chair where the beautiful Upendian woman was sitting, his fingers just touching her shoulders as a devious smile twisted across Huglier’s lips. “Dis is my friend Soursop," Huglier said, indicating the man sitting next to the Upendian. “I feel da you should know he doe. He been hanging ‘roun me from time immemorial”
“Yes, I know him,” Bettoore confirmed, “Welcome aboard the Rip, Teal.”
Soursop smiled and nodded at Bettoore, “Thank you, I’m very pleased to be here. From what I’ve seen, I must admit this is a fine ship.”
“Gee, thanks,” Rip gushed, smiling broadly at the compliment. “I’m state of the art you know.”
Soursop laughed indulgently, “So I’ve heard from your captain.”
A long drawn out reverse whistle cut the conversation off, “Enouf ah da,” Huglier said with some irritation. “Bet’or, my friend and… he maid gun be staying wid us fuh ah while. Tommorra he birthday and I gun let he be captin fuh de day.”
“Wha you mean by “Wha”? You can’t hear? I said I gun let Soursop be captin fuh de day.”
Despite all of his years of training, Bettoore felt himself becoming enraged. If it wasn’t enough that a stupid prat who had never worked a day in his life had taken the position that should have been his, now the idiot was going to let his civilian friend take command as if this was some sort of joke. Bettoore had had enough. “Listen, this isn’t some sort of cruise ship. This is a military vessel. You can’t just let your friend take command as you please,” he snapped glaring at his uncle.
“Oooh and wha you gun do ‘bout it?” Huglier asked squaring up to Bettoore.
|This is a military vessel. You can’t just let your friend take command as you please,” he snapped glaring at his uncle.|
“I’ll remove you from command,” Bettoore shouted, “You’re not fit to command this ship and you never have been. If grandmama hadn’t...” too late Bettoore felt his blood chill in his veins and the words died on his lips as he saw that his uncle was smiling, he had played right into whatever he was planning.
“Wha happen?” Huglier asked, almost salivating with pleasure. “I wuz enjoying hearing ‘bout how you gun remove me. Wha ya stop fuh? Continue.”
Bettoore stood silently in the middle of the room, all eyes on him whilst Rip was shaking his head sadly. When it became apparent that Bettoore wasn’t going to continue what he had been saying Huglier walked over to his desk and pressed a button and asked for security to be set up to his office immediately and from there to escort Bettoore to the brig.
Huglier rose from his bed with a satisfied smile on his lips. So far his plan was working perfectly, not only was his annoying nephew locked up in the brig where he would be safely out of the way when Huglier moved to stage two but he had teleported aboard a shuttlecraft’s worth of Rumbullion and he had just spent the night with the Upendian woman he had brought onboard. Her name was Na’teet P. Keylocks and she was his wife.
Huglier had no intention of going along with his arranged marriage to the Queen of Og. Why the hell should he want to marry a 10 foot tall giantess and be a member of her harem? He smirked at the stupidity of his mother begging for him to be given a Captaincy. She had inadvertently given him the means of escaping the very thing she desired most, a marriage alliance between Bim and Og.
Huglier’s plan was simple, he would leave Alliance space and head directly for Fla’hee territory. The fact that the Fla’hee were the greatest enemies of the Alliance was what Huglier was counting on. When he got to their space he would use his intimate knowledge of the Alliance and position as both a Prince and Captain to buy his way into a privileged position. Then he would spend the rest of his life living in relative luxury, far away from the family he hated but happy with the woman he loved. He would even have enough Rumbullion to last him a few years if he was careful. Huglier looked down at the sleeping Na’teet beside him and smiled thinking of the charmed life he would live with her. Betraying his family and murdering his crew would definitely be worth it.
“Si’down hey,” Huglier told Soursop indicating the Captain’s seat on the bridge. “You guun be de captin fuh de day.”
Soursop protested but Huglier insisted, all but pushing the man into his seat. “Youse my friend and I know da you did always wun’un be a Captin. It’s de least I could do fuh you,” he insisted smiling warmly. Soursop was sure that this wasn’t right or even legal, Huglier’s nephew Bettoore had said as much before he was taken away. He really hoped that Huglier wouldn't face any problems because of this.
“Now just mek sure da you don’t tek any hails from other ships,” Huglier insisted, “This ain’t exactly allowed and I could get in trouble, but I wan you ta have a special birthday.”
