The second episode of my latest sci-fi work in progress.
Here's the next piece from the upcoming Brent Bolster book. The first episode is here.
If you're not familiar with Brent and the others, this is sci-fi comedy with elements of Star Trek, Douglas Adams, and more. The first book has been 99 cents/ 99 pence for quite a while now, and there's a link after the chapter below.
Rawlgeeb ran his fingers across his scalp. Wrinkles, he thought. I’m getting wrinkles. Wringing his hands, he crossed the office to the small mirror he’d hung by the door, then he pinched at the normally smooth skin of his cheeks, staring in dismay at the creases forming between his fingers. He’d been on Earth too long. He needed a bath: a proper Gloabon bath with a good head of mucilaginous foam and swirling threads of slime, the warm water seething with the bacterial glyphoforms that would work their way into his skin, making him feel fresh and alive. Making him feel whole. “Symbiosis,” he sighed. “Who would have thought that I’d miss it so much?”
Squeaking on its hinges, the door swung open, and Brent marched inside. “Miss what?” His gaze flicked from Rawlgeeb to the mirror. “Talking to yourself? It’s the first sign of madness, that’s what Freud told me. At least, I think he was talking to me. It was kind of hard to tell, what with the white beard, and the cigar, and all.”
Rawlgeeb blinked. “You believe you were having a conversation with Sigmund Freud, and you think I’m losing my grip? I’ll admit that my knowledge of Earth history could be better, but even I know that Freud has been dead for well over a hundred years.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Brent said, shrugging out of his trench coat and hanging it from the coat rack. Catching his reflection in the mirror, he tilted his fedora back, his gaze meeting Rawlgeeb’s via the smudged glass. “It wasn’t the real guy. It was an android. AI. You know, ten credits and all your problems solved. Seemed to me like a real sweet deal. I got my money’s worth, that’s for sure.”
“Oh really, Brent! You should know better than to waste your money on backstreet auto-shrinks. They’re no better than funfair sideshows dressed up as qualified therapists. On Gloabon, they’d be–”
“Save it,” Brent interrupted, heading for his desk and sitting down heavily, swinging his feet to rest on a convenient stack of files. “You’re not on Gloabon anymore, Toto. Get used to it.” He sent Rawlgeeb a grin, but his smile faded as he watched Rawlgeeb hobble to across the office, heading for his own, pristine desk. “What’s up with your leg? You’re walking like that second-hand robot that made such a lousy job of brewing the coffee. What did you do to yourself? Fall off your high horse?”
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Rawlgeeb smiled ruefully, sitting down with exaggerated care. “Whatever happened to that bot? It wasn’t too bad at making a flat white, though I had to keep reminding it to give me the decaffeinated coffee. Especially after…” He glanced up at the ceiling. “Sorry about all the damage. If I’d known what was in that cup, I’d never have drunk it.”
“Forget it. I took the repairs out of your wages.”
“On more than one occasion,” Rawlgeeb said crisply. “With what I’ve paid for that ceiling, we could’ve moved to a bigger office. Heck, we could’ve built a bigger office, complete with new computers, new desks, and air conditioning that actually functioned once in a while. And you haven’t answered my question. What happened to…what was its name? Jenkins? Vince bought it, so I suppose he took it with him when he–”
“Ran out on us,” Brent interrupted. “Treacherous bastard.”
“That’s unfair. You can’t blame him for taking a job at a proper…I mean, a larger agency. At least he’ll get a regular salary, and he’ll need the money if he wants to get a place with Maisie.”
Brent waved Rawlgeeb’s words away. “Don’t mention their names. Not today, not ever.”
“That’s just childish, Brent. Vince didn’t owe you anything. He’s moving up the career ladder as all youngsters should. It’s only right. I wish him well, and so should you.”
Brent scowled, but he didn’t argue.
“Now,” Rawlgeeb began, “to prove that you’re above juvenile grievances and petty squabbles, let us carry on our discourse in a reasonable manner. Tell me what happened to Vince’s robot, please.”
