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In Search of Hinkle's Home by Bruce Cook

 
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 22, 2019 10:03 am    Post subject: In Search of Hinkle's Home by Bruce Cook Reply with quote



_______ In Search of Hinkle’s Home
____________________ by Bruce Cook

Every single customer who walked, crawled, or flew into Duffy’s Revenge — a popular spaceport bar on a planet call Dusseldorf II — faced the same two choice.

(1) He could order a drink and join whatever outlandish festivities happened to be taking place at the moment, or —

(2) He could give in to the urge to ask the bartender what the name Duffy’s Revenge meant.

The interesting thing about the answer he would get was this; it would be long and fascinating and totally different from the last answer the bartender gave to the last customer who asked. This was because the bartender is usually Duffy himself, the owner of this rowdy establishment, and old Duffy was one of the great yarn tellers of all time.

There was a rumor that circulated among Duffy’s oldest customers, which stating that many years ago Duffy’s wife badgered him about all the time he was wasting in a certain spaceport bar he was fond of. One day Duffy got fed up with all the nagging — so he bought the bar, changed the name to Duffy’s Revenge, and never went back home again.

Admittedly it was just a rumor. Duffy staunchly refused to comment on it. True, Duffy did live alone in a little apartment right above the spaceport bar, but that didn’t really prove anything. After all, some of Duffy’s best customers seemed to live right in the bar. They just slept somewhere else . . . usually.






When Julius Hinkle, captain of the King’s Ransom, walked into Duffy’s Revenge he didn’t need to ask about the name because he’d been there before. In fact, Captain Hinkle had been in dozens of spaceport bars on dozens of planets. He was a bonafide Man of the World (many worlds, in fact), complete with an indolent nature, an inflated ego, and a jaded eye. It took a lot to impress Julius Hinkle, and his manner was carefully designed to let everybody know it. Hinkle was a man who had but two basic needs.

Fame and fortune.

At the ripe old age of thirty-eight he had not yet managed to attain either of the two, a fact he found highly annoying

This, indirectly, was what brought Hinkle to Duffy’s Revenge. Things had not gone well for him lately, and his fate showed little inclination to improve its lot. All of Hinkle’s viable options were AWOL. So, now Hinkle was entering Duffy’s Revenge to honor a tradition established throughout history by a long line of desperate men. He was going to do some serious drinking.

As usual, Duffy’s Revenge was crowded, noisy, and filled with a boisterous mob of life forms from thirty different planets. Their range in sizes alone was impressive. The humans Hinkle spotted seemed to be the “middle sized” patrons of this multicolored ensemble, with an ample number of creatures both larger and smaller than the men and women sprinkled among the crowd.

Hinkle stepped up to the bar and watched the robot bartender as it did incomprehensible things to the vast and varied array of human and non-human drink containers — glasses, mugs, squeeze bulbs, squirt bottles, sponge-like blobs of Lord-knows-what, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum. Hnkle waited for the robot to give him a cordial welcome, but the mindless mechanism ignore him for some reason.






Hinkle drummed the bar impatiently with his fingers and prayed nobody was witnessing the robot's shabby treatment of him. Pride was a dominate factor in Captain Julius Hinkle’s character, especially if it was wounded, which happened often. His teeth were clenched when he finally spoke in a low voice.

“When you’re all through playing with your inventory, maybe you can find the time to send a Seawater Fizz over to my table.”

Without waiting for an answer, Hinkle turned and started making his way through the crowd towards an empty table that hugged the back wall. He was in an ill mood, and he deliberately let the butt of his holstered plasmabeam pistol rap against the shoulders and elbows and corresponding non-human body parts of the seated customers as he squeezed through the narrow gaps between the tables.

If anybody wanted trouble, that was okay with Hinkle.

All this bravado from a man who stood five foot six with half a head of frizzy black hair and a thin physique that made his head look too large for his body. He had a small chin, a sizable nose with a hook, and brooding eyes that didn’t invite people to shake his hand and say howdy.

You had to hand it Captain Julius Hinkle, he never submitted to an accurate self-image. He carried himself like the man he yearned to be: tall and square-jawed and irresistible to the female of any species. And he dressed the part, too. Hinkle’s wardrobe tended towards black, tight fitting commando-like outfits, with calf-high boots and a low-slung quick-draw holster.

The total effect was unique. He was both dashing and ridiculous, all in one glance. His cocky attitude and belligerent expression earned him more than his fair share of trouble from time to time. But despite his small stature, he was physically fit and well-versed in fighting methods that kept him alive whenever somebody sincerely wanted to kill him.

Hinkle reached the little table against the wall without provoking anybody to commit murder. Like a cautious old gunfighter, he sat down and put his back to the wall while his eyes panned around the room as if the place was filled with enemies who were just waiting for him to relax. In a way that would have been better than being ignored by everybody — including the indolent robot bartender who probably wouldn’t bother to send him his drink.

But then Hinkle saw the floating tray cruising above the heads of the noisy mob, making a bee-line towards him with his Seawater Fizz. One hideous aquatic alien stood up in the transparent tank of blue liquid it was using as its "chair" and tried to snatch the drink from the tray. A bright arc of electricity zapped his spidery claw, and his yelp of pain brought a burst of laughter from the surrounding customers.



_____________


Stupid, thought Hinkle. He's sitting in a tub of water, a natural conductor. The trick is to put one hand on the person next to you when you reach. The charge will pass through your arms and shock him — or her, if your date seems to need a jump start . . . which is the kind I usually get.

The tray landed lightly on the able without dumping the drink in his lap, which had actually happened to him once with a young lady he was trying to impress. It was just one incident in a long and disastrous evening which Hinkle shudder every time he remember it.

He shuddered again now and gulped down half his drink.



______________


In addition to providing mild euphoria, a Seawater Fizz had a strange effect on most humans. It stimulated the inner ear in an odd way, making the room seem to tilt left, right, left, right — as if one were on a boat, riding a gentle swell. That, of course, was how the drink got it’s name. Ironically, a Seawater Fizz was a great cure for seasickness. All you had to do was get the swells in opposing sync . . .

Seawater Fizz drinkers are easy to spot. They sway slowly. And they smile.

Hinkle was soon swaying, but he was a bit slow to smile, because he couldn’t stop thinking about how badly things had gone at the spaceport. Before arriving on Dusseldorf II he had called ahead to order a complete set of carbon static filters for the atmosphere recycler on the King’s Ransom — a Transector StellaTug with an ungainly appearance and oversized engines.

But when Hinkle landed at the spaceport he was informed that a Simbeggian freighter had arrived a few hours earlier with a failing atmosphere recycler, and the captain had offered an outrageous sum for the filters that had been ordered for Hinkle. The Simbeggians were extremely anxious to get their ship repaired and leave.






So, now Hinkle was stuck on Dusseldorf II for at least three days while he waited for a new set of filters to arrive by freight. Which meant he could kiss that smuggling job on Hollacox good-bye.

