A Fistful of Credits
by Marc Shapiro
Epic laid down his cards and sighed. He picked up his bottle of XP917 and took a healthy swig.
Even he had to admit that his face, reflected in the bottle’s mirror finish, was less than a joy to behold. That he looked green around the gills had nothing to do with the previous night’s bender. It had everything to do with the fact that he was green and, yes, he had gills. The cat’s eyes (thanks mom) always looked uninterested, which in this line of work was a plus. The long, pointed ears? Not sure where those came from. Mom would never tell.
Epic shifted in his chair, brushing three of the six arms of the resident EZ off his broad back and the tatters of his poncho. The EZ looked bored. At least that’s what her single eye said. She was like this low rent asteroid dive, cheap looking and easy. And Epic had to admit that if he wasn’t on the clock, he would be inclined to give it a ride.
He picked up his cards once again and gave them another cursory look. He looked over the top of the cards and at the red skinned, big brained, slender as a snake shark who was, likewise, checking out the hand dealt. He said his name was Sangory 7. I tended to believe him because he didn’t appear bright enough to cook up an alias.
“I’ll bet 5000 credits,” snorted Epic as he laid his cards down.
Sagory 7 smiled broadly, showing teeth. “Sounds like a bottom feeder’s bet. I’ll see and call.”
There was tension in the air. The EZ sensed it and backed away on skinny reptile legs. Epic tossed two cards on the table. “I’ll take two.”
Sangory 7 tossed two cards in the direction of Epic. That damned smile would not go away. “I’ll just stand pat with these.”
Epic leaned back in the chair, an audible screech punctuating the smoky, dimly lit depression of the place. This sack of krim was either a real good bluffer or he had something. There was only one way to find out.
“Whatcha’ got,” said Epic, bringing his voice down to a rough chop of a whisper.
“Ladies first,” countered Sangory 7, his smile now broadened to a leer.
Epic slapped them down. “King high over 8’s.”
Sangory 7’s cards hit the deck. “Good…But not good enough. Aces high.”
It punched in the necessary digits on its Wristband Credit Monitor. Then that damned look back at Epic. “My account’s open. You can send the credits now.”
Epic put on his game face, pushed aside his poncho and laid in some digits of his own.
“To the victor,” said Epic as he pointed his own wrist band in the direction of Sangory 7, “goes the spoils.”
A blast of energy shot across the room. The EZ screamed. Assorted bar scum ducked for cover. Sangory 7 bounced off a wall and hit the floor. Epic leaped from his chair and was instantly standing over him. Looking up, Sangory 7 was dazed but defiant.
“The oldest con in the galaxy and I fell for it. So now you take my credits and kill me.”
Epic grabbed Sangory 7’s arm and roughly punched in some digits on its wrist band, effectively emptying the credits into his account. “You’re half right. I’m taking your credits…And then I’m taking you to jail.”
Sangory 7 was stunned. He just didn’t get it. Typical of a lower life form. Epic, his cat’s eyes upturned into what passed for a smirk, was happy to fill in the blanks.
“Sangory 7. Small time smuggler in the Arcturis Quadrant. Jumped bail while awaiting trial in the Verdun System. You’re small time sludge. If I hadn’t been in the neighborhood, I would have passed. But credits are credits, even though the bounty on you will barely cover my bar tab.”
Epic hooked his mark’s hands behind his back and whipped aside his poncho even further to reveal the very antiquated transport module strapped to his side. So far it had worked but, as he flipped the switch, he realized a more reliable model should be in his future. His molecules spread out over a dozen different galaxies would not be a pretty way to go.
The beam landed the pair on the main deck of what Epic lovingly called his ‘Rust Bucket’. He secured Sangory 7 to a seat. The outlaw was none the worse for attitude.
“This beef is only a class C infraction. I’ll be out in a couple of months and then I’ll be back in business.”
Epic laughed a low gravely laugh. “I’m counting on it. Repeat business is the backbone of the bounty hunting industry. Maybe next time you’ll kill something. Now that’s a bounty I could wrap my cosmic energy around.”
Epic turned away and looked past his simple control panel, through the observation screen and into the vastness of space. No stars, no planets, no nothing. It was bleak. Bleak was his favorite color. He talked into the dark, his communication set up inside the panel was on stun.
“Creation. This is Epic. Sangory 7 is secured. Wire credits into my account. Yes, I emptied his credits into my account. Last time I looked, that wasn’t against the law. Will remain in orbit until you send the wagon.”
Epic’s strident tones turned suddenly sheepish. “Oh and one more thing. Send out a Universal Prime.
“My Nuclear Pit is flooded again.”