Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for mature content.
The Koth brought Ed and Dave into his home, delighted that he was speaking to self-proclaimed revolutionaries. When Dave finally woke up, he brought them into his dining room to drink together, as was tradition in the Koth culture. He poured them a special kind of drink, revered by heavy drinkers such as Ed, all over the universe. Koth lendur, barley alcohol mixed with a diluted form of Hellhole's acid rain, is the strongest booze known to man. There is absolutely no reason anybody would ever think it is a good idea to drink it, but somehow it had gained popularity, giving Hellhole a thriving alcohol trade. It was said that only real drinkers could drink it without it immediately burning out of their esophagi. Of course it was only a joke, but one that most people tended to take as a good warning.
After the Koth, Ed, and Dave pulled themselves out of their one drink each, they began to talk. The Koth had told them that his name was Quaz. He was one of the subterranean wheat farmers for the nearby village of Aper Len. Hearing this, Ed immediately apologized for crushing a good portion of his wheat field.
"Aw, it's alright." said Quaz. "If ah can help yoo gaies git bahck in th' skah, ah'd be mor'n happy ta' sahcerfahce part o' mah feeld." Ed choked as he took another sip from the lendur and he swayed in his seat.
"If you don't mind me asking, Quaz, why are you helping us so much? The Feds will almost certainly take their revenge if they found out." He gesticulated wildly, nearly hitting Dave in the face with his glass. Dave giggled and pointed at it, as it whizzed past his head.
"Why?" said Quaz. "Ah'll tell yoo why. Cause' I fought the bastards in'na war! Proof! Raht heyere!" He pulled his collar open, exposing a large rendition of the mark of the F.P.U. in the middle of his chest. His glass sloshed lendur over the side as he bared the mark. "Ah was a machine gunner inna Ta-Kel Rebel Army. Tooka shot to the thigh and got sent here." He took a sip from his glass. "Mm, bah th' way tharh's a town, bout' four klicks south o' heyere. Yoo cen git ahll yer soopplahs to fix th' ship thayer. Cen seyll yer cargo fer cash too."
"Well that's all well and good." said Ed, "But we don't have the facilities to repair or improve her as we *hic* see fit." He took another sip from his glass and, finding it to be less diluted than usual, let out a small shriek.
"Nawwww!" said Quaz. "I got a stabilization rig in th' bahck. *hic* Yi' cen yoose tha'. Larhd knows ah won't. *hic* Dave looked at him, squinting. A contemplative look crossed his face.
"Are you my Aunt Tilda?" he asked. Dave had never been able to hold his booze, and the recent knockout hadn't helped. Quaz looked back at him. He clicked his tongue.
"Don' think so." *hic* "Behck to mah point." he turned back to look at Ed. "Yer in luck. Issa market week an' *hic* yer gun need a full market tah git all yer materials an' cash." Ed looked at him.
"S'been a while since I've binna Hellhole. Wha-kinna currency you guys use here?" *hic* Quaz thought for a moment.
"Iss, uh... iss... ehm..." he stuffed his hand in his pocket and pulled out a few credit markers. He tossed them onto the table. "W'ever tha' is."
"Ah. Antharian Dekals, eh?" said Ed. In fact, they were the standard currency of the Free Planets. They didn't have a wide governance except for the standard currency, created so that the Worlds Exchange wasn't inundated with exchange requests from the millions of Free Planets. It didn't really work because the autonomous planets still had their own currency, but it was widely accepted by most vendors. Ed peered at the credits. "No' many people who accept those, but what will be will *hic* be." He took another sip, this one seeming to go down easier. "Wull go't'the market timorrow. Be nice to screw with the fu*hic*ing Federation with cash like'at."
"Ah'll drink ta' tha'" shouted Quaz, rising and swaying from his seat to fill all their glasses. The other two rose as well. They rammed their glasses together and spilled a quarter of the lendur. They threw back their heads and drained the glasses. And then they devolved into a mess of hacking, gagging, wheezing, and coughing that left them all prone on the floor. They all unanimously decided to spend the night there on the comfortable, riveted metal floor.
Most people who drink are aware of the possibility of a severe hangover. Experienced ones are aware of some solutions. Those who drink lendur, however, are not prepared to deal with their hangover because it presents all the normal issues of a hangover but amplified, as well as a screeching, burning pain in one's mouth, throat, and stomach. Ed had taken several wounds to his body during the war, but nothing he experienced prepared him for his lendur hangover. He awoke to the sensation of someone driving a railroad spike into his skull. He went to moan in agony, and then became aware of the fact that someone had forced napalm down his throat. In attempting to shriek in pain, he hurt himself more and started choking on his own pain.
He rolled over on the floor, his foggy mind trying to move away from the sensation. He groaned again, muscling through the pain. He decided he should attempt to get up. He told his hands to move forward and push him up. They said no. He told them to do it again, firmer this time. They refused again. He told them for the last time that they were HIS hands and they were going to do what he said. This time they relented and moved forward to push him up. Then they told him that he still needed to convince his arms. He spent another twenty minutes trying to coordinate his limbs.