He had been counting on the money he would make from smuggling those cheap organically grown diamonds into the Quaxaloni system. The diamonds were going to be used to make counterfeit designer jewelry — never mind the fact that they would disintegrate into mush in two years and leave the wearer with dark stains on their skin that would take months to fade away.

Julius Hinkle didn’t usually get involved in things that were completely illegal, but in this case he was going to make an exception. Somehow he just couldn’t work up much guilt about being part of a counterfeit jewelry scheme. Anyone who would spend millions of credits on shiny baubles just to decorate their necks, fingers, wrists, tentacles, claws, or antennae just plain deserved to be fleeced!

Swaying slowly, Captain Julius Hinkle finished off his Seawater Fizz and leaned back against the wall, studying the boisterous crowd. He noticed a big, glowing electronic banner above the bars.


_____FREE BEER NIGHT !!! Starting at 2000 hours.

The glowing announcement presented a puzzle, and Julius Hinkle just loved puzzles. Why the hell would Duffy be giving away beer? It was cheap, it was popular, and Duffy’s Revenge certainly wasn’t hurting for business. So why give away the bar's most popular item?

Hinkle looked around the crowded bar and wrestled with this strange enigma . . . until the answer suddenly dawned on him. Beer might be mankind's preferred beverage for thousands of years, but there were dozens of life forms in Duffy’s Revenge who had never tasted the divine blend of hops and barley before, and if Duffy could introduce these neophytes to this intoxicating beverage, it would increase his customer base significantly.






It was a shrewd plan. Give away beer tonight, and then sell it to alcoholic aliens for years to come! Hinkle knew his Earth history, and he remembered that the aborigines of the North American continent had been duped in the same manner. It was nothing mankind should be proud of, but that never stopped the capitalists who had funded mankind’s conquest of space!

Hinkle sat back and smiled as he contemplated the coming event. As spaceport bars went, Duffy’s Revenge was one of the best. Hinkle only had one complaint. There were no live barmaids to bring the drinks. Just microphones and keypads built into the tables for customers to order their drinks, and flying trays that sailed above the heads of the customers, zapping the less prudent individuals who tried to snatch a free beverage.

Hinkle saw another non-human reach up with a questing hand when a tray flew overheard. The creature had his arm casually drapped across its companion's shoulder — which meant that the poor companion would receive the charge. When the tray zapped the reaching hand, the innocent companion yelped and started whipping the would-be thief with its (her?) octopus arms.



_____________


Both of their chairs fell over backwards and they ended up rolling around on the floor. A crowd start gathering around the two. After the first few seconds the crowd noise began to change somehow, and it took Hinkle a moment to realize that the shouted comments were starting to sound like the audience at a nudie bar, complete with whistled cat calls.

Then Hinkle saw the robot bouncer come floating out from its wall recess, cruising above the mob, its four mechanical arms hanging down from the underside of its flat, round body.






The robot bouncer hovered above the unseen couple at the center of the shouting mob, then it dipped down for a moment. When it rose up again it was holding the two non-humans. But they were both oblivious to everything around them, locked in wild alien love-making.

The crowd was cheering them on with deafening volume.

Hinkle wondered if the sudden passion of the two non-humans had been some kind of reflex triggered by the electric charge. If so, Duffy was going to have to either change the voltage or be mobbed by alien couples who would lunge at the flying trays. Perhaps Duffy would just decide to charge for the service. All’s fair in love and business.

Captain Julius Hinkle sat at his small table while he swayed and smiled and ordered himself a second Seawater Fizz. He was beginning to enjoy himself. Only one more hour until Free Beer Night began. He was looking forward seeing how the multi-species crowd reacted to Earth’s oldest alcoholic beverage.

It occurred to Hinkle that he could spend the entire three-day wait right there at his table until the replacement carbon static filters arrived, ordering his food from Duffy’s modest kitchen. In fact, he could order almost everything he needed — an electric razor, a pack of Kwik-Klean wet wipes, and all the hangover and headache medicines he would need! The flying trays would bring it all to him.

Hinkle wondered if could even order a live bar maid. It was an amusing mental image, because the trays were small, and the young lady would have to squat on top with her knees up high in the short dress she would . . .

Hinkle shook his head quickly and dismissed the mental image before it could tempt him to want things that weren’t readily available right here, right now. But the trays could provide his essential needs. He could notify the robot bouncers to guard his table whenever he had to go to the rest room. Or perhaps he could figure a way to put one of the flying trays on hold, making it hover at his table, zapping any interlopers who tried to muscle in on his turf.

Hinkle noticed the room lights getting dimmer. Evidently somebody had fed a few coins into the entertainment center, because the big raised dais in the middle of the room was suddenly filled with the holographic images of two bizarre monsters. One was vaguely insect-like, and the other was the Father of All Reptiles, complete with twelve-inch teeth and eighteen-inch claws. Both beasts were more than twenty feet long.






Hinkle was familiar with the two species from his extensive travels through this sector of the galaxy, and he knew they would never face each other in real life, because they each required different kinds of atmospheres.

A computer was manufacturing these two images, and the computer would govern their movements based on its detailed knowledge of each species. The purpose of all this was to stage a knock-down, drag-out fight between the two creatures. Hinkle saw bets being placed back and forth between the spectators while the two slightly translucent images of the combatants circled each other on the big raised dais. Then the monsters came together with an audible thud, and the fight was on!

The noise was deafening; blood-curdling bellows, ear-piercing screams, ragged shrieks — and that was just the spectators! Hinkle could barely hear the roars of the monsters.

The computer-generated images were totally realistic, right down to the deep cuts and savage bites they inflicted on each other, all of which bled profusely. The combatants were soon covered in each other’s blood . . . some of which was green.

Hinkle punched up an order for some pretzels and decided to root for the monster with the green blood . . . if could figure out which one that was. He hoped it was the insect, because he disliked reptiles. Next to Sembeggians (the lowly creatures whoi stole his carbon static filers) reptiles were his least favorite life forms.

And suddenly, speak of the devil, up He jumps — to block his view!

Three Sembeggians were taking seats at a table near Hinkle, right between him and the holographic battle. These alien creatures resembled the “walking stick” insects indigenous to Earth. The major differences between Simbeggians and the Earth insect they resembled was their height. Simbeggians stood about six feet tall, their bodies were somewhat flexible, and they walked on their hind legs.






Hinkle wore a sour expression as he watched a robot bouncer float over and convert the adjustable chairs at the table to fit the Simbeggians — which was no easy task. The result was something that looked more like a bicycle rack than a chair. Finally the Sembeggians sat down (or climbed into their racks), and the robot bouncer departed, restoring Hinkle’s view of the fight — but by this time it was too late. The battle still raged, but Hinkle’s good mood had been obliterated. He was glaring angrily at the Simbeggians. He recognized two of them as the captain and the first officer of the freighter that had commandeered his carbon static filters.

Suddenly Hinkle was angry all over again, and no amount of Seawater Fizzes would help. But he couldn’t very well eat the pretzels he’d ordered without something to wash them down, so he ordered another drink. The both arrived on the same tray a few minutes later.

