“I’m sorry, but the venue is under construction right now. A gas line has ruptured and will take some time to repair and clear for safety. I fear we will not be ready for another week,” said Izzit, the owner of the Stardust Theater, the band’s prospective cash cow.
“So, are we to just gonna hang out until then?” asked Stephan. “See the sights?”
“Or lack thereof?” added Q.
“I terribly apologize for inconvenience. Please accept our apologies. Perhaps we could make your stay more agreeable.”
Izzit reached into his pocked.
“You are staying in the Haberdash Hotel, down the street, are you not?”
“That is correct.”
“Well, please then accept some vouchers for their restaurant. We will pay for all your meals until the venue is ready.”
“Free grub?” Stephan interjected.
“And facials?!” said Q, before re-constituting herself. “I mean, some cosmetic assistance would be preferred, if possible.”
“That also can be arranged.”
Jerry snapped his fingers.
“And someone to carry our shit.”
“We will do our best to facilitate all your requests. It is the least I can do. Thank you for gracing us with your presence. We have heard only good things about the famed Ezekiel’s Flight.”
“Thank goodness for that,” muttered Stephan, under his breath. “Ignorance sure is bliss.”
“What was that?”
“Nothing. Your compliment humbles us. We accept your apology, and bid you good day.”
Stephan snatched the vouchers up from Izzit’s hand, and brandished them triumphantly in front of his friends.
“Come along then, team. Let us partake of this good planet’s illustrious wares.”
Izzit appeared very confused as the band left. Luckily, the band did not mind whether or not they were understood, so long as there was free stuff waiting for them at the end of it.
Stephan downed another shot, and set the glass on the the table.
“And then she says to me, she says, those aren’t the pants I’m looking for.”
The punchline elicited a placative chuckle from Stephan’s bandmates, though ART did not understand his- or anyone’s humor at all.
“Ok, so maybe this experience won’t be so bad,” reasoned Jerry.
“After my massage, I’ll definitely be willing to concur.”
Stephan raised his caterpillar brow at her.
“Concur? Who says concur?”
“I do. In fact, I just did.”
“Well, Webster would be very proud of you.”
“Okay, now you’re just rubbing it in. Anyway, so Jerry, what do you think? Does this Rocketfuel Moonshine taste good or what?”
Jerry lifted a lazy eye up to his illustrious leader.
“I don’t know. I still have some sensation left in my taste buds. They must be watering it down.”
Stephan laughed heartily.
“Remember that time in Petrarch when we got sloshed and wandered into a Galactic Circus?”
Jerry clapped his hands.
“Yeah! We spent a good solid hour believing the funhouse mirror was a portal to an alternative dimension.”
“Luckily, Q was there to bring us back to reality. Of course, we then had to spent the next week convincing her the ‘gentleman’ she had met there was actually a Thorasian pirate.”
“Good times,” said Q.
“Petrarch…. That was right before the Incident, was it not?”
The laughter died.
“Yeah. It definitely was. Thanks the reminder, Señor Rustbucket.”
“If there’s any way I can ever make it up to you, guys.”
“Seriously, Jer, don’t worry about it. If we had really been that sore about it, we’d have launched you out of the airlock like what’s-his-face.”
“Man, that guy was creepy,” added Q.
“Listen,” said Stephan. “We all mistakes. In many ways, we’re gonna hold it against you until you die; but, in the ways that count, it’s just water under the bridge.”
“That’s a relief… I think.”
“I wonder if they have karaoke,” interjected Q, before heading off to a far corner of the bar.
“You think she’ll ever let it go?” whispered Jerry, as she went. “I mean, we’re a team, after all.”
Stephan tried not to meet Jerry’s plaintive gaze.
“Yeah. Sure she will. Go team… and stuff.”
“Hey, guys, they totally do!” said Q, from the stage. “What should I sing?”
Stephan cupped his hands over his mouth.
She glared back at him.
“Any other bright ideas from the peanut gallery?”
Jerry paused, then snapped his fingers and smiled.
“‘Farewell, O Martian?’”
She thought for a moment, then nodded.
“Classy. Okay. Oldie. Goodie. Yeah. Let’s do it… Nice going, Bass Cleft.”
Jerry playfully took a bow.
“Pleasure to serve.”
Stephan gave his friend a commendatory tap.
“See? There’s hope for you yet.”
Q entered a few credits into the karaoke machine. The spotlights turned on. The cue cards went up. She started to sing:
“As twilight falls on the ruddy stone,
We find ourselves again alone.
Together in the frigid night
Suddenly, we feel all right…
Tomorrow will bring what tomorrow dares
Bring on the (meteor) shower and the solar flares.
Just so long as we are one;
Calm and contented, I’ll be, hon.”
