© Copyright 2004
Written for Lost Boys second competition and dedicated to the LB and his otherworldly work.
Chapter 1: Preparations.
Procol hummed to himself as he decorated the bar, all in all, he enjoyed celebrations - O.K. so it was more work, but always fun. Procol had worked for two full years at the 'Exotix Bar and Space Stop'; no it wasn't high powered, all that had gone, but hell it was fun!
The tall Harumian slung the final banner over the glass rack at the front of the bar, and then Procol took two strides back, admiring his handiwork '100 not out!' was emblazoned in gold on a shimmering silver background. Procol uttered a brief 'harrump' of satisfaction, and sighed; all was ready. Now just add the punters, mix in a few harumian cocktails, and the tills would soon fill with space credits!
He ran a scaly hand over his bald wrinkled pate, and paused long enough to scratch his head in bemusement.
'100 not out' this was an odd celebration that apparently had it's origins far across time and space on that outpost humanity called home, the Earth.
In general, he liked Earthling's - of course there were exceptions, but they made good drinking buddies, and always, but always, had the best stories.
The first customer walked into the bar. Procol laughed deeply, and roared his welcome.
"Serendipity - one of your words isn't it - man I love that word"
"What are you talkin' about now Proc?" Lewis asked.
"I'm thinking about human drinking buddies, and you walk in - isn't that what you would call serendipity?" Procol winked.
"No it's what I would call co-incidence, you being on the wrong side of the bar, now I got a word for that!" Lewis smiled at his reptilian host.
"Let me guess - Umm, inconvenient?" Procol jested, traipsing back to the bar.
"Well my word was less polite, but you got the gist, old pal" Lewis cracked a rare smile.
Lewis pursed his lips and read the banner out aloud.
"100 not out - now that's earth speak - long time since I heard that"
"You know what it means! I understand it's ancient - some sort of good luck charm?" Procol's eyes widened in awe.
"Sure I know what it means, but if you want to know - it'll cost you - what should we say one Shuttle-Slammer" Lewis beamed.
"Fair trade, for one of your stories - coming up!"
Lewis watched Procol prepare the cocktail, a kaleidoscope of colours flashed before him, as the barman demonstrated his skills for the first time that evening.
"Now that is impressive, really impressive," said Lewis
"Just warming up" giggled, a too easily flattered Procol.
"No, not the juggling, the fact that something that looks that lethal, can taste so good!" replied Lewis, before downing the purple bubbling broth in one.
"See you, Procol," said Lewis, levering himself off the bar stool.
"Ahem, the story Lewis - The story!" Procol reminded gently.
"Oh yes, you know, that stuff makes you forgetful, real fast" Lewis grimaced, and settled himself back onto the tall stool.
"It's like this you see, at one time on Earth there was this odd sport..." Lewis began.
"Sport?" Procol interrupted.
"Game, Um, - pretend war" Lewis searched for an explanation.
"Oh war, I understand," Procol added, "carry on"
"Look Procol if the idea of sport is odd, I really think me trying to explain Cricket is a bit..." Lewis never managed to reach the end of his sentence.
Procol held up his hand, in response to the sound of the approaching party.
"Sorry Lewis, work now - stories later."
Lewis nodded, and turned to watch the guests arrive. There was the usual assortment of aliens, including some blobs. Now, Lewis had never really hit it off with blobs - ever since that time on Rigel 177.
Male blobs were so possessive - I mean - he had been drunk, very drunk, What's more, she came onto him! Only trouble was, although you could tell male blobs from female blobs, (and looking back Lewis was very pleased that was the case!) you couldn't tell one male blob from another. Lewis was in no hurry to meet that particular male blob again.
Suddenly, a quiet night in seemed a very good idea. Lewis stood quickly, intending to scurry away from the Exotix and back to the safety of his craft; but then he saw her, the star of the show, and all thoughts of escape evaporated.
She was dynamite, human, a good six feet tall with dark hair, and bedroom eyes. Lewis was sure many men would happily die, just to look deeply into those brown orbs. Lewis's adoration was rudely interrupted by an odd noise from behind him. He swung around to look at Procol. The big harumian had changed colour, chameleon-like and looked distinctly paler.
"What's the matter, buddy?" asked Lewis.
"Her, Oh, by the gods - it's her" stuttered the big reptile.
"Look, I don't know how to break this to you - but, I don't think you've got a chance! Me on the other hand..." Lewis replied, smoothing his lank hair, and attempting to look suave.