The holographic battle suddenly ended when the reptile ripped the head off the insect creature. Green blood spurted in all directions. Because of the creature’s insect-like appearance, Hinkle was glad the damn thing lost. After all, what right did those skinny Simbeggians have to buy the filters he had order?

Hinkle had asked the maintenance chief at the spacesport what the Simbeggian freighter was carrying. The answer: NOTHING! The blasted freighter was empty! So, the Simbeggians must have been on their way to pick up something important. And they had to get there before somebody else did!

Which was exactly the same problem Captain Julius Hinke had!

And now they would make the rendezvous with their customers, but he wouldn’t. . . thanks the them!

If would serve them right it he . . .

Suddenly Hinkle had a very interesting thought. What if he could screw up the deal for them by sending a message in their name to the prospective customers. Something like, “Unavoidably delayed. Deal us out.”

The thought made a wicked smile dance across Hinkle’s face. If only he knew what destination they were bound for, or who their employers were. Maybe he could just saunter over to their table and chat with them.

Naw . . . they’d suspect something. He’d been pretty angry at the spaceport and he’d called them a few dirty names. But perhaps he could start out apologizing for his rude behavior. No hard feelings, stuff like that. It might work . . . but he’d better wait until they’d had a few drinks before he tried the bold approach. The right amount of intoxication would make them feel more friendly.

Intoxication . . . the thought stirred something in his mind. But it slipped away before he got a good hold on it.

Well, in the meantime perhaps there was something he could be doing while he waited. Hinkle had a little gizmo aboard his ship that could pick up every word the Simbeggians said, eliminating the background noise. But Hinkle was reluctant to leave the bar, especially with Free Beer Night about to start. He might not be able to get back in. Or the Simbeggians might leave!

A new thought crept into Hinkle’s head and raised it’s hand to get his attention, It concerned a trick he’d once heard about which employed ordinary phones. He wondered if it could be used in this situation. It would depend on the kind of phones Duffy provided for his customers.

Hinkle punched in a request for a phone. Sixty seconds later a floating tray arrived with a complex device. Hinkle picked up the phone, and the tray floated a few inches above the table, waiting patiently for him to finish with it. Hinkle inspected the phone carefully. The number for this particular phone was printed above the touch buttons. He turned the phone over and found a rectangular area of black metal that looked like a magnet.

Perfect! thought Hinkle.



_______


Experimentally he stuck the back of the phone to the underside of the tray. Obviously it was designed to remain attached there whenever the tray was filled with drinks. Hinkle noted that it was not visible as long as the tray was below eye level. And that suited his purposes perfectly.

Hinkle punched in a request for a second phone, and he also ordered three drinks of the type he’d seen the Simbeggians having. He wondered if the bar’s computer would question his request for a second phone.

It didn’t. But it added a security deposit for both phones to his tab. If he tried to leave with the phones or without pay his tab, the robot bouncing would swoop down on him like a hawk.

The tray bearing the second phone and the three drinks glided up to his tabled and hovered next to first tray. Hinkle picked up the second phone and dialed the number printed on the first phone. It beeped politely, and he answered his own call. Then he adjusted the sensitivity of the phone’s mic to full volume and stuck the phone to the underside of the tray bearing the three drinks.






Hinkle glanced around nervously. Nobody seemed to be watching his strange actions. He then told the bartender computer to send the tray with the three drinks to table 18 where the Simbeggians were sitting with empty glasses. Hinkle also told the computer to cancel their own order because this round was on “a friend”.

He also told the computer to leave the tray at their table because they would be using the phone. This was only a half lie . . .

The tray with the drinks on the top and the phone on the bottom floated up and over the intervening tables, headed towards the Simbeggians. For an moment Hinkle feared the insect-like aliens would notice the phone attached to the bottom of the tray before it dropped down low enough to hide it when it hovered a few inches above the middle of the table. But the three non-humans didn’t notice the tray at all — just the drinks. Hinkle was relived when the tray remained four inches above the table, waiting for the Simbeggians to remove the phone.

Across the room, Hinkle saw a tray bearing three drinks heading towards the Simbeggians. But it stopped in midair and returned to the bar. The Simbeggians would think the drinks on the tray in front of them were the ones they ordered. So far, so good.

Hinkle put the second phone to his ear and lurched when the noise of the Simbeggians’ amplified conversation assaulted his eardrum. He turned down the volume and tried again. He could see the three non-humans leaning in close, their impossibly thin bodies casting sundial shadows on the table — while the tray with the phone beneath it hovered right in the middle.

From the phone at his ear came the clearly audible words of the aliens' conversation as they spoke above the noise of the surrounding crowd. It was remarkably clear and audible. Only one problem; the Simbeggians were speaking in their own language . . .

Quickly Hinkle punched in a request to have the phone call translated from Simbeggian to English.

Viola! The words became English! Hinkle put his hand over his face to hide his sudden attack of the giggles while he sat there pretending to hold a phone conversation. He hoped the Simbeggians would take a long time with the complimentary drinks he'd provided. Eavesdropping was a guilty pleasure which Julius Hinkle thoroughly enjoyed.

“ — it depends on the type of planet,” one of the aliens was saying. Hinkle saw the captain talking while the other two nodded attentively. “If the planet’s environment is suitable for a large number of sentient species, then the planet is worth quite a lot. The Council of New Habitation will rule on that. It’s very complicated.”

“I thought it was a standard amount,” said the first officer.

“No, not at all. It varies a great deal, depending on the planet’s location, size, environment — so forth and so on.”

“Well, we do know one thing,” said the first officer. “The planet we found is suitable for Simbeggians — so it must be suitable for every life in this room who isn’t wearing life-support aids. And look at how many there are!” Hinkle saw the first officer wave a stick-thin arm at the crowd around him. “Hell, the finder’s fee might well be enormous if — “

“Lower your voice, you fool!” the captain said sharply. “One more slip-up like that and I’m going to order you back to the ship!”

“S-s-sorry, sir!”

Hinkle was sitting like a statue, eyes glazed, mouth hanging open.

Finders fee? His own dumbfounded voice echoed in this head. They . . . they found an uncharted planet! An uncolonized planet with no indigenous sentient life forms!

“Pay dirt!” Hinkle said aloud.

“What did you say?” the Simbeggian captain's voice spoke in Hinkle’s ear. Hinkle slapped his hand over his mouth when he realized that the phone beneath the tray made his words audible to the Simbeggians! Luckily it had also translated them into their language, so the captain thought one of the other two aliens had mumbled something.

“I didn’t say anything,” the first officer said defensively.

“Yes, you did.”

“Did I? Uh . . . sorry, sir.”

Having already riled the captain once, the first officer didn’t want to contradict him and risk being sent back to the ship. He would miss Free Beer Night, which was already drawing quite a crowd. The place was packed with customers, and the noise level had risen.

The Simbeggians started speculating on what “beer” might be, while Hinkle sat there stunned by what he’d heard. The Galactic Alliance of Sentient Life paid a fantastic reward to anyone who reported the coordinates of an environmentally suitable planet that did not already have an indigenous species living on it. Despite the fact that there were several hundred thousand inhabited star systems throughout the galaxy, most of which were members of the Alliance, there were still billions of star systems that no one had investigated yet!

