I am floating in space again, in another ejected chair, waiting for pick-up. Dawg's laughing over the coms channel so hard I think he might actually be in tears, Al is singing "Come Fly With Me" horrifically off-key, making up words he doesn't remember, while Lori, from his Python named "Blueballs", patiently explains why our plan to board a giant vessel moving at 250m/s ultimately failed. Tor's lights bloom before my eyes and blind me. A hatch beneath slides open and that fucking space-vacuum cleaner funnel reaches for me again...
Let's go back in time three weeks.
The Cobra took three weeks to outfit and get just the way I like it. That's a long time to be port-side, so we saddle up and try to focus on running missions around the neighbouring local systems in the meantime. But it's one thing to be a small band of functional drunks hundreds of light years away from civilisation, and all together another to try to mix it up with other people.
About two weeks into the wait, we are in a relatively pleasant bar called "The Gyroscope". We have collectively decided to make an honest attempt at going out for a meal together, and so the excursion starts off relatively sober. We dock our various ships and meet up before striding as a group - all cool and badass - through the Coriolis to our destination. But we're all wearing shades (because they're COOL), and Dawg has to pee every 19 yards, our legs aren't used to the gravity, and fairly soon we're all but doubled over, wheezing like fat asthmatic kids.
"Man... I gotta get into shape," mumbles Lori. The rest of us stare at him for a moment and then break into laughter.
The Gyro is nice, clearly a place someone cares about, with Mars-style decor and soothing, pleasant music propping up the atmosphere. The bartender is human, functional and apparently capable of an impressively full range of human emotions. I tip him a full 15% for both his plastic smile and as a pre-emptive apology for the inevitable trouble / mess / disruption / havoc we're bound to cause. With hindsight, I should have gone for 20%.
We're doing pretty well, drinking out of glasses, eating with cutlery, using the appropriate bathrooms and so on, when I get up to hit up the bartender for a couple more bottles and accidentally back into someone I don't see behind me. I turn, an apology on the tip of my tongue, to see a young-ish, over-coiffed fellow already pulling his hand back to throw a punch.
"Hey!" I say, with gentle emphasis, "It was an accident, man... calm down." I look over his shoulder. There's a bored-looking girl dressed up to the nines eyeing the door and fiddling with her glass. "We going or what?" she murmurs, unable to even tug her gaze from the possibility of finding better elsewhere to look at her (I assume) date.
"Lemme deal with this star-bitch first," says the fellow. My summation is that he's hoping to get laid and is eager to regain his bored companion's attention. His balled fist remains poised over his shoulder. In the two seconds it takes me to clock this asshole's situation, Lori and Tor have risen to their feet. My heart sinks.
"Whatever, dude," I say dismissively, hoping to turn away before anyone else speaks and - perhaps - put an end to this. I am, in this, to be disappointed.
"What did you call her?" asks Lori, sliding his glasses off and drawing himself up out of his typical roguish slouch.
"You heard me, Stick Fucker," says the guy, not backing down but hastily glancing about to see if there are any allies around. As is often the case in these situations, some other asshole is wandering curiously over to where we are standing.
"Come on, Lori," I murmur, "Screw this guy."
Tor smiles and rolls up his sleeves. Dawg shifts in his seat for a better view. Al starts whistling.
"I'm betting you screw all these guys, Sweetie," says the asshole.
"Only when she wants to!" replies Tor and, out of nowhere delivers a cracking roundhouse to the side of Asshole's head that sends him spinning over his table, finally scoring his date's attention. She rolls her eyes, collects her purse and, with an elegance I hadn't anticipated, rises from her chair, leaving her companion to his fate.
"Your sister's leaving..." observes Lori, leaning over the douchebag and grabbing him by the shoulder to flip him over.
