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|Adventures of Regen the Bremen|
Type: , ,
Author: James Thompson
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The story of an inter-galactic smuggler, drug dealer and soldier of fortune who keeps a very unusual pet. Regen is from the planet Brem, and Bremens have a reputation of being tough guys and great lovers. Regen finds himself in several tight spots and his pet skeen, Hitler, helps him out of each one. NOTE: I write under the pen name M. L. Hollinger.
There was nothing that remarkable about the tall Bremen, but the Space Witch Saloon grew suddenly quiet as he walked in the door. Bremens have a reputation for being tough guys, but the thing that silenced the crowd and attracted all eyes in the room was the animal skulking along behind this one, trying to conceal itself in his shadow.
It was a skeen, and few there had ever seen a live one except in a very heavy steel cage. It ambled along on large, fur-covered hind legs with its rat-like tail tucked safely between them. The usually fearless patrons parted respectfully as the Bremen walked up to the bar.
“You can have anything you want in here, but that thing has to stay outside.” The bartender nodded toward the skeen.
“He goes where I go. Gimme a double Gordian bourbon and a menu.”
“You don’t get nothin’ ‘til that piece of shit’s out o’ here.”
The Bremen turned to the skeen and spoke almost lovingly.
“Hear that Hitler? This guy don’t want to serve us.”
As if in response to the insult, the skeen jumped up on the bar and glared at the bartender with beady red eyes. It opened its mouth to reveal an array of stiletto-like teeth and sat back on its hind legs, front claws extended. A low, hissing sound came from somewhere deep inside its leathery chest.
“Get that bastard away from me, or I’ll call security.”
“Now you know Hitler, here, would be eating your liver for dessert before they could gun him down. He does exactly what I tell him to do, and he won’t hurt a fly ‘less I give him the word. Right now we’re both hungry, and I’ve got a mighty mean thirst. We were planning on spending some dough here, but if you ain’t interested, there’s plenty of other bars in Loba City.”
“Okay, just get him off the bar.”
“Git down, Hitler.” In response to the Bremen’s command, the creature hopped back to its place near the big man’s feet and curled up into a ball.
The bartender placed a dog-eared menu in front of the man and poured the whiskey out of a tall bottle. He was about to put the bottle back in the rack when the Bremen spoke.
“Leave the bottle. Hitler might want a drink too.”
The Bremen perused the menu while he gulped down the bourbon then shoved the greasy paper across the bar.
“I’ll have three smurgers, well done, and Hitler’ll have the gartog special, very rare.”
“Whatever you say, mister.” The bartender scribbled the order on a computer pad and left to serve other customers.
Now that the confrontation was over, the bar returned to its previous condition of joyous chaos. The short, fat Aandie on his left was the first to comment on the skeen.
“I’ve seen a pack of those things eat a whole cow in a matter of minutes. We had them on the Belarius. How did you ever get one to follow you around like that, especially one that big?”
“I raised him from a egg I found in the hold of the Honida Maru. I always wondered if you could tame ‘em, but I knew it was no use startin’ with a baby. I seen guys try it and get torn up for their trouble. I thought you might have a chance if you hatched one and he thought you was his mama. You gotta feed ‘em good, though. If they get hungry, they’ll eat anything, ‘cludin’ you.”
“Where have I heard that name ‘Hitler’ before?”
“I found it in an old book I read while doing some time in the penal colony on Gaba 3. From what that book said, this guy Hitler was a real bad ass. I figured it was a good name for a skeen.”
“I remember now. Hitler was a man of 20th century Earth. He killed a lot of people in ovens or something. Yes, he was a bad actor. Can the skeen do any tricks?”
“Sure, but he has to have a treat after each one, and our food ain’t here yet.”
“No problem.” The Aandie reached over to a nearby table and lifted a chunk of meat from the platter in front of a small Tumeg. The victim protested loudly in his shrill, whiney language, but made no move to stop the theft.
“Here, Hitler, roll over!” the Aandie commanded as he held the morsel out in front of the skeen. The patrons near the animal watched enthralled as the hideous creature rolled over several times and sat up with its mouth open in anticipation of its treat.
“That is remarkable!” The Aandie lowered his hand to the skeen.
“Look out fer yer…” Regen didn’t get to finish his sentence. Hitler jumped to grab the meat and took two of the Andie’s fingers as a bonus.
“…fingers,” Regen finished.