“If you must know, Vince unloaded the damned gizmo on some poor sap down in Neptune Plaza. Those guys will buy anything.”
Rawlgeeb’s expression brightened. “The old tech market. I’ve always wanted to visit, but I never quite got around to it. Maybe we should take a trip one day and see if there are any bargains.”
“Antiquing. I can’t stand it. But listen, Rawlgeeb, whatever you do, don’t go down there by yourself. Those tech traders are a rough crowd, and they have a taste for anything Gloabon. One look at you and every pickpocket in town will be on your tail. You’ll be lucky to leave with your wrinkles.”
Rawlgeeb’s hand went to his cheek. “Oh, you saw those? It’s worse than I thought.” He stood, pressing down on his desk to support his weight, the wooden surface groaning in protest. “I must go home and take a bath. I’ve got a nice little culture of glyphoforms growing in a jar. I’ll just collect them from the kitchen, then I’ll be off.”
“Oh. That was yours?”
Rawlgeeb froze. “Yes. I told you. Twice. What have you done with it?”
“Well, it was getting kind of ripe in here, and when I found a pot of green goop, I figured I’d caught the culprit.”
“Don’t tell me you threw it out.”
Brent shrugged. “Flushed it. Chased it down with a little industrial bleach. Then I put the jar in the recycling chute.”
“But that culture took me three weeks to establish.” Rawlgeeb’s face paled, his eyes growing cold. “Three weeks of feeding it, stirring it, monitoring its temperature. And all for nothing.”
“You fed it? What with? It smelt like hell on a hot day.”
“Don’t ask,” Rawlgeeb said icily. “All you need to know is that it was mine. I grew it, I needed it, and you had no business throwing it away. None at all.”
Brent managed a conciliatory smile. “Sorry. I guess I still need to adapt to all this…” He waved his hand at Rawlgeeb.
“I was going to say freakery, but whatever.” He frowned. “Gloaboness? Is that a word? Shouldn’t it be Gloabonity or something?”
With a sigh, Rawlgeeb sat down. “Gloaboness isn’t a word we’d teach at school, but it’s the nearest human equivalent I can think of. Our name for ourselves is roughly the same as your word people, but that leads to all kinds of confusion.”
“I’ll bet it does.” Brent nodded wisely. “You know, that goop really was stinking the place out, and our clients wouldn’t have liked it.”
“Clients? What clients? We haven’t had a new case in weeks. Our cash flow has shared the same fate as my poor little glyphoforms–down the pan.”
“I know, but something will turn up soon.” Brent pursed his lips. “Rawlgeeb, I really am sorry. There’s no way I would have ditched that goop if I’d realized how important it was. I must’ve missed the memo on that one.”
“You miss all the memos, Brent,” Rawlgeeb shot back. “Even the orange ones, which, as you know, are the most important of all.”
“I thought that was last week. Aren’t we on the fifteen-shades-of-purple scale now?”
Rawlgeeb rolled his eyes. “The mauve protocol was two months ago. But what’s the point? Just…forget the whole thing. It was an accident. Least said, soonest mended.”
“Okay,” Brent began, but before he could change the subject, Rawlgeeb slammed his fist against his desk.
“It’s just a damned shame, that’s all, because I was looking forward to that bath, I mean really anticipating it, but never mind. Let’s move on.”
“I certainly won’t bear a grudge,” Rawlgeeb interrupted. “No. I won’t pout and complain, even though I get not one jot of consideration around here. Not one.”
He took a breath, building up a head of steam, but Brent silenced him with a raised hand.
“Wait a minute,” Brent ordered, leaning forward. “I see what you’re doing here. You’re trying to distract me, throw me off, but I wasn’t born yesterday. You never answered when I asked you about your injured leg, and now I know you’re hiding something. Come on. Out with it, big fella. What happened to your pins?”
Thanks for Reading 🙂
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