One star system out of a thousand held a planet that was suitable for one-or-more of the Alliance’s member races. Thousands of expeditions to find such planets were funded by governments, universities, private enterprise, etc. But the job of finding new planets with favorable environments was as big as the galaxy itself. Only on rare occasions were such planets found purely by accident.

No wonder the Simbeggians were in such a hurry to get their ship repaired! They were on their way to file a claim for the finder’s fee!

It was a staggering thought: the fame that comes with being the discoverer of a new world! The Alliance not only paid a fortune for the information, they also granted the finder of the planet the honor of naming the new world. The discoverer could dub it anything he wanted . . . as long as the name was not something outrageously offensive to the probable races who might colonize it. That’s why some of the inhabited planets in the galaxy had lunatic names — like Timbuk 3 (right next to Timbuktu . . . or so the joke went).

And the discoverer of a new world got first dibs on any prime real estate they might wish to buy with their finder’s fee, at a price that was far lower than it would be when colonization began.

Hinkle’s mind was swimming in a sea of delirious fantasies. His own planet . . . and the vast fortune he’d get for it!

And it was his, too! Those damn Simbeggians had screwed him out of his carbon static filters to repair their ship, and that had cost him the profit he’d make on the organically grown diamonds! Therefore, he was within his rights to screw them out of their finder’s fee!

Besides, they only wanted the money! To Hinkle it meant much more than that. It meant more to him than anything ever had before. It was the fame and fortune he'd always yearned for. The future inhabitants of the planet would remember him for thousands of years as the intrepid explorer who discovered their world — a historic figure, a man of legend . . . a hero!

Julius Hinkle was so excited he was trembling all over. But there was an important obstacle to overcome.

But how can I get the interstellar coordinates of that planet from the Simbeggians?

Just the Galactic Standard name or the registration number of the star around which it orbited would probably be enough. But the Simbeggians wouldn’t be foolish enough to let that information slip out — they were already paranoid about somebody overhearing them. Besides, they were almost finished with their drinks, taking small sips that probably equaled gulping down half the drink because of their broom-stick thin torsos! Eventually they'd put the empty glasses onto the floating tray, and it would carry the hidden telephone back to the bar.

Nervously Hinkle pulled a pack of cigarettes from his jacket pocket and lit with trembling hands. A small air purifier popped up from the middle of the table, sucking in the smoky air and scrubbing it clean. Julius Hinkle was one of those rare eccentrics who used plain organic tobacco, loaded with tar and nicotine, unadorned by any other narcotics or flavorings. Of course, this meant he had to get his lungs periodically treated with halconide gas, a synthetic that cleaned out the impurities. And there was the risk of developing several diseases, the cures for which were fairly expensive.

But despite all this, Julius Hinkle smoked plain tobacco wrapped in paper tubes.

As he puffed nervously on the cigarette, a strange thought came into his head, something that had knocked at the door of his preoccupied consciousness several times earlier. It was a random bit of information he had heard recently concerning the chemical composition of tobacco and the physiological makeup of Simbeggians.

Hinkle sat very still for several seconds while he coax the information out of his Seawater Fizz soaked brain. He bounced a few key phrases around in his mind until they smacked into the appropriate subject matter and stuck there.

Cigarettes . . . and nicotine . . . and intoxication . . . and Simbeggians . . .

Ah-ha!

Hinkle had heard from a reliable source that medical researchers recently discovered the first and only effective cure for denarosis — a serious and often fatal disease that affected Simbeggians. This amazing new wonder drug that cured this dreaded diseases was none other than . . . nicotine. But nicotine was not produced in any plant which grew on the Simbeggians’ home world, and for that reason, the Simbeggians knew nothing about tobacco.

There appeared to be only one notable side effect to the treatment of denarosis using nicotine; if sent Simbeggians right up to Cloud Nine. In fact, it was such an effective intoxicant that black marketers were competing with the pharmaceutical industry to corner the market on tobacco. The competition was driving the price of tobacco through the roof, making cigarettes tough to find in many star systems — which was how Hinkle found out about the whole thing.

It was similar to the situation in the early 21st Century when the medical applications of the drugs derived from cannabis plants were discovered, resulting in the widespread use of medical marijuana and the its eventual legalization as recreation drug.

At the present time, both the pharmaceutical industry and the black marketers were keeping the situation quiet while they bought up the existing stock piles of tobacco. But what it all boiled down to was this: in addition to having a new cure for an old disease, the Simbeggians had a brand new way to get zonked!

Suddenly remembering all this gave Julius Hinkle an idea so fiendishly clever it made his pulse thunder in his ears, a sound which was audible above the roar of the wild and rowdy Free Beer Night crowd. But he knew that everything depended on the Simbeggians not knowing about nicotine — and Hinkle figured the odds were against it. In fact, the bar's central computer didn’t even know about it, otherwise it would have sent the robot bouncer to extinguish his cigarette. There was a law against polluting the atmosphere in public places with any substance that was harmful or intoxicating to the life forms who used it.

Admittedly enforcement of such laws were a trifle lax in bars . . . especially spaceport bars . . . and very especially in Duffy’s Revenge. Tobacco smoke was, of course, harmful to humans. But the little air purifiers on the tables supposedly kept the smoke level down to acceptable standards . . . as long as Hinkle didn’t start blowing into anybody’s face.

Hinkle placed the phone on his waiting tray and let it sail away. He made a conscious effort to compose himself, suppressing his excitement and nervousness as he rose from the table. Free Beer Night was in full swing, and the bar was three-deep in pushy customers. At regular intervals a squadron of flying trays rose majestically from behind the bar and fanned out into the room, soaring above the heads of the customers seated at the tables.

One of these trays arrived at the Simbeggians’ table at the same moment Hinkle did, and it floated next to the tray which had the phone attached to the underside. The Simbeggians finished their drinks and placed their empty glasses onto the empty tray which hovered above the center of the table. The tray lifted up and headed for the bar, taking the hidden phone with it. The Simbeggians’ attention was centered on the newly arrived tray which took the old one’s place as it gently dropped down to the center of the table. It held about a dozen shot glasses, each one filled with a different colored beverage, most of which were various shades of yellow-amber.

Hinkle noticed that there were three shades of each color. Conclusion: it was a sampler tray. Different types of beer.

The Simbeggian captain looked up at Hinkle for a moment before he recognized him. Hinkle had no way of reading the non-human’s face — because it was a eight inches, five inches wide, and virtually featureless by human standards. But at least Hinkle wouldn’t need a translator, because the Simbeggians were wearing metal bands around their upper torsos. They had come prepared for the problems of ordering drinks in a non-Simbeggian bar.

“Hello there!” Hinkle said cheerfully, nervousness adding a shrill edge to this voice. “Uh . . . listen, I just wanted to apologize for the way I acted at the spaceport.” He finished by taking a quick drag on his cigarette. He heard a barely-audible sound from the translator bands around their bodies; his words were being translated into their language.

