The Hammer-on landed with a sonorous thud. The crew inside grabbed for the nearest stable objects, and hung on for dear life as the ship touched down. Eventually, the ship ceased to tremble, and the band could breathe freely again.
“You really should get the shocks checked on this thing,” muttered Q.
“Yeah, sure, right after I check the engine, the shields, the blasters, and the life support system,” Stephan replied. “Though, if you prefer, we could also sell the ship, and go back to riding standard fare.
“With the public? No thank you. Hanging out with you two clowns is more than enough people for me…”
Jerry began singing the chorus of “Send in the Clowns” as ART emerged from the cockpit.
“We have landed. It is now safe to unload.”
“Thanks for the update, Metalhead. Let’s get out of here!” barked Stephan.
“You know what I miss about being on the main circuit: baggage service,” mused Jerry, bringing his ratty duffel back out from the overhead compartment.
“And free massages,” said Q, retrieving her sequined carry-on.
Stephan grabbed his lightly-worn tactical backpack from underneath his seat.
“And the food. Don’t forget the food!”
While the rest of the band took a moment to think nostalgically back at their heyday, ART charged right on in front of them, without a single item in tow.
“Well, I for one am in much need of an oil bath, and Lord knows I won’t get one here.”
The band nodded in agreement, and left down the exit ramp.
As was expected, no welcoming committee awaited them at the bottom of the ramp. In fact, nothing much greeted them at all- that is except, for smog and the caustic smell of engine fuel and something burning.
Q stepped down off the ramp, took a deep breath and coughed.
“Hey, you’re the one who couldn’t wait to get out into the open,” said Stephan.
“I didn’t know the ship was a better choice.”
“Well, home is where the gig is, so we’re here to stay- at least, until we get paid.”
Jerry looked around. The only visual scenery consisted of buildings on the verge of collapse and machines long since past their prime. The runways were pock-marked with craters, left behind from warfare and mechanical failure.
“Looks to me like we weren’t the first to take our toll on this place.”
“True, that. ART, would you call us a transport? Let’s get this show rolling,” added Stephan.
“Right away, sir.”
The robot’s neon eyes glazed over and a muted dial tone came out of his mouth. In just a few seconds, he was back to normal.
“They’ll be here in fifteen minutes or less, or our money back.”
“God bless the Internet.”
Q gestured to the cable jack embedded into her skull. One side of her head was shaved for easy access to it, the other sported flowing locks of neon hair.
“Maybe one of these days you’d like to get plugged in yourself.”
“No thanks. I’ll leave the plugs to the professionals. I prefer to go au natural.”
“Suit yourself,” said Q and ART, in unison.
“So, how long we scheduled here for?” pondered Jerry.
“Just a week- with a possible extension if they like us,” Stephan replied.
“K. Sure beats nothing at all.”
“That’s for sure. Hey, ART, what are the chances of us getting back on our feet any time soon?” said Q.
“Statistically speaking, the odds are not in our favor. Getting into the public eye is hard enough, but returning to it after such a precipitous fall- well, that would require nothing short of a miracle.”
A spirit of malaise fell upon the band.
“Of course, that is only using standard-grade statistics. Reality is known to be far less precise.”
The transport arrived, right on schedule. The band loaded up their bags, as well as their gear, and got inside. As the vehicle got moving, they caught glimpses grass-less parks, deserted shops, and faded murals marred by graffiti. Very few people were seen, and when they did make an appearance, they seemed either irreparably downcast and/or menacingly bitter. It all seemed like something out of a Salvador Dali’s painting, and surrealism was never the band’s cup of tea
“What happened here?” said Q.
“Wars- that is, wars and industry to be exact,” replied ART, “This used to be a thriving mining colony before the Trans-galactic Wars of 3089 turned it into a military outpost, and thus a potential target for invaders. Between the radiation from the nuclear fallout and the environmental pillaging the mining created, this planet was rendered bare and fruitless without the means of recouping its losses. Most of the populace has left. Only the poor remain- them, and the bottom feeders that prey off those unfortunate types.”
“Another uplifting report,” said Stephan.
“I can only report the facts as they are.”
“So, what? Are we just here to entertain the rabble?” said Q.
“Sister, as far as the universe is concerned, we are the rabble,” Stephan replied.
The transport hit another pothole. The band shook like bobble-heads on a vibraslap.
“You know, this experience could be very cathartic for us for that very reason,” said Jerry. “Helping them could be helping us, you know, because of our shared lesser status.”
“Or maybe we’re just all delaying the inevitable.”
“Somebody switch your herbal tea out for regular this morning?”
“Shut up, Stephan! This is not okay. We are not okay.”
“But we could be- you know, one day,” said Jerry.
“And rocket fuel could come coursing out of my ears.”
“And, when that happens, let us know. It makes one heck of a moonshine,” added Stephan. “Hey! How ‘bout, after we set out bags down and get the details at the venue all sorted out, we go get a drink?”
“Sounds good to me,” said Jerry.
“I doubt this place has any good wines.”
“I don’t know, I think you have a pretty good whine going on right now yourself.”
Q, simultaneously outraged and amused, smiled in spite of herself. Stephan slapped his thigh.
“We have a smile, folks.”
“Huzzah!” said Jerry.
“Huzzah,” Q replied.
The driver of the transport never once laughed at any of the band’s witticisms, no because they were off-color or obnoxious but simply because there was no driver in that car.