“What made you pick that song, Jer?” said Stephan, gagging at all the smaltz.
“Reminds me of home. My mother transferred over from the Martian Colonies when I was very young. She used to sing it when I was a kid, all the time actually.”
Stephan punched him in the shoulder.
“You sentimental sap.”
Jerry eased back into his chair as Q carried on.
“She has quite a voice.”
Stephan leaned back in his chair.
“Not bad for a backup vocalist. Totally.”
The lead singer’s attention turned from Q to Jerry, who had a growing, far-off look in his eyes.
“Oh-oh,” he said.
“That’s not a homebound look. That, my good sir, is a her-ward look, if I ever saw one.”
“You’re into her.”
“What? No! I’m not…”
Stephan threw his hands in the air.
“Hey, I just call ‘em like I see ‘em.”
“Jerry, are you all right? Your blood pressure is significantly higher than normal at the present moment,” noted ART.
Jerry started turning red.
“… And rising.”
Stephan slipped him an “I told you so” glance.
“Aw, shipboard romance.”
“Lay off it, Steve.”
“We may have to put you in the airlock after all.”
“Just keep this between us, okay?”
“Pardon my interjection, but it is perfectly natural for a human male to have such a reaction to a human female. By human standards, Q would be, I assume, rather fetching.”
“Yeah, well, nature or not, it’s inconvenient to our mission. I prefer to keep things platonic, okay?”
“Always best. We’ve got enough drama on our ship already. Ha! ’Jerry and Q, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S… I… Hey Cyber-pedia, are cyborgs good kissers? I honestly don’t know.”
“Cyborgs are capable of performing the same mating rituals that humans do. That is correct. The only difference is that they are known to have certain enhancements that area, and, like most synthetics, known to be exceptionally above par.”
“Thanks. See, Jerry? There you go.”
Jerry slunk back into his chair and pretended not to exist.
Stephan and Jerry drank their moonshine as Q sang her soft, sweet ballad. When she finished, they rose to her feet and applauded. She returned to them with a coquettish smile on her face.
“You did a fantastic job, Q. Really fantastic. Didn’t she do a fantastic job, Jerry?” said Stephan, reveling in the awkwardness of the situation.
“Be advised, Ms. Q. Jerry has expressed some degree of romantic interest in you to Stephan, though Stephan has advised him not to pursue the matter any further.”
“Is that true, ART? You’re always very helpful. Thank you.”
As Jerry tried to vanish into the cushion of his chair, Stephan got up.
“ART remember that oil bath you wanted?”
“How could I forget?” said ART, as his servos excitedly kicked into full gear.
“Why don’t you go get it now.”
“Really?! Oh, that is, only if it is convenient for the others.”
“We’re fine. Looks Ms. Q and I have some, uh, business to take care of. You go ahead.”
“Oh, I most intend to, thank you! This shall be ever so much fun…”
ART giddily wandered off.
“I’m gonna go too. Keep old Screw-face out of trouble. You kids have fun.”
Stephan waved. The others reflexively waved back.
“Meet you back at the hotel?” said Jerry.
Stephan had already made a quick and decisive exit by the time Jerry had gotten the words out.
“So, you like me?”
They were alone at a table, watching the dregs of their drinks swirl around at the bottom of their glasses.
“How long has this been the case?”
Jerry shook his head.
“The beginning of tour, maybe, perhaps before. I thought it was just the flu at first, then you know, things happened.”
“Let me guess, the bass solo…?”
“Wow,” said Q, while holding back a chuckle, “you really know how to impress a woman.”
“I know. Stupid move.”
“Eh, I’ve seen worse. So, where would you like to go from here?”
“Well, I guess that depends on you. You know how I feel.”
Q adjusted herself in her chair.
“Up until this moment, I’ve mostly wanted to pull out your intestines through your mouth, or whatever orifice was most convenient at the time, but this… this changes things. I’m gonna need some time to think it over.”
“Of course… Q?”
“I’m sorry to bring this on you.”
She set a sympathetic hand on his.
“Don’t be. You’re only human.”
Back at the hotel, ART admired his shimmering new self in front of the full-body mirror.
“Oh, I feel so good!”
The words could be heard through the outer walls as Jerry and Stephan stood on the balcony, looking out at Ziljain 7’s off-color sunset.
“How’d it go?”
“She said she’d some need time to think it over.
“But she didn’t say no? Interesting…”
“You’re a real friend, you know that?”
“Only the best for you, bud. The plot thickens.”
“I know you didn’t need the extra drama.”
“Hey, we can handle this. I mean, we’re already penniless and desperate. What else could happen?”
Luckily for Stephan, he didn’t yet know what the answer to that question would be.