The captain’s mouth was a lipless slit, as thin as a knife wound. But when the Simbeggian spoke, the slit writhed and wriggled as it formed one long, complex word which came out so softly Hinkle could barely hear it. Then the translator around the captain's neck spoke.

“Why?” the translator band said simply, reproducing the sarcasm that must have been in the captain’s voice.

“Well,” said Hinkle, huffing smoke out in a billowing cloud. He took another hefty drag and then said, “I said some unfair things, and it sort of bothered me.” More smoke drifted over the table. “I mean, obviously you guys are caring some kind of perishable cargo, otherwise you wouldn’t have paid so much for my . . . I mean your carbon static filters. Right?”

“Ummm . . . . “ the captain paused, then said, “Right.”

“Sure , that’s what I figured!” Hinkle grinned like a used car salesmen. “All's fair in love and business, like they say. Everybody knows that. Never let it be said that Julius Hinkle isn’t a big enough man to apologize!” He drew on the cigarette and then laughed loudly. Smoke wafted over the table like fog rolling into the coast of England. The air purifier popped up from the table beneath the floating tray.

The Simbeggians looked him up and down for a moment, and Hinkle wondered if the translator had been confused by his reference to being a “big enough man”. He decided he better avoid non-literal phrases.

The captain finally spoke, sounding like a cautious diplomat. “We don't have any feelings of resentment over the incident. We regret that you’ll be delayed because of the filters.”

Hinkle was a portrait of charm, his cordial reply carefully crafted to win the alien's trust.

“No sweat — I mean, that’s okay. There’s enough here in Duffy’s Revenge to keep me entertained for a few days.” Hinkle waved his hand around at the boisterous crowd, then he leaned forward and peered at the tray full of shot glasses like they were something new and wondrous. “So, that’s beer, huh?”

“Apparently,” said the captain in flat voice.

Hinkle glanced over at his former table, now occupied by somebody else. “Gee, it looks like I lost my table.”

“Yes,” said the captain, but the tone of his translated voice had softened a little. Hinkle took a drag on his cigarette and sent another cloud of smoke drifting over the table. He heard the air purify rev up a little.

“Mind if I join you?” Hinkle said hopefully. It all hinged on this moment.

“Well . . . no . . . we don’t mind,” the captain said hesitantly, but he sounded a little confused, as if he wasn't quite sure what he minded.

“Thanks!” said Hinkle. He dragged an empty human-shaped chair over from the next table and sat down quickly before the Simbeggian captain could object. He punched in an order for another sampler tray of beer and then stalled for time by grinning like an innocent fool and gazing around the bar like a Kansas farm boy at the State Fair until the new tray arrived and hover high enough above the first tray to give access to the contents of both. Hinkle selected a glass of reddish-colored beer and sniffed it experimentally, as if he was not familiar with beer.

Meanwhile the Simbeggians each chose a glass from the bottom tray and took a cautious sip. For the first time, Hinkle saw expressions on their faces, if indeed they were expressions. Their tiny noses were pulled upward towards their beady eyes, wrinkling the skin like soft leather.

Hinkle tried his own beverage. Hmmm . . . not bad. Not his favorite brand, but not bad. Hinkle was no connoisseur of beer, but he’d had good ones and bad ones often enough to know that this one was on the high end. Hinkle wondered if free pretzels were served on Free Beer Night. That certainly seemed reasonable.

The Simbeggians had replaced their half-empty glasses on the tray and were trying another sample. One of the non-humans (the first officer) had selected the reddish colored beer which Hinkle had tried. The Simbeggian swallowed the entire glass and then his nose rose upward again.

“Whadda ya think?” said Hinkle, smiling hopefully. He lifted his dwindling cigarette and drew on it hard enough make it half as long.

“Perhaps it’s an acquired taste,” the first officer replied.

“Right. Try another one.” Hinkle leaned forward to blow smoke too high for the air recycle to draw it in. The non-human blinked his tiny eyes for a moment as the cloud rolled by, but he didn’t seem to mind the gaseous barrage.

Meanwhile, the captain had tried one of the dark amber beers, and he downed the whole glass. Despite the air recycler’s best efforts, the air above the table was hazy with smoke. And yet there were still no complaints from the aliens. They seemed to be in a good mood, as near as Hinkle could tell. The captain was nodding his head slowly, as if in deep thought.

“Interesting,” he finally said as he placed his empty glass back on the tray and picked up another one.

“So, you like it?" Hinkle said.

“As a beverage . . . no,” said the captain slowly. “But as an intoxicant it has a very subtle effect. Extremely pleasant.”

“Glad to hear it!” Hinkle said jovially, puffing smoke like an ancient locomotive. The other Simbeggians were nodding their narrow heads slowly in agreement. Hinkle picked up another glass. “Well, here’s to new friends!”

The Simbeggians lifted their glasses and downed the beer. Around them, Duffy’s Revenge was immersed in the full swing of Free Beer Night. Apparently Duffy’s strategy to introduce beer to those not familiar with it was working beautifully, and the patrons who already loved the stuff where taking full advantage of the fact that tonight it was free for the asking.

The air overhead was filled with flying trays carrying glasses that were either full or empty, maneuvering around each other on their way to and from the bar. Somebody had cranked up the entertainment center again. The raised dais at the center of the room was suddenly filled a dozen lithe, semi-humoid beings who sang in a strange, twangy language while they danced in a wild, weightless fashion, like comic-cartoon characters, slinging each other around in a manner that only computer generated images could manage. It was an enjoyable act, if a bit mindless and chaotic.

Hinkle dropped the stub of his cigarette into the receptacle just below the edge of the table, then he fumbled with his nearly empty pack and pulled out another one. His hands shock a bit when he hastily lit it and took a long draw. The Simbeggians were watching the wild dancing figures on the entertainment center’s raised dais.

Hinkle took a deep breath and made an effort to sound casual when he said, “So, ummm . . . where are you guys headed?” He tried his best to look casual and curious, instead of the nervous wreck he actually was.

The first officer turned around and blurted out “We’re going to Nolajax!”

Bingo! shouted a voice in Hinkle’s head. Nolajax was the nearest star system with an Alliance Administration Center in it.

The captain jerked forward when his first officer spoke, and Hinkle saw the first officer shrink back as the two stared at each other. Hinkle launched a cloud of smoke at the captain while he spoke in an excited, conspiratorial voice.

“Hey, you guys aren’t smuggling something are you? Because if you are, I could help out a little. I’ve got all the police surveillance buoys plotted in that system, and I could chart a safe route through them for you. Pretty clever, huh?”

“Very resourceful,” the captain said in a tight voice. Then his tone softened. “As a matter of fact . . . we really would like to have that information.”

“We certainly would!” the third Simbeggian sang out cheerfully, speaking for the first time. He was swaying noticeably.

“Glad to help a friend,” Hinkle said, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

“By the way, this is my navigator,” said the captain. The navigator raised his impossibly long, spindly hand and waved slowly, bending the thin fingers down, up, down, up — the way a small child would wave. Hinkle decided that if the navigator had been human he’d be wearing a silly drunken smile. Hinkle inhaled deeply on his cigarette, leaned forward, and said, “Hello there,” with the accent on a very windy H. The navigator disappeared inside a white cloud.