“Ok,” Soursop agreed smiling. What his friend was saying made sense. If the Rip didn’t communicate with any other ships it would limit the amount of people who knew that he had been allowed to command the vessel down to the crew, all of whom seemed unimportant. The only person whose word might have held any sway was Huglier’s nephew. But Huglier had made sure that Bettoore was not only out of the way but his career and reputation were in tatters thanks to his rank insubordination and threat of mutiny.
Soursop shivered. He was glad that he was Huglier’s friend. In all the years of knowing the prince he had learned that he was a dangerous person to have as an enemy. The most lethal part of it was that Huglier’s family always completely overlooked him believing him to be a drunken incompetent when Soursop knew that to be anything but true. True Huglier was addicted to Rumbullion, as were many people, but he was anything but incompetent. The sheer amount of people that Huglier had gotten away with not only killing but destroying was terrifying. That was why Soursop stuck so close to his distant cousin. It was better to be at the right hand of a devil like Huglier than in his path.
Before he knew what was happening Soursop noticed that Huglier was attaching a pin to the uniform he had loaned him. “Now you gun hav ta wear dis fuh de day,” Huglier explained, “Promise me that you won’t tek it’off.”
|Soursop looked down at the pin...|
|it was shaped like the Alliance star pin worn by all crew members but inside the centre was a blinking red light.|
Soursop looked down at the pin, it was shaped like the Alliance star pin worn by all crew members but inside the centre was a blinking red light. “What is this?” he asked looking at Huglier for reassurance.
Huglier smiled at him, “Wha you mean? It’s a pin da I had mek fuh you.”
“But why is it blinking?” Soursop asked confusedly.
Huglier was starting to get annoyed and the smile slipped from his face as he said, “Wha’ de rass all d’s questions is? De ting blinking becos it’s a birthday pin. Now promise da you gun keep it’ton.”
Soursop nodded his head but Huglier continued staring at him angrily until he vocalised a yes.
“Gud,” Huglier nodded with a broad and genuine smile at last satisfied. “Now I gun guh down and enjoy myself,” he said giving his friend a knowing wink.
Huglier laughed and left the bridge in the incapable hands of his best friend and next victim.
|Bettoore couldn't believe his bad luck.|
Bettoore sat in his cell in the brig contemplating his fate. His career in the Alliance service was over. He never should have risen to his uncle’s bait and threatened to remove him of command. Bettoore couldn’t believe his bad luck. First his younger sister Roxy had achieved the rank of Captain before him, although he had convinced himself that she was merely the Captain of a space station security force, not the prestigious and sexy rank of spaceship Captain, and then when he, Bettoore, should have been given his invitation to sit down in the Captain’s chair, he had been passed over and made to babysit the demonic prat that was his uncle.
Bettoore sighed, at least his older sister Foxy was still only a Commander as well. Sure she was also second in line for the throne of Bim but that was a long way off, many, many years in the distant future in fact. At least she wasn’t getting anywhere in her career faster than him. That thought gave him some comfort as he considered that even his father was still only a spaceship Captain after a lifetime in the service.
Bettoore was starting to feel a little better about his fate, reasoning that perhaps his grandmother could pull some strings and get him out of this mess, when Rip’s android body teleported into the cell with him and dragged him into the far corner away from the door.
“Something dodgy is going on!” the android hissed. “The Captain’s up to something.”
Bettoore was shocked by the abrupt entrance and strange statement but he quickly pulled himself together. “What do you mean?”
Rip looked around as if expecting to see someone watching them and Bettoore thought that the AI was taking his realism a little too far. When he was satisfied that they wouldn’t be overheard Rip whispered, “Your uncle is up to something. He’s supposed to be betrothed to the Queen of Og isn’t he?”
Rip gulped and his eyes became wide. “Well I saw him mating with the Upendian woman that came aboard with him yesterday.”
|...his eyebrows nearly shooting off of his forehead|
“The maid?!” Bettoore hissed, his eyebrows nearly shooting off of his forehead. He crouched down deeper into the corner suddenly terrified that someone might be listening. If his uncle was having an affair with the peasant girl that he had introduced as Soursop Teal’s maid then Bettoore would be in serious trouble with both of his grandmothers and he could kiss goodbye to any assistance they might have been willing to give with getting his career back on track, “You must have been mistaken,” he insisted.
