#4: Eight at the Coral
There is not a civilization in which starship guards are not generally nasty men who like to point intimidating guns at people. The Carrotian and Primari guards, however, are also very much inclined to writing poetry about how much they like to walk around pointing intimidating guns at people, and how much they loathe people attempting to reason with them about getting another job.
Being a guard is not a particularily popular job on either planet, and being one usually means being born into it. It also generally means that these guards have become so jaded about the entire concept of art that even the late great Origami Master of Carrotia Effervesst could not persuade them to let him get a drink he'd rightfully earned after teaching the Barbarians of Tau a thing or two about the beauty of art, talking the legs off of an eight-footed hippopotamus, and driving an entire civilization to tears with his beautiful paper constructs.
It would have been comforting for him to know that the defenestration he suffered at the hands of these guards but moments later could have been averted if he'd only offered to buy them another drink.
"Well, hello." said the guard, and his voice was not entirely without menace.
Tinn shivered in reply, momentarily distracted from his bleeding leg. His day had started so well, he reflected, he was going to be promoted, he'd never have to deal with Poll again, or face the possibility of mortal danger..
And here he was, sitting in a corner bleeding to death while he and Her Meanness were about to be shot to bits by a large guard.
He resolved never to wake up again.
He was snapped out of his thoughts by a loud crashing noise, and a momentary brightness.
The guard hit the deck.
Poll gripped her gun as if it was her lifeline. "We don't have time to sit around and be scared about things, Tinn," she muttered, pulling her fellow Carrotian back onto his feet. "You can save that for when we're back home and you run into a real tree or something."
She hoisted him onto her shoulder to the best of her ability. One hand slung around Tinn's torso in support, the other still clinging to the gun, she began to move them through the corridor.
It had not taken the Carrotians particularily long to discover laser, and they'd been quick to share this knowledge with the Primari. It hadn't taken either people very long to figure out its destructive potential, either; that was just the sort of thing that their scientists did.
They had, however, never been entirely fond of the general aesthetic qualities of the output of the first generation of laser guns. In a startling attempt to solve this problem, they abducted Herm P. Illian, one of the universe's most brilliant minds, put him in a padded room with some laser guns, and told him to 'do something about it'.
Prof. Illian had left the planet twenty-five years later. He'd been forced to explain to the Carrotians, in iambic pentameter, that it was not, in fact, possible to turn a laser beam into something 'more colourful', and had in the process gone entirely insane.
After this incident, many believed that the Carrotians were the sole species responsible for the universe's present state of deterioration.
This was later proven by the mass-execution of the rest of the universe's leading scientists, which had happened for the very simple reason that they'd been unable to make an explosion in deep space 'sound good'.
Poll and Tinn staggered through the hallways. "We need to find the control centre," she muttered, more to herself than to anyone else. "From there, we should be able to figure out which way to go to get to an escape ship. I don't particularily feel like sticking around..."
"Ghk," said Tinn, because somewhere along the way Poll's hand had found its way to an area uncomfortably close to his windpipe. She smiled to herself, gruff and determined.
"Gsshhhk," he sighed, because it was all he really could do.
She sighed, and removed her hand. "What is it now?" she asked.
"Nothing," he muttered, staring apologetically at the floor for no good reason.
"Good, because that means you have the time to tell me why the HELL you didn't tell me about the exploding pod in the first place!" She smacked him over the head.
He whimpered. "Yo-you'd have gone and t-t-torn up all the w-w-iring.. and stuff," he stammered, "And then the bad t-things, they would h-have happened.. and stuff. And I really l-like being alive, to run around and look at paintings.. and--"
"Stuff. Yes. I get it." She glared at him, and grabbed hold of his neck again. "You know, you are the least well-spoken person I've ever met, and in my life I've endured the presence of everything from military officials to rocks."
"Nggggk," he said, and passed out.
The sound of explosions and sidearms firing had been unrelenting for the past half hour or so. This comforted her, because it meant that no one had blown any critical holes in the hull yet. Despite appearances, she was actually quite fond of being alive, and looked forward to continuing this for the next two hundred years or so.