Hinkle turned to the captain and lowered his voice as much as the surrounding clamor would allow. “Come on, Captain. You can trust me! What are you guys carrying?”

“We’d . . . rather not say,” the captain replied. It occurred to Hinkle that the translators were doctoring up the Simbeggians’ diction, compensating for the slur in their voices.

“Aaaaaw,” drawled the first officer, leaning forward as he spoke in cheery whisper. “Why not, Captain? He’s not going anywhere. Remember? Thanks to us, his ship is crippled!”

The translators of all three aliens suddenly produced an odd sound which Hinkle took to alien laughter. The three Simbeggians trembled visibly, leaning on their twig-thin elbows while they sagged forward. Big joke of poor old Hinkle . . .

But the sight was so funny that Hinkle didn’t have to fake it when he laughed with them. He took a last drag on the stub of his second cigarette and punctuated his laughter with a barrage of smoke, turning his head to face each alien and send the cloud around the table. After a moment the aliens recovered enough to toss off a few shot glasses of beer.

“Hey, I think I LIKE this stuff!” the captain said enthusiastically.

“Yeah, yeah, me too,” Hinkle said. “But about that cargo, eh? Come on, you can tell your old pal, Hinkle.”

“Okay, okay, okay,” the captain said quietly, putting his hand on Hinkle’s shoulder while he leaned in so close that the man felt like he was dancing with a broom. “Here it is, Hinky old buddy. Ready? We got noooooo cargo. Zilch. What we DO got . . . is information. Very valuable information.” The captain stopped, as if he thought that was answer enough. Hinkle spoke quickly in a low but teasing voice.

“Well damn, captain, don’t hog the whole surprise for yourself! Let him tell some of it.” Hinkle was grinning like a game show host as he pointed suddenly at the first officer, “It's yourturn!”

“A planet!” was his instant, gleeful reply.

“Really? Wow! You found a planet? That’s great.” Hinkle turned quickly to the navigator. “Okay, now you get to tell me where it is!”

“Hey, wait a minute . . . “ mumbled the captain, still leaning on Hinkle’s shoulder, as if he needed the support.

“The Tarenian Ra system!” the navigator shouted happily. “Would you believe it? That system has been engulfed in an interstellar dust cloud for two million years, but the cloud finally drifted past — and there she was! An uncharted planetary system with a beautiful uninhabited planet.!”

“Well I’ll just be damned!” Hinkle said, making his voice a bit loud on purpose. Then he quickly put his finger to his lips and made a long shushing sound while he looked around the room. “Hey, we better not talk so loud! You never know who might be listening in a place like this.”

The Simbeggians bobbed their narrow heads up and down in solemn agreement, leaning closer to the center of the table so that their secret would remain among friends. Hinkle lowered his voice to a whisper. “Well, congratulations, guys. You’ve got it made now. With your shares of the finder’s fee you’ll all be able to retire. Ummm . . . how many ways will you have to split it?”

“Our ship has a crew of twenty,” the captain said.

“Ouch." Hinkle's face was a portrait of sympathy. "That does whittle is down a bit. But there’ll be enough for each one to have a nice little nest egg.”

“None of us are married, Hinky. And besides, Simbeggians don’t lay — “

“It’s just a figure of speech, pal.”

“Oh.”

Boy, these guys were higher than the flying trays!

Hinkle knew that when the Simbeggian general population got the word about the recreational applications of nicotine (in addition to it’s healing properties), there was going to be a serious slump in the sale of their other intoxicants.

Now that Hinkle had the information he needed, it was time for him to make a quick getaway before the Simbeggians sobered up and wised up, in that order. Hinkle took out his pack of cigarettes and laid them on the table as he rose from his chair.

“Keep an eye on those for me, huh guys? I gotta go to the potty. That beer tends to go right through ya.”

The navigator waved his long fingers again. The first officer nodded his high, narrow head. The captain may have been looking at Hinkle suspiciously, or he may have been trying to remember Hinkles name, or he may have been trying to focus his eyes. Perhaps all of the above.

Hinkle made his way to the rest rooms, which were in the rear of the bar. He definitely did not want the Simbeggians to see him leave. Even if they couldn’t stand up because they were too intoxicated, they could call their ship and have the other seventeen crew members throw him into the fuel tank, where he’d quickly dissolve.

The game was not over yet.

Hinkle went into the rest room and waited several minutes, frantically trying to think of a brilliant way to sneak out Duffy’s Revenge without anybody seeing him. It was a challenging problem.

A hulking ten-foot monster came in to do whatever hulking ten-foot monsters do in rest rooms. Hinkle didn’t watch. When the hulk left, Hinkle followed it out closely through the door.



_____________


A brass band could have marched out behind that mountain of alien flesh, so little Julius Hinkle didn’t even have to stoop down. The big alien lumbered over to the bar, with Hinkle shadowing it like a pilot fish. The crowd at the bar shuffled aside to make room for the giant, a gesture of courtesy and personal survival. The giant sat down on the floor and propped its elbows on the bar, leaning halway over it, which is easy when you’re ten feet tall.

Hinkle glanced nervously at the Simbeggians across the room. He got one glance before the undulating crowd blocked his view. The Simbeggian captain was on the phone.

Hinkle noticed the translator band around the neck of the seated giant. He squeezed into a gap between the big alien and the customer next to it and waved cheerfully when the alien turned to see what suicidal fool was invading its personal space. Hinkle’s voice quivered when he spoke.

“Hey . . . excuse me, friend? Could I possibly hire you for a very small job?”

The giant turned its huge head slowly towards Hinkle and focused two eyes on him that were as shiny as steel ball bearings. Hinkle could see his reflected image, and he had to resist the nervous urge to make faces at himself.

“A small job?” rumbled the giant’s translator. “Exactly how small?”

“Well . . . about the size of me.”

The chrome-plated eyes looked Hinkle up and down, and the translator emitted a short laugh and said, “That’s pretty small. What’s the job?”

“I need to get out of here without being seen.”

“Hmmm. What’s the job pay?”

"I've got about seventy-five in cash."

The giant was silent for a moment, then it said, “And how much will be left after you’ve paid your bill?”

“Ah-ha. A good point. Let’s find out.”

Hinkle turned to the nearest console and punched in a request for his bill. He fed the money to the slot, got the receipt, and turned back to the giant. “Fifty-two and some change left over.”

“I’ll do the job for fifty.”

“It’s a deal.”

The giant rose from the floor and snatched Hinkle up before he even knew it. It wrapped his thick arms around Hinkle and hugged him to his chest as he hunched well forward, lumbering towards the door as if he were about to throw up. Sentient beings tend to move aside very quickly for a ten-foot giant who might be about to throw up . . .

Hinkle found himself outside in second.

“That was quite a ride,” said Hinkle after the giant sat him down on the sidewalk outside Duffy’s Revenge.