Finally, he got them all working together. He pushed himself up with confidence, and promptly rammed his head into the table above he him.
"SHIT!!" he shrieked, as he collapsed back to the floor. He continued to mutter expletives as he writhed around on the ground.
"Hey there, you silver tongued fox." said a voice next to him, sounding as though someone had put a hole through its owner's throat. Ed turned his head to look in the direction of the voice. Dave's consistently amused face stared back at him. "We're gonna have to get some of that stuff for the ship. Maybe even a whole brewery."
"Dave?" asked Ed.
"That's a fantastic idea." Ed shifted his head to the other side, trying to scan his surroundings without moving his body much. He noticed Quaz's head inches from his own. His large purple eyes were shot through with golden streaks.
"Sirs," he said, "I bleve today's gonna be a sick day." Ed sat up, carefully this time, and turned to take in the surroundings he hadn't paid attention to the night before. His eyes alighted on Dave again, who was patting through his pockets.
"What...uh...what're you doing Dave?" he asked.
"Lookin' for my cigarettes." He paused as he felt in the last pocket. "Damn. Musta left em' on Decken. Quaz, bum us a couple cigarettes, would you?"
"Heyre!" said Quaz, tossing him a pack.
"Dave, when did you start smoking?" asked Ed.
"Bout ten years ago when I was twenty. Maybe a year, year and a half into the war." he responded absentmindedly, as he sat up and searched for his lighter.
"Dave. You weren't in the war." said Ed, his confusion evident in his voice. Dave shrugged as he turned to Ed and lit the cigarette.
"Still a stressful time."
"You lived almost fifty light years away from any fighting!"
"Well, yeah, but rationing...and stuff. That was stressful." He took an drag from the cigarette and stood up, holding his hand to his head. "Quaz?" he asked as he rubbed his temples. "You got any coffee?"
"We sure do!" Dave and Ed spun around, groaning at their sudden movement and the loud voice, to see a much younger Koth woman in a doorway leading farther into the house. She stood there, her skin glowing full green in the dim light, her large, purple eyes seeming much younger than Quaz's. She had long black hair, braided in a single plait and draped over her left shoulder. She was wearing a green tank top, camouflage pants, and heavy tan work boots. In her hands she carried a large metal tray with three pannikins of coffee. She'd passed these out as she spoke to them. "I'd o' given y'all some sheets las' night, but ya' jes seemed so comfy an' I din' wanna wake ya'." She tucked the tray under her arm as she stepped back to lean against the wall. "I also didn' know who ya' were cause' I got in so late. Didn' know if ya' were friend er' foe." she turned to Quaz, who was hauling himself up into a chair to drink his coffee. "So Dad, ya' gonna introduce me?" Quaz turned to look up at her and he heaved a sigh as he realized he would have to summon the effort to speak.
"Boys, uh, thiz mah dotter, Parsee. Parsee, thiz David Lugton an' his cap'n Edward Buck." he huffed and made it clear he wasn't about to volunteer more information. Dave walked forward, his hand outstretched, coffee in the other, and his cigarette balance between his lips.
"Dave Lugton, pleased to meetcha." She took his hands and shook it. Ed waved to her from his seat at the table.
"I'm the captain apparently." he said. She looked at him, paused for a minute, and then seemed to come to a conclusion.
"Pardon me fer askin', but what exactly are ya' the captain of?" Ed stared at her, then chuckled to himself.
"Well, she may not look like much, but that Condor out in your field is my vessel." he said, pointing out the door. She laughed as well.
"Well, you sure are talkin' her up a bit aintcha? Comin' in from the town, I thought Dad had bought some more scrap." Dave leaped to the ship's defense.
"Hey now! She's in sad shape, but she'll fly fast and straight as a laser blast. Once we pull her out of that acid puddle. And fix the port engine. And improve the interior. And the exterior." he nodded with each concession. "And we also need a name for her, but that doesn't devalue her!" he tacked on the last part very quickly. Parsee looked incredulously at Ed.
"You can' cap'n a ship 'thout a name. Thas' jes abusin' her!" Ed looked up from his coffee and spread his arms .
"Don't blame me! We stole her from the Feds and of course they didn't name her." Parsee seemed to withdraw as Ed revealed how they acquired the Condor.
"Dad, I hate the Feds jes' as much as you, but harboring fugitives, even on a free planet, it can' be a good idear." Quaz pulled himself away from the mug and turned to Parsee.
"Parsee, they are ar guests. Not only tha', they are th' foundin' members o' th' New Free People's Union. Ah well harbor theym heyre unteel they git thayer bird in th' skah."
"I still don' think it's a good idear." Unseen by the others, Dave had moved to lean in the doorframe to the outside. He spoke now, startling the others slightly.
"Hey, do you guys have any weapons besides that spread rifle?" Parsee turned to him.
"Yeah, couple o' rifles and and old, old, pistol. Why?" Dave walked back inside and set his mug on the table.
"Go get em'. Eight men are out there stripping the Condor."