Tinn's eyes shot open. "Wha--?"
"Shush," she said, and pulled him against the wall, clutching his mouth with her hand.
He would have sighed, had he been capable of it; instead he shot an apologetic look into nothingness, and then gave up on the whole thing. Being apologetic had done very little for him in his life, and he resolved to do something about it.
She pointed her gun in the direction of the intersection, making herself as small a target as possible in the progress.
Tinn, his injured leg scraping over the floor, reached inside of himself, located his inner reserves of power, and managed an alarmed expression. He began to attempt to claw through Poll oncemore, but gave up shortly after he realized the date of his last manicure.
She tighened her grip, her finger itching to pull the trigger. Tinn trashed about ineffectually for a little while, then found that didn't do much for him either, and returned to staring apologetically into the void. This, at least, was familliar.
"Pollin Therza," a pleasant voice rang out, and she relaxed for a microsecond before she realized who it was. "Who'd have thought." The blue-furred Primari smiled, a toothy grin that didn't seem entirely authentic. "If you'd told me come for a visit, I would've cleaned." He straightened the collar of his black jacket in a way that was just a tad bit too deliberate.
"Shilee." She relaxed her hold on Tinn's mouth a bit, which came as a great relief to the Carrotian. He'd assumed a rather fetching, if worrying, shade of baby blue under all that fur. If he'd been any less conscious of his position, he probably would have died of shame on the spot.
Instead, he managed a broken, tired sigh that would have won him several awards if it wasn't for the fact that he was on an enemy spaceship, surrounded by evil being of a horrible, undescribable kind, and Poll was attempting to force his face to absorb his lips.
"I'd love to stay and chat," the Primari continued, "But as you can see, this is not an entirely suitable moment for it. How about we exchange our pleasantries elsewhere. Such as aboard a ship far, far away from here?" He lifted his left eyebrow in a way that would make most teenage girls melt into tiny puddles.
Both the Primari and the Carrotians had gone far, far out of their way to make sure that teenagers never had a moment to themselves to concern themselves with this sort of thing. It was only prudent, both species had decided, and besides, it saved them from such embarassments as the application of velcro and Pop Art.
The occasional small riot was worth it, and, in fact, was far more succesful at population control than any war that the Carrotians could have ever dreamed of.
No matter what species you are from, the reasoning goes, it is imperative that you understand that there is no force as destructive as the common garden variety teenager.
"Sounds like a plan to me," she grinded out, "I assume you know the way? And where we are, for that matter."
He grinned at her again, and seemed unfazed by the red lights which had suddenly began blinking in an erratic fashion. "We are currently orbiting near the fourth Lagrange point around the first and largest planet in the Aldebaran system," he said, walking past Poll into the next corridor. "And you, my friend, are walking in entirely the wrong direction."
Pollin Therza and Shilee Eeen had first met many years ago, on a tiny, unimportant planet by name of Popol V. Wandering through the forest, a young Poll had, quite literally, ran smack-dab into Shilee, sending both of them sprawling over a particularily disturbing rock formation.
The Carrotians and the Primari had both quickly forgotten about using the planet for anything besides attempting to kill eachother in a variety of new, creative ways - the only thing that ever managed to grow on it was corn, which both species considered to be exactly the wrong shade of yellow. They had set out to eliminate every trace of it, and eachother in the process, if at all possible.
Neither Poll nor Shilee had really cared at the time, glad as they were to finally escape the clutches of their destructive superiors.
They'd liked eachother at first sight. Poll, because Shilee was completely devoid of all the annoying little painted triangles, squares, and circles that she'd been used to seeing splayed all over 'the enemy'; Shilee, because Poll hadn't attempted to blast a large hole in his chest and leave him to bleed to death, which was quite refreshing, from his point of view. They'd been fast friends.
"You owe me a beer," she grumbled, and smacked Tinn in the face to keep him from fainting again.