“Ahhhhgh! The damned thing bit me! Help somebody!” The Aandie screamed in pain as blood poured from the severed joints, and the victimized Tumeg giggled with glee.
A security man rushed to the scene and applied a dressing to the wound.
“We’d better get you to a hospital,” the security man said. “Those things carry all kinds of germs.”
The Aandie turned to the Bremen with a shocked expression. “What did he do that for? I thought you said he was tame.”
“Ever’body knows skeens like fingers better’n anything. You should’a been more careful.” Regen poured himself another glass of bourbon as the security guard rushed the Aandie to the door.
Another guard approached Hitler with a drawn laser pistol. “That skeen’s had his last meal.”
Regen drew his pistol and stepped between the guard and Hitler. Luckily, the confrontation was interrupted by a woman in the uniform of the royal palace guard.
“Okay, boys, turn down the testosterone a notch.” She turned to the security guard. “I’ll take care of this.”
The guard holstered his weapon and walked away grumbling.
Regen studied the woman. She was almost as tall as he was, and her build, though slender, showed the lines of a powerful frame under the black jump suit. Her hair, nearly the color of the red piping on her uniform, was tied back in a bun, and she wore very little make-up. Emerald green eyes fixed the Bremen in a gaze combining admiration with official authority. She was every bit as beautiful as the last time he’d seen her.
“I’ve got five men looking for you, Regen, but I thought I might find you in here,” she said.
“How’d you figur’ that out?”
“It was easy. You’re a Bremen, Bremens like low places, and this is the lowest dive in Loba City. Besides, I don’t see anyone else in here with a pet skeen. I’m surprised someone hasn’t shot it by now.” She scowled at the skeen, and it scuttled behind Regen’s legs to lick up the Aandie’s blood.
“It’s good t’ see you too, Varda. You must’ve really enjoyed our last meetin’ to come down t’ this level o’ the city.”
“Don’t flatter yourself. I just wanted to see if what they said about you Bremens was true.”
“Well, was it?” He smiled at her with an oily confidence in his sexual prowess.
“I wouldn’t want to shatter that gigantic Bremen ego with an answer. I came to see if you were interested in making some good money.”
At that point, the bartender placed a platter in front of Regen and held another over the bar. “This is for the skeen, but you give it to him. I want to keep all my fingers.”
Regen placed the platter on the floor in front of Hitler who dove into it with gusto. Evidently, the Aandi’s fingers only served as an appetizer. “Want a smurger?” Regen asked Varda.
She looked at the greasy mess on the bar and screwed up her face in disgust. “No thanks, but you go ahead and eat. I’ve got a business proposition for you.”
Regen picked up a smurger and took a large bite. “Go ahead,” Regan said around his mouthful.
“I came looking for you because you’re the only guy I know who’s familiar with the Banguilla region.”
“I been there, and I ain’t interested in goin’ back.” Another bite of smurger replaced the first.
“I got an assignment there, and I need a guide. The pay’s good, and it should only take a few days.”
“What’s ‘good’?” Regen asked. He knew the royal pay scale was not nearly as generous as that of the many smugglers and drug dealers in the bar. That motley group was keeping a watchful eye on the royal guardswoman. They thoroughly distrusted anyone wearing that uniform.
“How does two hundred fifty thousand sound?”
Varda definitely had his attention now. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and turned to face her. “What’s the job?” Regen asked.
“Bringing back the Prince’s lost dog,” Varda answered.
“That must be one helluva dog.”
“The Prince loves that mutt, and the Banguers took it because they knew it would get the King’s attention. He spoils that kid rotten. They’ve offered to trade it for two terrorists scheduled for execution next month. They say that if their people die, the dog dies. The kid’s been giving his parents a fit since the dog vanished, and I drew the job of getting it back.”
“Why don’t the king just give ‘em the terrorists? That region’s full of tough guys who don’t like the monarchy. What’s two more?”
“These guys blew up the shuttle craft taking the Rillian Ambassador back to his ship. If they don’t get executed, the Rillians will cut off our supply of nuclear fuel. He can’t let them go.”
“This planet’d be a pretty dead place without nuclear fuel, and I like some of the whore houses. Do you know where they’ve got the dog?”
“Yes, but I can’t talk about it here. Come on back to the palace with me, and I’ll tell you all we know.”
“Hitler ain’t finished his dinner yet, and I could use some more bourbon.” Regen signaled the bartender to bring another glass. “Have a drink and relax for a while.” He poured Varda a double shot and another for himself, then continued with his smurgers.
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