Lilly, Rivet, & Weld go on a rescue mission to save her old Captain’s kid. But someone’s beat them to her. [~2,400 words. Content warning: threats of sexual assault.]
Lilly, Rivet, & Weld arrived at The Black Hole just as most of the market’s shops were closing. A stream of workers, joking and venting after a long day’s shift, flowed through the street as the human and her two robot companions arrived at the seedy bar. The building was a pre-fab steel structure that showed its age. A mix of Earthlings, Hermians, and Ginii hung out of the windows, smoking cigarettes or swirling drinks as they called to the workers passing by.
Lilly lit a UV Light and glanced at the two droids she had with her. They had cargo crates full of the kitchen building materials strapped to their backs. Lilly knew this would make it hard for them to maneuver in a crowded bar. But she was worried she couldn’t pull this off alone, so they’d have to come in with her. She just hoped they could do so with more grace than she’d seen either of them demonstrate up to this point.
She dragged on her smoke as they entered through the swinging steel double doors. “Hang back,” she said to the droids. “Find a table and watch for my signal.”
“What signal?” asked Weld.
Rivet smacked him. “One beep means go out the front, two means out the back. And three means start the diversion.”
“Right,” Lilly said as she felt her stomach turn with anxiety. “Stay sharp.”
“Aw, shit,” said Weld. “I didn’t bring my whetstone!”
Lilly sighed. Rivet smacked himself this time, square in what you might call his forehead. Lilly ashed on the floor and made her way up to the bar, leaving the droids to find a table.
“Greetings, human. What can I get you?” The bartender was a droid with a voice like the primitive weather bots they used when TV was still run through cables.”
“Whiskey on the rocks,” Lilly ordered.
“Coming up!” The droid poured the drink. “Anything else?”
“Yeah, I’m looking for a friend. I think she works here.”
“I have access to basic employee records. What is your friend’s name?”
“Aurora…Aurora Xeress.” Lilly stubbed out her cigarette in a chrome ashy tray on the bar.
An hourglass icon appeared on the droid’s visual screen. “Miss Xeress is in the kitchen, but she is not alone. She is already being visited by friends.”
“Shit. Do you know who?” Lilly sipped her whiskey.
“Negative. But the emblems on their armor indicated an affiliations with the Polar Opposites organization.”
“Double shit! The PO?” Lilly knew the criminal gang from her time as a smuggler. They were ruthless. Founded by a particularly nasty race of creatures that resembled Earthling bears, they had a reputation for recruiting by staging jailbreaks and giving the illegitimate ex-cons the options of enlistment or death. She took another long sip of whiskey and then asked, “Were they human?”
“Triple shit!” Lilly knew that human women were a symbol of exotic eroticism for many of the space-faring species. She finished her whiskey drink as she thought through what she was about to have to do.
“You seem stressed. Can I get you another drink?”
“Yeah, and you better make it a double.”
“Coming up!” The bartender poured another glass, twice as full.
“Where’s the kitchen?” Lilly asked as she dropped some currency on the counter.
“Through that door.” The droid pointed over to the end of the bar away from the front door.
Lilly shot her whiskey down in a single gulp. “Thanks for all our help. And maybe I should apologize in advance about the mess.” She was already halfway to the kitchen door when she heard the bartender ask, “What mess?”
With a quick glance over her shoulder, Lilly passed through the door into the kitchen. Inside, she surveyed the scene. An older woman with green skin and tentacles for hair was working at the stove. She grabbed a jar of spices with a tentacle and sprinkled it liberally into one of the bubbling pots on the stove. Lilly slipped by without her noticing.
Further on, some droids were cutting up alien vegetables and rolling out gurgling dough. They were cheap models, without visual sensory units, so they didn’t notice her either.
Past the droids, she came to a corner where a freezer unit was quietly humming. She peeked around it and then quickly drew back and posted up, listening intently.
“Listen, a gruff voice said, “you’re pretty cute for a human. Do you really wanna spend the rest of your life washing dishes in a scum hole like this? Me and my friend here can make you rich and famous. Don’t you want a taste of the good life?”
“Not if it tastes anything like you smell,” said a young voice.
Another voice, this one deeper and more weathered than the first, laughed loudly at this. “She’s got spunk! I like that. Makes it more fun during the…training.”
“Get your paws off me, you furry fuck! Don’t you know who my father is?”
“Of course. That’s why we’re here. Daddy can’t save you now, princess.”
Lilly peeked around the corner again and saw the scene. On either side of the girl, an Ursii stood in armor made of suspect leather. The thugs were almost seven feet tall, covered in dirty white fur, and each had a sidearm on his hip. The older of the two, who had a nasty scar over his left eye, was licking his chops while the other restrained the girl over the sink where she’d been washing dishes.
“Hold her there. Looks like this one needs her first lesson now.”
Lilly felt a lot of things in that moment. Fear, guilt, anger–they all surged through her in a potent cocktail of emotions. She thought for a second the whiskey was going to come back up on her. She took a deep breath and grabbed a frying pan from the counter next to her.
With a banshee scream, she brought the up over her head and charged the bigger, older Ursii. The grizzled thug turned with a growl just as she brought the pan down on his head with a crunch. The slaver slumped over onto the counter, knocking a stack of plates to the floor. The sound of clattering steel rang out and the other thug turned to face Lilly. She raised the pan again, but held it there when she saw he had his blaster out.
“Who the fuck are you?” he asked.
“Friend of the Captain’s. I’m here for the girl.”
“That’s funny ‘cause it looks like you’re here to satisfy a death wish. You just knocked out Grul von Barr, the leader of the Polar Opposites, you stupid bitch.”
