Guzaffo’s Star Bazaar. It was a massive flying warehouse filled with merchandise that my old friend took to every port, peddling exotic goods to wide eyed local yokels. Much of it was either legal or illegal, depending on which port he was in. Officially, customs officers on every planet required him to sign declarations that he’d only sell items that were legal on whatever world he happened to land on. Unofficially, bribes went a long way in the Undesiredverse, so far in fact that most reputable law schools offered students entire courses on how to make them effectively and efficiently.
I first met Guzzy years ago, when he was bleeding out under a tree and crying out for help. As you can imagine, he didn’t simply yell, “HELP!” It was something like, “Oh wretched fate! Why you have gripped me in your clutches most foul? Will anyone, anyone at all come to the aid of a being in this, his most desperate hour?”
We were on his home world of Xerpathia, fighters on the same side in the War of the Four Hemispheres. It broke out like this:
The ruling party of Hemisphere One declared that marrying your sister is not only perfectly acceptable, but required by law.
- The Hemisphere Two politburo decried that ruling to be the pits. Even though Hemisphere Two was far, far away from One, Two’s politicians loudly pontificated that it would only be a matter of time before One’s outlandish ways would cross the ocean and before everyone knew it, they’d all be marrying their sisters like a bunch of obnoxious perverts. They sent troops to conquer Hemisphere One in the hopes of putting an end to sister marriage immediately.
The folks in Hemisphere Three weren’t particularly interested in marrying their sisters, not due to any moral qualms but rather, because they felt that their cousins were where the real action was. An Ambassador for Three made a deal with representatives of One to form a pact against Two with an understanding that both hemispheres would become and remain safe havens for all forms of incestuous marriage.
Meanwhile in Hemisphere Four, the citizenry despised marriage in all its forms. “Hit It and Quit It” was their motto. That’s not even a joke. It’s emblazoned on their flag. The tribal elders of Four found themselves in a precarious predicament – side with Two and at least retain one form of marriage on their home world, or see their dreams of one day obliterating the institution altogether wither and die with One and Three coming up with new ways to bind people together. The polyamorous elders decided a truce with Two to at least retain the status quo was their only option.
Guzzy was traditionalist Two-er through and through. “Marry Someone You Had To Be Introduced To!” those brave Two-ers cried on the battlefield as they laid waste to those pesky Ones and Threes.
I was a bought and paid for mercenary and was, like so many lost souls, talked into joining a fight that wasn’t mine with a generous, steady paycheck. Unfortunately, I huffed it all away. Jesus. Come to think of it, that war introduced me to the stuff.
Like his Xerpathian brethren, Guzzy was a muscular, six-armed cyclops. His face consisted of a nose, a mouth and one colossal monstrosity of an eyeball. It made a creaking sound whenever it moved and being followed by a cyclops’ eyes is one creepy experience. Why did that war have to happen, anyway? Related or not, how anyone in their right mind would want to marry a Xerpathian is beyond me.
On that day so long ago, I patched Guzzy up as best I could and dragged him by two of the three arms on his right side. I’d of picked him up but he was too heavy. Xerpathians know how to hit the gym.
Since then, Old Guzz had really moved up in the world. He wore a finely tailored black cloak adorned with a golden medallion. All six hands had two-three rings a piece.
His ship was on a steady course and his crew, which consisted of hundreds of his old world relatives, puttered about performing odd jobs. Guzzy was in his element as he barked orders at them.
“Those sycronic multameters require a sensitive touch, Bovo! You can’t simply cram them up any old…Hey! Corastmere, who told you to touch that flavensol? It’s worth more to me than you are! Put it back!”
“Osho vo volo volo tee keerama, Guz?” a worker asked as he walked up with a crate filled with smelly rotten fish heads.
“Throw them away?” Guzzy replied.
“Why would I throw them away, Vrash?”
“Epto bek, tee keerama!
“Yes I’m aware they’re smelly rotten fish heads,” Guzzy said. “They’re a rare delicacy on M’ak Slor! I can get three hundred thousand credits a pound for them there. Take that back and keep it out of it the freezer. The smellier the better.”
“Aspppttt bokwallat!” Vrash said rather rudely as he stormed off.
“Oh really?!” Guzzy shouted. “Another outburst like that and you’ll be on the unemployment lie, Vrash! I don’t care if you are my favorite aunt’s son!”
Guzzy looked at me and rolled his eye. He took a seat on a crate and wiped the sweat from his brow. I took a seat next to him.
“Ahh family,” my old pal said. “They were the first to accuse me of turning my back on Xerpathia and the first to beg me to help them when our world became unbearable. I try my best to lift them up from their lowly stations in life and they treat me as though I were the underc rust on their boot heel.”
“Are they cool?” I asked.
“What?” Guzzy asked. “Oh yes. Certainly. They’re backward hill people who don’t even believe in translator chips. They just think everyone should speak Xerpathian. They haven’t the foggiest notion who you and your friends are.”
“I on the other hands have half a mind to turn you in to the Cabal and buy a planet of my own to retire on,” Guzzy said.
We looked each other over. It isn’t easy to win a staring contest with a cyclops. I flinched first.
“Ahhh, I got you!” Guzzy said. “No, you are safe and welcome here…though I fear I must insist on bidding you a fond farewell upon our next port of call…”
“Ureq?” I asked. “Guz, we need to get to Earth.”
“You needed to get off Malostet,” Guzzy said. “You’re off. The conundrum is solved. Surely you cannot expect me to put myself at any more risk by smuggling you through eight more ports?”
“You could just skip your stops and take us directly to Earth,” I said.
“Do you have any idea how far in the red that would take me?” Guzzy asked. “Absolutely not.”
I clasped my hands behind my head and leaned back. “Well Guzzy old boy I don’t know what to say. I’m happy to chill for eight days but I do need to get to Earth one way or another and I’ll need some kind of incentive to forget some of the more interesting war stories I could tell Mrs. Sarki.
Guzzy’s eye grew wide. “You wouldn’t dare.”
It was a low card, dealt from the bottom of the deck, one I regretting pulling on a friend but I was in a bind.
“So be it then,” Guzzy said as he rested his top right hand on my shoulder.
Jones and Mystery Woman walked in.
“Roman, we need to swap out our implants,” Jones said. “In fact, Guz, if you could spare some supplies…”
“My ship is your ship,” Guzzy said. “Take what you need. Jambri!”
One of Guzzy’s relatives turned around.
“Show our guests to their quarters.”
“Mosh bi,” Jambri said as he waved all of his hands, bidding us to follow him. Jones and Mystery Woman did. I hanged back a moment.
“Voss, when will you ever learn the only one you need to look out for in this world is yourself?” Guzzy asked. “Risking your life for some prostitute you just met at a shai bordello…”
“I don’t know what it is, Guz,” I said as I watched Jambri pick a candy bar off a shelf and offer it to Mystery Woman. She sniffed it, licked it, then proceeded to bite into it with the wrapper still on. Jones educated her on the proper way to eat junk food.
“…but there’s just something about her.”