The next 45 seconds are jumbled and difficult to describe. The highlights are these: I get a single hit on Asshole, knocking him fortuitously into Tor's already-incoming uppercut. The blow lifts the asshole clean off his feet and sends him flying into Lori who, in turn, spirals around into Approaching Asshole, knocking him backwards. Approaching Asshole is very nearly twice the size of Lori and shockingly light on his feet. He takes Lori by the shoulders and throws him, like a floppy javelin, back at Tor. Al is climbing to his feet, see's Lori's flight path and nimbly ducks as his team-mate flies over his head. Lori's "Fuuuuuuck yooooouuuuu!" blue shifts he is moving that quickly.
Tor, instead of bracing to catch and break Lori's fall, takes a step to the side. Lori - now in the final downswing of his arc - instead smashes into the jukebox by the wall. There is a pause as we all wait to see what song will start to play as a result of the blow, all having seen the old Earth movies, but nothing happens. Instead, disappointingly, the thing simply goes dark.
Al and Tor now round on Unimpressive Asshole, who is now recovering from his collision with Approaching Asshole. They simply flank him, each slipping an arm under his and lift him right off his feet. He is too surprised to respond until they raise him up and hang him from a coat hook by the door by the collar of his flight suit. He hangs here, with comic helplessness, kicking his legs and wordlessly shouting in protest as Tor and Al frisk the pockets of the jacket they almost removed to hang him up.
Meanwhile, I'm now alone and facing Approaching Asshole who, satisfied with Lori's flight path, now shifts his focus to me. I glance over my shoulder to Dawg, who has half-lifted his glass but is laughing so violently its contents have entirely spilled over the table. I throw a "Help me, dammit" look at him which he replies to with a helpless shrug. "I think I peed a little..." he manages to utter between guffaws.
I turn to face the Approaching Asshole, dropping a hip and pressing out my chest: if all else fails, there's always the male weakness for a decent pair of tits. "So, about this misunderstanding..." I murmur as sultrily as I am able given the rolling laughter from Dawg behind me.
Approaching Asshole doesn't miss a step; he is not in the slightest impressed by me. When you've made a life out of relying on feminine guile to get yourself out of trouble, you instantly know when the ploy has failed - and if you're willing to play on one of Man's weaknesses, it's really not a problem to swap tact and go for another. Approaching Asshole reaches out to take me by the shoulders, and I instantly realise that being tossed across the room a la Lori will go very, very badly for me (though my flight through the air to a potential coma-state would be impressive). When he's got his fingers into a good and firm grip, I murmur, "Sorry, dude..." and then sharply knee him in the testes as hard as I can manage.
There is a strange sound, almost like the whoosh the air in a flight deck makes when the canopy suddenly vanishes, and Approaching Asshole's face turns a peculiar purple. His grip on me is released and, as he doubles over and slowly topples sideways, the word "Biiiiiiiitch" slowly forces itself out of his mouth.
I glance about; Lori is woozy but on his feet, Al and Tor are at his side, taking him by the arms and Dawg - remarkably - has stopped laughing and is now on his feet and cupping his junk, wincing sympathetically. "That's going to need some ice..." he advises as he walks past the double-over giant on the floor.
I delicately step over Crumpled Up Asshole and sheepishly edge my way past Hung Up Asshole, to where my companions are assembling. On the way out, I feel obliged to throw the bartender an apologetic shrug and am vaguely impressed to see that he is only now reaching for the coms panel - I assume - to call security.
Back in Tor's 'Vette (it was docked the closest) and we fall onto the collection of mattresses, pillows and blankets that litter the flight deck. Lori's sporting a pretty decent cut along his chin, Tor is flexing his punching hand, his fingers red and swollen and Dawg is struggling to unfasten his flight suit, slippery from the booze and... other things. Of all of us, only Al is smiling.
"Right chaps," he murmurs quietly, "The question is..." And he opens his hands to reveal Hung Up Asshole's ID and docking chip, revealing that our Unimpressive Foe flies a Type 9 and is currently hauling - as our dumb fucking luck would have it - 220t of cold distilled, genuine whiskey.
"Who wants to be a pirate, then?" smiles Al, "'Cause I've got a plan."
"Drink fast, die young"
"You may ask who was wearing the bow tie; me or the shark. The answer is: YES."