"It's not that - you don't understand," replied a shocked Procol, before disappearing behind the glimmering display at the back of the bar.
'Odd guy' thought Lewis.
All further thought was interrupted by the arrival of 'the body' on the bar stool beside Lewis. He couldn't believe his luck. She, in all her perfection, sat beside him. Then she did an amazing thing - a virtually perfect impersonation of 20th Century actress.
"What does a girl have to do, to get a drink around here?" the words bubbled from her lush lips.
Lewis saw his chance.
"Hey, Procol, Procol old friend - serve the lady!"
The lady swung her eyes to Lewis's lips, and spoke slowly in a smoky brown voice.
The absent bar keep returned, and the vision of beauty did a most unanticipated thing. She proceeded to wrap her arms around the reptile's thick neck, and plant a warm kiss on his cheek.
"You guy's know each other?" Lewis asked, his mouth agape.
"Know each other? Procol was my senior diplomat," the vision paused, "I should introduce myself - Ambassador Yulie Miller - Cultural attaché to Earth mission five"
Lewis was completely thrown; should he courtesy, kiss her hand, and address her as your grace? He really didn't know - he went for the low-key option.
"Yes, really, and Procol was the best - well until that incident on Sirus 17" the ambassador replied.
"Sirus 17?" Lewis mouthed.
"You mean he hasn't told you!"
"No, I don't think he has" Lewis regained a bit of his composure.
"Two Shuttle-Slammers, on the house," Procol interrupted, " excuse me I must serve the others."
"Told me what?" asked a confused Lewis.
"Why he left the diplomatic core," replied the ambassador.
"No, I don't believe he has" said Lewis.
"Well I can honestly say, without Procol I would not be sitting here tonight!" the ambassador stated.
"Tell me more" Lewis smiled, disarmingly.
Chapter 2: Yulie's tale.
Yulie smiled and relaxed, and a look of devilment crossed her striking features. She began.
"Procol and I worked together for six years, six very productive years. We visited planets in spiral arm gamma, advising on cultural & sociological issues, always looking to exchange ideas on reform. Over the years, I became very involved with adolescents, and their problems. It doesn't matter what species you are, puberty is always unsettling!"
Yulie paused, "That's my experience anyway, what about you?" she asked, probing delicately.
Lewis swallowed hard, he tried to keep his face a mask of indifference; he wasn't about to own up to two years of penal detention - not to a stranger.
"Very quiet, nothing extra-ordinary, Lewis Johnson was a bit of a bore, really." Lewis muttered, casting his eyes slightly to one side.
Yulie laughed, her eyes twinkled - she had hit a nerve!
"Oh, that bad..." she paused for effect, then continued.
"One day Procol briefed me that we had received an urgent request to visit Sirus 17, due to a major concern over a worrying trend in the teenage population. The request was informal; Procol had received it from an old friend - by voicemail. He wanted to act quickly, being helpful, and being more than aware of the benefits of cross-departmental co-operation..."
Lewis butted in.
"Erm, could you use a little less jargon - what benefits?"
"In layman's terms - a back-hander" smiled Yulie.
"Now that I understand, please continue" Lewis chuckled.
"So we asked the pilot to plot a course for Sirus 17, and Procol in his usual efficient manner briefed me on the background. Apparently, the teen population were rampaging off track, under age sex, drugs - all the usual. What was unusual was that they had found someway to influence their elders, and get them to join in! If this continued, society would disintegrate; the productive output had already fallen by 34%. Procol's contact was one of the Sirus systems planetary council, his daughter had visited Sirus 17 for a mini break, and now she refused to return!"
"I see, so it was vital you stopped this world from grinding to a halt" Lewis grinned, "No pun intended!"
"Not really, getting the daughter back was - Nulix Grunelow was losing face - all because his daughter Mehana spent all her time - off her face! Yulie replied, ironically.
"That was his contact!" Lewis let out a low whistle, "Procol moved in high circles. This is the same Nulix Grunelow, the CEO of Galactic Mining, right?"
"The same, you've heard of him then?" Yulie asked, jokingly.
"Who hasn't? He owns most of the outer Galaxy!" Lewis stared at the back of the bustling barman, in open disbelief. He paused, to reassess his old friend.
"Back to the story, we set off as soon as we could wrap up our current mission; a delay of a few days - no more.