“Yeah? What the hell is your kingpin doing kidnapping a nobody like this kid? Is the PO so shitty now that he’s the only one who can get anything done?”
The thug’s fur bristled. “You watch your mouth, fleshpot. You know who she is if you knew her daddy. Grul and the Captain go way back, and when we heard what happened, he came here to take care of the kid.”
“That’s funny–I had the same idea. But I wonder if we have different opinions of what constitutes proper child care.”
“Listen, bitch: You’ve already made enough trouble for yourself. I’d kill you where you stand, but I have a feeling Grul will want to do that himself after what you just did to him.” The gangster ran his predator eyes up and down her body. “Unless he comes up with something better, that is.” He narrowed his eyes and stepped towards her. “Yeah, I mean, we were just here to pick the kid up to settle a debt her daddy had with Grul, but now it seems like maybe you owe him something, too.”
As he licked his jowls, a tiny had appeared on his forehead, grabbing the fur there and yanking the thug’s head backward. As his expression changed from lust to confusion, a soft voice almost whispered, “Too bad your boss isn’t awake to see what real spunk looks like.”
A spray of something warm and viscous hit Lilly in the face. She hurried to wipe it off, unsure of what just transpired. When she could see again, she realized she was covered in blood as she saw the little girl straddling the facedown gangster with a bloodied knife in her hand. She stood as the creature let out a few ragged, wet gasps while he clutched desperately at the new opening in his throat. The kid wiped the bloody blade on the white fur of the fallen thug who was leaving a bigger puddle by the second.
“And to think,” the kid said, “I used to sleep with a teddy bear every night.” The kid looked up at Lilly. “Sorry about the mess. Here.” She handed Lilly a damp dishtowel. “Oh, and thanks…for the help, I mean.”
“No prob.” Lilly wiped the blood off her face and neck, tried to dab what she could off the front of her jumpsuit. “It was the least I could do.”
There was a moment of silence between them as they looked each other over. The kid had her dad’s eyes, a dark chocolate brown, and his ropey build. She was taller for her age, already up to Lilly’s chin even at eleven. Not that Lilly was tall, but it was obvious from the kid’s posture that she felt too tall and tried to compensate by slouching. She had a big nose and big ears–not that she wasn’t cute, but she’d probably never make it in the vids as a starlet.
Lilly felt self-conscious about her own appearance as the kid looked her over. She had lost some weight since the attack on the Riot, and not in a health way. She felt withered from malnutrition and she knew her roots were starting to show as the vibrancy of her purple hair faded. She’d never grown the womanly curves she wanted as a kid, and her own hands a feet were of a size to make her cringe.
Standing there, staring at the kid as the kid stared back at her, she felt something strange, ancient, and maybe even maternal growing like a plant inside her. This wasn’t her kid–hell, Lilly had gone out of her way her entire life to make sure that she wasn’t ever in possession of a child. But now, with this gangly pre-teen searching her for something, she felt a responsibility she wasn’t familiar with.
Just then, the unconscious Grul von Barr moaned from his pile on the floor. The steel flatware around him made some noise as he shifted. The humans looked at the unconscious Ursii and back at each other.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Lilly said.
“You got an escape?”
“You could say that.” As they turned to go, Lilly sent three beeps through her wrist comm and hoped Rivet & Weld were ready. She grabbed the kid by the hand and they hurried out towards the front door.
As they passed the tentacle-haired lady again, the kid said, “Irtha, I’m leaving early tonight. Not sure when I’ll be back. And tell one of the droids to bring a mop bucket and a heavy duty, extra large garbage bag to the back.”
“Alright,” the cook replied without looking up.
Lilly and Aurora burst through the double doors into the bar to find the crowd in an uproar. People were shouting, pushing, arguing with each other. Lilly looked around for a way through the throng, but they saw only a solid wall of bodies. Through the kitchen doors behind them, they heard something that sounded like the roar of a bear.
“Fuck me,” Lilly said under her breath. She turned to Aurora. “Alright, kid,” she shouted through the din, “Hold on tight and don’t let go!”
With that, she started to push through the sea of bodies. She shoved some shorter reptilian looking being out of the way, ducked under the outstretched branch of a sentient plant species, and knocked a droid flat on its face in her haste.
She checked over her shoulder to make sure the kid was still with her and saw a pissed off Ursii break down the kitchen door in his haste to get through it. The thug let out another might roar that made the bodies in the back of the room turn. Lilly pushed ahead harder.
She could just barely make out what the crowd was centered around now. Near one of the booths, two familiar looking bots were wrestling with each other. The short silver one was swinging a chair that busted over the taller rust-colored one’s head. This made the big one take a step back and shake its head violently. Then, it charged full speed at the other, tackling it into a mirror that shattered.
The crowd was cheering them on. As she pushed through, Lilly could see money changing hands as bets were placed. Weld was pummeling Rivet from on top, clubbing at his partner with enough force for the sound of metal on metal to ring out through the din of the crowd.
Lilly felt a second wind when she finally saw the door. As she reached it, the crowd let out another loud round of cheers as Rivet, who had sensed Lilly moving through the room with another humanoid life-form, threw Weld at the only other life-form that seemed to be trying to leave the bar–namely, Grul von Barr, who was caught completely off-guard by the flying droid. The bearish being and the droid toppled into some on-lookers and landed on top of a table that gave way under their combined weight.
Lilly glanced over her shoulder and the sound of the ruckus before she pushed through the swinging doors and out into the night. She sent a quick burst to Rivet, the four beeps that meant the all clear. With the kid in hand, she beat a quick path for the ship and their rendezvous there.