Thursday, March 8, 2018

Friday Flash: The Princess' Game

We got no new flash fiction challenge from Chuck this week, so I went back to the last one and picked another title from the list. I'd already decided to write another story for Xavier Xanthum, Space Explorer, so I just used the title to give me an idea where to take it. Larry makes reference to a couple of Xavier's previous attempts at a little R&R, so I threw in the links to those stories.

The Princess’ Game

“Larry, I’ve signed us up for a week’s R&R on G37-X.”

“Indeed.” The AI materialized in front of Xavier Xanthum (in his standard form, a pair of glowing eyeballs). His tone sent a clear message to the human half of the partnership that ran the Wanderlust.

“Do you have some objection?”

“Not at all, Captain.”

Xavier sighed. Larry only called him “captain” when he disapproved of something Xavier was about to do. This was probably about Xavier’s choice of a rustic retreat for his holiday. Larry liked vacation in high-tech centers where he could find new toys for Xavier to install in the ship.

That was the problem, of course: Xavier was a space explorer, which meant he made money by discovering valuable new planets. He hadn’t had much luck lately. He couldn’t afford a holiday in the Silicon System, or even at Sunset Strip in the Viridian System.

“I want a quiet holiday,” was the way he phrased it to Larry.

Larry's eyes turned a funny color. "Are you sure, Captain?"

Xavier scowled. Larry only called him "captain" when he thought Xavier was making a mistake. "Of course I'm sure. A nice vacation on a quiet planet is just what the banker ordered."

Larry sighed. For a moment Xavier was distracted. How could an AI sigh?

"What?" The double problem of Larry’s disapproval and his human reaction made Xavier’s tone sharp.

"There have been problems with some of the vacation rentals, Captain."

"Like what?"

"Well, there was that time on SLVD 3246," Larry began.

"That was a perfectly lovely island, and everything worked out fine," Xavier said. "I fixed your retro-thrusters!"

"Just a minor annoyance."

"And the planet claimed by the Krrg."

Xavier sighed. "I still regret that one. It was so lovely."

They were silent a few minutes.

"Still," Xavier said, "I need some time dirtside, and I've no credits for a resort planet. It's a rustic retreat or nothing."

Larry gave up, but he expressed his feelings by maintaining a chilly silence for hours.


DVST 5489 looked perfect. Best of all, the beach villa came practically free with a tank of fuel. Essential ship’s maintenance done, Xavier settled into the villa, the Wanderlust parked beside it. Some spacers left their ships in the spaceport, but Xavier liked to keep his close. 

It didn't look like he'd need to make a fast exit this time, though. The only other sentients around were a bunch of children, females of the local species. They spoke just enough Universal to tell Xavier they were sisters, daughters of the local ruler. Princesses. Xavier watched them play from his beachside lounge, an indulgent smile on his face.

When he woke up he was securely bound on his chaise longue. The princesses surrounded him, dancing in a wild sort of way. He had a bad feeling about this.

"Not worry!" Shouted the lead princess when she saw he was awake. "Is game!"

Xavier relaxed some, but he would have preferred it if their game didn't involve tying him up. The only being who knew where he was and might come to his rescue was Larry—but a ship's AI had no body, Larry's eyeballs notwithstanding. Larry had no hands to cut him loose from his bonds.

Xavier squirmed some as the princesses danced around him, and liked what he saw even less. Beyond the rather cylindrical creatures in pink lace--that seemed to be a universal requirement for very young females of almost any species--he saw a larger and older local kindling a fire on the beach. That wouldn't have been so distressing, but the large—really large—pot next to it made him wonder.

"Hey," he called, hoping Larry would hear, too, even if he couldn't do anything.
He could call for help. "This isn't funny any more. Can you let me go now?"

The head princess danced up to him again. "Oh, no. Must finish game. You good game." This time when she smiled, he saw that she had very sharp-looking teeth.

That was when he remembered that "game" had more than one meaning.

"LARRY!" Xavier would be embarrassed later by his plaintive wail, but right now, he just wanted someone to rescue him. "Get me out of here!

When the princess went back to the dance—which now looked distinctly sinister—Xavier set to work at the cords on his ankles. He could just reach them with the hands tied behind his back, thanks to the yoga exercises Larry had insisted he learn when he'd complained of being stiff after their last planetary adventure. It had been something to do in space, and he'd gotten pretty good at it. Now it allowed him to bend his heels up to meet his hands, and he picked at the knots. 

He was so absorbed in that task that he failed to notice that the fire was now blazing, and the circle of princesses starting to close in. All of them bared their teeth, and he saw no trace of the cute youngsters he'd watched with such pleasure before his nap. "Larry!" he wailed one last time as the creatures closed in.

A great shadow covered them all, and Wanderlust descended. The princesses scattered with shrieks and tears. Xavier kicked off the last of the ropes around his ankles and dove for the ramp that Larry had let down. Larry raised the ramp before the princesses could recover and come after them, tumbling Xavier the last few feet into the ship. 

Xavier lay panting as the ship lifted into near-planet orbit. 

"Do you wish to return to the rental office?" Larry asked as Xavier stretched and bent and squirmed to get his hands around front, where he could attack the knots with his teeth.

“No.” They could keep the rent.

"Where would you wish to go?"

Xavier gave a deep sigh. He knew what Larry wanted, and he owed it to him. "To Paradise. We'll get you those new sensors." Xavier didn't really even mind. They clearly needed better sensors, or better sense, and he didn't seem to be providing it.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!


  1. Wonderful :)
    Especially the Sunset Strip reference. Although we don't think it's cheap, compared with Walton City. Just nicer.

    1. Maybe cheap compared with the Silicon System :) Just a little sideways reference to some local spots...

      I do hope you don't mind me poaching bits of your galaxy :) It's just kind of fun to wander in and out of all the SF worlds.


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