When we arrived we were met by quite a delegation of Sirusian's, I'd never met any before - a striking race, tall, slim similar to what I'd always imagined an elf looked like. Have you met any, Lewis?" Yulie asked.
"Nope, met most others - had relations with several, mostly pleasant, but Sirusian's - no." Lewis replied.
"Then you are in for a treat, several are coming to the celebration tonight! Anyway, we discussed the formalities, and agreed the joint meeting would begin at 2037.30 Sidereal. Then they asked me something a little odd, Jult'a, the delegations leader asked me who would be 'performing'; an unusual phrase. I took it to mean oratory, this was my first mistake; I confirmed to Jult'a that I would. He looked quite taken aback, then nodded, smiled and said 'We are truly honoured, our performer is also female, does this present an problem?' I replied that of course it didn't, why should it. Jult'a nodded sagely and said 'Most gracious - we are indeed honored!' I simply smiled and the meeting ended." Yulie paused.
"I get the impression that communications were a bit ambiguous," Lewis stated.
Yulie's eyes flared with temper.
"Am I telling this story, or would you prefer to construct your own?" She asked pointedly.
"Sorry, I meant no offence" Lewis replied.
"I too wondered about this, so I had Procol check the meaning of 'performance' in Sirusian. It was close to our understanding, but referred a little more widely - to any form of public event. I relaxed; all was going to plan. Procol finalised my briefing, and I went back to my room to finish my speech, I would even get a couple of hours to bathe, and relax - a real luxury!" Yulie paused she drank her slammer.
This time Lewis bit his tongue, and waited for her to continue.
"So, the appointed hour came and we transferred down to the planet's surface. They had lain on quite a feast, I was a little perturbed to see so many satellite camera's; they hadn't mentioned any broadcast during our meeting. As is customary I withdrew with Jult'a to discuss my speech. I had barely got through the preliminaries when Jult'a interrupted me. 'This is most unfortunate, but the speech is written for the wrong planet - we do not have those issues here!' Once I recovered my equilibrium I asked him what his issues were. 'We have a high incidence of adolescent suicide - this is the reason for the performance. The issue you talk of are current on Sirus 70, not Sirus 17!' I immediately excused myself and sought out Procol, I was livid!"
Yulie gulped down another slammer that had magically appeared on the bar while she talked, Procol was certainly looking his unexpected guest!
"I could imagine" Lewis mused, 'I bet you're a handful' he thought, deciding against voicing his opinion.
"I tracked Procol down, and asked him how he could make such a basic mistake. He was certain he hadn't, so I asked him for the data on Sirus 17 - Procol had to admit he had left it, back on the ship. The fool had left his datacorder behind, without any confirmation we had to believe them - Sirus 17, Sirus 70 it would be an easy mistake. Procol tried to make amends, he pointed across the room to a spectacularly attractive female Sirusian, 'She is their presenter, why not chat with her, maybe her input will help you modify your speech quickly. I told him it was a poor compromise, but I saw no alternative." Yulie stopped speaking, and swung her body back towards the bar.
"Procol, top up please"
Procol virtually vaulted across the bar, filling her glass without so much as a glance at Yulie.
"Where was I - Oh yes, I ordered Procol back to the ship to check our data. I would stay and try my hardest to avoid a major diplomatic incident. Procol wandered off, looking for the entire world like a failed space cadet. I steeled myself, and went to talk to the Sirusian presenter. I introduced myself formally and asked her if I could discuss her presentation in some detail before we began. Her reaction wasn't at all what I expected, she looked mortified and spoke in a whisper 'Not here, follow me' I walked behind the elegant alien, her body swayed beneath the sheer gown - I got the distinct impression she wore little, or nothing under it." Yulie paused again, it seemed the story was affecting her.
She took a long swig of slammer, I admired her stamina - there was no way could I drink them at that pace.
"She led me to a dressing room, tucked away from the main area. The elegant female spoke quietly 'I'm Circlu'a, what do you want to know about my presentation?' I asked for a brief description of it, nothing too detailed, just an overview so I could make my presentation appropriate. She looked totally bemused, sighed and said 'Well, it's up to you really; I'll follow your lead. My experience is with male presenters, it's unusual for a delegation to use a female' Now I was bemused, what did she mean 'follow my lead'? Yulie slumped, and slammed her empty glass down on the bar.
Procol got the message, refilling the glass swiftly.