“Glad you enjoyed it. Now pay up.”

“Oh, right.” Hinkle handed over the money. As the giant turned to go back inside, Hinkle said, “Hey, just out of curiosity, what did you think of beer?”

Looking back over his shoulder, the giant replied, “I gave it up a long time ago. It’s too fattening.”

The giant plodded back into Duffy’s Revenge, and Hinkle stood there for a moment scratching his head. Apparently beer was more popular in the galaxy than he’d thought.

___________ * ___________ * _______________ * ___________

Julius Hinkle’s starship, the King’s Ransom, was a converted Stella Tug refitted on the inside so that it had a spacious one-man living quarters. Hinkle valued his comfort, so cabin of the King’s Ransom was downright plush. On the outside it was still an interstellar tugboat — a blocky and unappealing vessel. Even though its top hyperdrive cruising speed was relatively low, the tug’s sublight engines were muscular brutes, designed to latch onto and haul a disabled ship twenty time her mass back home to be repaired in space dock.






Because of her hefty engines, the King’s Ransom could therefore reach hyperdrive conversion speed (0.3896 of light speed) in a tenth of the time it took most starships. This had often proved useful for quick getaways.

But Hinkle’s current problem was just getting aboard the King’s Ransom! When he reached the spaceport, the crew of the Simbeggian freighter were waiting for him. Hinkled expect this, so he went to the one place on the spaceport where they wouldn’t looking for him.

The Simbeggian freighter.






The airlocks were all open, because the crew was airing out the ventilation system of a ship whose life support system had gone sour. And the airlocks were unguarded because all the crewmen who weren’t out looking for Hinkle were occupied with the frantic installation of the new carbon static filters. The Simbeggians couldn’t leave for the Nalojax system until their life support system was working.

So, Hinkle slipped inside with little difficulty. Once inside he found one of the conveniently located General Alarm buttons. It set off a racket that brought the whole crew on the run, even the ones in places of concealment around the field, watching carefully for any sign of Hinkle skulking about.

Meanwhile, Hinkle was hiding in the dark area beneath the bulky freighter when a dozen walking-stick creatures came hobbling out the night like something from a nightmare, and they dashed up the gangway. As soon as they were all inside, Hinkle sprinted for the King’s Ransom!

The port authority was suspicious of Hinkle's sudden request to lift off, and they were obstinate about granting him clearance on such short notice. While arguing with them on the comm system, he opened all the airlocks and ran the ventilation system full blast to fill the ship with fresh air. He was going to have to make do with what he could pack into the ship all the way to the Nolajax system, because his air recycling plant still had a shot set of carbon static filters.

The enraged Simbeggians were converging on him when the port authority finally okayed his lift-off. Hinkle flared the maneuvering thrusters a few times to warn the Simbeggians to back off, then he took the ship straight up — with the airlocks still open.

He left them open until he closed the door to the engine room and pumped up the air pressure in there to three times normal. That would be his reserve air during the trip. He could bleed it into the crew quarters when the air started turning foul. The trip to the Holojax system wouldn’t take all that long, but you never know what might happen in deep space. Going anywhere without a working life support system was suicide.

But Julius Hinkle had always been a gambler, and this time the stakes were especially high.

___________ * ___________ * _______________ * ___________

The gamble paid off.

He made it to the Holajax system without asphyxiating himself, and he went straight to the Council of New Habitation to report “a new planet he had stumbled upon.” Hinkle apologized for not having much data on the planet, but he explained that his air recycler had gone bad, preventing him from investigating his monumentous find before he had to get his ship repaired.

The Council was quick to dispatch a Field Study Team to the Tarenian Ra system for preliminary investigation of the plane’s environmental conditions, and to insure there were no colonist or indigenous sentient beings living there.

Hinkle was allowed to tag along in the hastily repaired King’s Ransom so he take a look at his [i/] planet — and so he wouldn’t be anywhere near the Nolajax system when the Simbeggians arrive!

Before leaving the Nolajax system, Hinkle went to a major banking institution and took out a large loan, using the [i]King’s Ransom
as collateral. He used the money to purchase two tons cigarettes and left them in a warehouse at the spaceport, registered in the name of the captain and crew of the Simbeggian freighter.






Hinkle knew that when the news of the therapeutic properties of nicotine on the Simbeggian physiology was officially released on the Simbeggian’s home planet, their cargo of cigarettes would be worth a fortune!

The freighter crew could sell their valuable cargo as a life-saving medicine or a euphoric intoxicant— whichever proved to be the most profitable.

Hinkle was painfully aware that if, for some reason, he got no finders fee for the new planet, he would be forced to default on his loan and he would loose the King’s Ransom. Here again, Julius Hinkle proved he was a gambler.

This gamble paid off, too.

The new planet turned out to be a truly gorgeous world. The continents were largely comprised of mountains and valleys, which created some spectacular scenery for the future colonists. Hinkle decided he wanted to be one the first of these, so he spent two weeks flying around in the King’s Ransom, surveying the magnificent landscape while the Field Study Team went back and reported their finders.






When the Council of Justice called Hinkle by jinn wave to inform him of the amount his sizable finders fee would be, Julius Hinkle answered by telling them which large piece of land he wanted to buy with his newly acquired fortune.

The council approved the purchase and asked Hinkle what he wanted to name the new planet. After giving the matter careful consideration, Julius Hinkle selected the name he felt would be the most appropriate.

He told the Council to name the planet . . . Hinkle’s Home.




_________________
____________
Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)


Last edited by Bud Brewster on Thu Mar 28, 2024 5:54 pm; edited 8 times in total
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Gord Green
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2019 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bud, I'm still working on this...Enjoying it so far...But I have to digest it a bit more before I really comment. Just know that it IS being read!

So far I get elements of Heinlien's THE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH.

_________________
There comes a time, thief, when gold loses its lustre, and the gems cease to sparkle, and the throne room becomes a prison; and all that is left is a father's love for his child.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 25, 2019 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

________________________________

Gord, I appreciate the nice way you let me know that you're reading it, even though you aren't done yet. And PLEASE tell me if you discover something that's either unclear or just plain illogical! Shocked

Obviously it's a wildly improbably tale which is simply intended to entertain the reader. For the record, I've never read The Green Hills of Earth, and I doubt that my whimsical tale has anything in common with serious works like that one. But if you happen to notice a similarity between my story and a typical episode from Maverick, I'd have to agree! Smile

However, if there are elements in my story so improbable that your brain slams on the brakes and shouts, "Whoa! That doesn't make sense!", then I'll need to do a little more work.

Concerning the illustrations I cooked up, I was tickled pink by how many aspects of the story I was able to find pictures for which more-or-less represented what was going on!

