Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday Flash: Xavier Xanthum, Space Explorer

For this month, while I'm very busy trying to juggle a NaNo project and the release of The Problem With Peggy (Book 3 of the Ninja Librarian series), my Friday posts may be either short, photographic, or re-runs. Just a warning :)

Today, however, I got inspired and we have a full length (990 words) flash--another voyage with Xavier Xanthum, Space Explorer.

Xavier Xanthum and the Alien

“Comet, we need some excitement.” Xavier Xanthum addressed the comment to the large black-and-white cat that lay, weightless, on his lap.

“I do not think it is wise to wish for excitement.” The answer didn’t come from the cat; to the best of Xavier’s knowledge, the animal couldn’t speak. The only other voice in his one-man spacecraft was that of Larry, the AI.

Xavier looked around for the floating eyeballs that Larry liked to use as his physical manifestation. “Why not? We’ve been in transit for a month, and I’m bored out of my mind. We need to do something to break up the trip!” He and Larry had been entertaining themselves by learning an ancient code he’d found in a book, one that worked by long and short flashes. That kept them occupied for a tiny part of each day. Managing the ship took another few minutes. Boredom was killing him.

“It is not wise, because you do have a tendency to stumble into more excitement than you enjoy.”

That was true. Xavier thought about some of his adventures. He’d not enjoyed them all. But time, distance, and boredom gave them a certain nostalgic luster.

“What could go wrong out here?”

At those ill-considered words, Larry sucked in an imaginary breath, and Kitty Comet shoved off Xavier’s lap and disappeared into the ductwork. Seconds later, the com unit crackled to life. First there was a noise they had to take as speech, then an image appeared on the screen. A being with four visible appendages, and two of what Xavier took to be heads, showed against the unmistakable—though very alien—backdrop of spaceship’s control center.

Finally the translator began to translate.

“Alien ship you are in our territory. Why should we not to vaporize you at once?”

Xavier thought. Mostly he thought that it was weird that the alien claimed empty space as its territory. Then he thought that he didn’t care to be vaporized.

“Uh, just passing through. My apologies if I interfered. Didn’t see the No Trespassing signs; we’ll move right along.”

The alien waited for its own translator to handle this, then the two heads swiveled to look at each other. First one head and then the other spoke. He didn’t think the thing had meant for this conversation to get translated, but computers did exactly what they were told, and theirs had been told to translate.

“We are commanded to destroy all threats.”

“This puny craft is no threat.”

“We can’t know that.”

“They appear harmless.”

“We must follow orders.”

“Uh, fellows? Mister?” Xavier cleared his throat and tried to figure out if he was addressing one alien or two. “I must say, I’m not a threat. No sir, not any kind of threat.”

“It is sentient. We do not destroy sentient beings without cause.”

“It is sentient. Therefore it is a threat. That is sufficient cause.”

Xavier listened, fascinated. He’d never heard anyone play good cop/bad cop with himself. The two heads went on arguing. Xavier muted his own com unit and asked Larry if they could get away from the alien ship.

“No, Captain. It is not even clear where the ship is, but we appear to be firmly held by an unknown force field.”

Xavier swallowed. It was never good when Larry started calling him “Captain.” He listened to the on-going argument. It seemed to have shifted from whether to destroy him to how to destroy him.

“Larry? Do your best to break that field, okay? I think we might be in trouble here.”

Just then, Comet shot back out of the duct. The cat had mastered zero-G movement, mostly. She over-shot Xavier, bounced gently off the com unit, and drifted, drawn by the motion on the screen. She swiveled her own head, following the argument. Then she began batting gently at the moving heads. Xavier reached out and put her back where she could pat the screen. Someone should enjoy this encounter.

The heated discussion of vaporization vs. laser broiling broke off. Both heads zeroed in on the cat. Four arms lifted as though to reach through the screen.

“What is this creature? Is it your leader?”

“It’s a cat,” Xavier said. “She’s a pet.” Screeches from their translator told him the aliens had no word for either cat or pet. “A non-sentient animal that offers comfort to a human companion,” he defined for them.

“This ‘cat’ offers you comfort?”

“I told you the alien is perverted,” the second head said.

“I would like such a ‘pet.’”

“You betray your duty.”

“You have no feelings.”

“Correct. The locus of sentiment is in your head. That is why I am the stronger.”

Xavier watched, fascinated, as the heads argued about the virtues of feelings vs. logic, all the while with their gazes locked on Comet.

The sentimental head addressed Xavier again. “Give us your ‘cat’ and we will release you.”

Xavier stiffened. He couldn’t do that to the creature that had arrived in a Christmas stocking two years back. Comet had been a tiny kitten then, a bundle of fur that stole his heart in seconds. But maybe Larry could use the demand to make an opening for escape. Xavier said something vague to the aliens, and looked around for the eyeballs. Larry hovered just out of sight of the com unit, blinking in the ancient Morse code.

Larry wanted him to agree? Xavier opened his mouth to argue. Larry blinked some more, and the space explorer stifled a smile.

Xavier interrupted the alien’s argument. “Very well. I will beam the cat over to you. You will need to lower the field that immobilizes me.”

And before the logical head could argue, an arm reached out, punched a button, and Larry blasted the Wanderlust out of range.

The last they saw of the alien, it looked like they’d be arguing for a long, long time.


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2016
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

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  1. Go, Larry! Go Comet!! Go Xavier!!! I seem to be stuck for words today, but you get the idea. Lighting up my life, thanks!

    1. Aw, thanks. Can't say the idea of a two-headed alien arguing with itself is really original, but I love the notion.

    2. But it's nothing like Zaphod :)

    3. True. And maybe not the brightest alien in the galaxy :D


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