A confused expression passed over Rip’s face, as he considered whether he might have misunderstood what he had witnessed. “No, I’m sure they were mating,” he said, “I’ve seen it on the organic nature shows and it’s in my memory bank. They were definitely mating.”
Ignoring the mention of “organic nature shows” and the fact that the ship had obviously been voyeuristically watching the crew when they thought they were in private, Bettoore thought for a moment. He would have to make amends with his uncle and warn him off of the affair. Bettoore was just about try to convince Rip to let him out of the brig when the android began whispering again.
“I don’t understand how he’ll be able to marry Lushus of Og when he’s already married to Mrs Thanthou and I don’t understand why he pinned a homing device to Mr Teal’s uniform,” the AI mumbled.
“Who the hell is Mrs Thanthou?” Bettoore asked nearly choking with surprise.
Rip’s eyebrows furrowed, “That’s what the Captain called the Upendian girl just before they started mating. He said that she was "the new Mrs Thanthou".”
Dear I-Am! Bettoore thought. Was his uncle actually married to the Upendian woman? An affair with her was one thing but marriage? Bettoore knew that he had to get out of the brig and take command of the ship immediately. Huglier was playing a dangerous game and he didn’t have time to luxuriate in confinement whilst thinking about it. If somehow his uncle had married the woman under Bettoore watch his head would be right up there on the chopping block next to Huglier’s.
“I need to get out of here and take command,” Bettoore said, trying to impress the urgency of the situation to Rip. “Will you let me out?”
Rip hesitated for a moment, “I don’t know Commander, I really shou…”
Bettore cut in before rip could finish his sentence, “Wait, did you say that he pinned a homing device to Soursop Teal’s uniform? Why the hell would he do that?”
|Na’teet was musing over the glorious life she was about to embark on with her prince...|
Huglier launched the shuttlecraft out of one of the Rip’s shuttle bays. Turning to smile at his beautiful young wife when they had cleared the larger spacecraft. She smiled demurely back at him, Na’teet had never in her wildest dreams imagined that she would marry a prince and certainly not one from one of the five central planets of the Alliance. She didn’t know what she had done to be this fortunate but she blessed the day she had met Huglier Thanthou, Prince of Bim.
Na’teet wasn’t sure of what Huglier’s plans were. They had been married in secret several months ago and her husband had explained that he would have to leave her on her homeworld with his best friend and confidant, Soursop Teal, for some time before he could take her home. Na’teet wasn’t surprised. In the Alliance status was everything and she was a nobody. Her family was too poor to even afford a holiday on one of the less expensive space stations in the Alliance but she knew that Huglier’s family was one of the wealthiest there was with connects on every world and in every facility.
|perhaps a short holiday before they went back to Bim and she was installed in a palace somewhere on that beautiful planet.|
Na’teet had assumed that Huglier had gone back to Bim to tell his family about her and convince them to recognise her despite her status. It was so romantic, like something out of a Sugar de Woof fairy tale but then news had reached her that Huglier was betrothed to the Queen of Og. With a powerful marriage alliance like that Na’teet had never believed that she would see her husband again. If anything she had expected to be murdered by an Inarian assassin sent by Huglier or his family to get her out of the way but Soursop had assured her that Huglier didn’t want the marriage with Queen Lushus and a month ago they had heard from him at last to say that he would be coming to get her and to be ready.
That was how Na’teet had come to find herself first on the ASS Rip and now on one of it’s shuttlecraft. She didn’t know what Huglier was planning for their current journey, perhaps a short holiday before they went back to Bim and she was installed in a palace somewhere on that beautiful planet. Whatever she had been expecting it certainly wasn’t what she got. Whilst Na’teet was musing over the glorious life she was about to embark on with her prince, she completely missed the moment when Huglier manoeuvred the shuttle away from the Rip before launching two missiles at the unsuspecting ship knowing that they would home in on his best friend Soursop as he sat on the bridge stupidly enjoying himself as Captain for the day. The first she knew was when the resulting explosion lit up the viewscreen like the magnificent fireworks displays that were often given on Ptah, another of the central planets. The shuttle she and Huglier were in began to spin out of control.
She completely missed the moment when Huglier manoeuvred the shuttle away from the Rip before launching two missiles at the unsuspecting ship...
the resulting explosion lit up the viewscreen like the magnificent fireworks displays that were often given on Ptah... Na’teet reached out trying to find something to hold onto but she found nothing before oblivion overtook her and she knew no more.