However, I actually revised elements of the story to fit the illustrations. For example, I rewrote this section to reflect how scary the alien in the image looked . . . and also the fact that it was waist-deep in a blue liquid. Very Happy



_____________

___________________________________

One hideous aquatic alien stood up in the transparent tank of blue liquid it was using as its "chair" and tried to snatch the drink from the tray. A bright arc of electricity zapped his spidery claw, and his yelp of pain brought a burst of laughter from the surrounding customers.
___________________________________

Unfortunately, the long section where Hinkle is sitting with the Simbeggians and getting them high by blowing cigarette smoke all around the table was impossible to illustrate just by using images I found and modified. Sad

But I'm pleased with the results. I hope some of the other members like Krel, Pow, Maurice, and Scotpens (just to name a few) will comment on it as well.

The origin of the story is something I wrote in Sail the Sea of Stars, a yarn told by the helmsman of the G.S.C Candlelight (Samuel Kellogg, nicknamed Gumjaw) when the hero and heroine (David Newcastle and Dancee Aberron) are touring the ship and falling in love. Here's an excerpt from Chapter 10 of Sail the Sea of Stars which includes the idea I later decided to turn into a short story.
___________________________________

Danceea and I left Sandusky's cabin about 9:30 pm. The chief walked us to the door like the father of a teenage girl who was going out with her new boy friend. He must have felt that our romance had gotten off to a noble start when I'd saved Danceea's life. Sandusky had been both a good host and a skilled yarn teller, knowing just when to stop, leaving the audience wanting more. We really did want more, so our next port-of-call was the cabin of Sam and Beth Kellogg (Mr. and Mrs. Gumjaw, the chief helmsman and his wife). The Kellogg's were currently sharing their cabin with another married couple, displaced from the Rembrandt. As soon as we sat down with the Kelloggs and their temporary cabin mates I said, "Sam, this gal doesn't believe you were a pilot for an agricultural supply service before you signed your first contract with the Alliance Armed Forces."

That's all it took. Gumjaw grinned and proceeded to tell us about his younger days on the planet of this birth. It was called Hinkle's Home, named after Julius Hinkle, a short self-styled adventurer who met a Simbeggian freighter captain in a space port bar called Duffy's Revenge on Dusseldorf Two. Hinkle overheard the non-human captain and his first mate discussing a previously undiscovered planet they had stumbled upon. The Alliance paid a monumental finder's fee for information about uninhabited planets that were suitable for colonization. The crafty Mr. Hinkle had recently heard that ordinary tobacco smoke made Simbeggians blissfully intoxicated, so he sat down with the unsuspecting nonhumans, lit up a cigarette, and made his new friends very happy.

Pretty soon he had the coordinates of the new planet, and he hastily departed for the Nolajax system to file his claim. In all fairness to Hinkle, it should be noted that he used a good portion of his finder's fee to buy two tons of cigarettes, which he left for the Simbeggian crew when they arrived at the Nolajax system to report the new planet. The Simbeggians sold the cigarettes on their home world for a sizeable fortune. Julius Hinkle used the rest of his finder's fee to buy the choicest piece of real estate he could find on the planet that now bore his name, and he settled down there to enjoy the fame he had always wanted.

Hinkle's Home is a beautiful, mountainous planet with farms nestled into the valleys and clinging to the sides of the mountains. When Samual Kellogg was about eighteen he had flown a delivery service for an agricultural supply firm. He told us about the time a rockhog had gotten loose in the cargo compartment and ate its way into a package which contained a drug used on live stock to stimulate their nervous system and encourage breeding. Gumjaw said the two thousand pound beast had almost kicked the aircraft apart because there was nothing in the cargo compartment for it to breed with!

By the time Sam finished his tale of unrequited love, it was getting late. Danceea and I departed, thanking our host and hostess for their hospitality. Danceea wanted to explore some more, so explore we did. We poked our noses into places aboard the Candlelight that I had not seen since my first few curious weeks aboard ship.

___________________________________

I'm currently revising a short story I wrote decades ago called Why Risk It? which is a prequel to The Wishbone Express. It involves one of the two main characters (Randy Henson) before he met his friend and partner, Bill Jenkins.

In the story, Randy is forced to "bail out" of his spacecraft before it blows up, and he desperately hopes he'll be rescued before his spacesuit runs out of air! Shocked

Ironically, his friend Bill Jenkins does something similar near the end of The Wishbone Express, when he flies a modified jet fighter equipped with booster rockets right up out the atmosphere in an attempt to reach the G.S.C. Candlight, which is in low orbit around the planet!






He succeeds. Very Happy





If you haven't read my books and short stories (for FREE) right here on All Sci-Fi, you're missing out on these enjoyable science fiction adventures! All I want in return are replies that let me know my writing is being enjoyed.

I don't get that kind of feedback from sales of my two books on Amazon. Sad

So, please honor me with that small reward on the message board I started in 2006 so I could share my own enthusiasm for this genre with people who feel the same way I do. Cool

_________________
____________
Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)


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Gord Green
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2019 4:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I loved the story!

What I would have liked to see was that it was "framed" as a story told by Gumjaw to other denizens of the Candlelight lounge over drinks and sharing of "Spacehogs yarns" . Possibly as a response to the question..."Why is the planet called Hinkle's Home?"

Like...

"Gumjaw took a long swig from his drink and leaned back...Hesitated for a beat and looked Newcastle in the eye and said "Listen kid...I got a story to relate to you...You may not believe it...But I swear it's all true! At least it's as true as the Spacehog who told it to me could make it!"

The characters are very well drawn and your descriptions of them are great!

This Hinkle sounds like a class one scoundrel !

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There comes a time, thief, when gold loses its lustre, and the gems cease to sparkle, and the throne room becomes a prison; and all that is left is a father's love for his child.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

________________________________

Hey, that's a cool idea! Thanks, Gord. Very Happy

I love Arthur C. Clark's Tales from the White Heart, which a collection of short stories that were supposedly told in British pub. (For the record, that splended picture of the spacecraft on the cover has absolutely nothing to do with any of the stories. Sad)



________________


I'm really glad you enjoyed it, and I appreciate those suggests for revisions in your PM. Some have them have already been made! Wink

As for Captain Julius Hinkle, I do view him as quite the anti-hero you seem to think. He's a man with high standards for what he wants to be in life, but since he's lacking the physical qualities he yearns for, he's determined to "keep his chin up" (even though he doesn't have much a chin . . . ).


Quote:
You had to hand it Captain Julius Hinkle, he never submitted to an accurate self-image. He carried himself like the man he yearned to be: tall and square-jawed and irresistible to the female of any species.

As for the fact that he cheated the Simbeggians out of a fortune when he took credit for finding the planet, bear in mind that he used part of the "finders fee" to purchase something of great value and bequeath it to them as compensation.

If I ever write another story about Hinkle (probably a prequel, before he gets rich and settles down), it will focus on some situation in which Hinkle has to make a moral choice . . . and he makes the right one! Cool

(That's actually what he did with the purchase of the you-know-whats.)

I hope other members will also enjoy the story. Trekriff, for example, read The Wishbone Ex and replied to several chapters with some very encouraging remarks. That's part of the reason I'm so eager to support and encourage his "Sherman's Planet" photonovel. I admire his talent and I appreciate the work (a labor of love) he's put into it — for our enjoyment! Smile

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Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)


Last edited by Bud Brewster on Thu Mar 28, 2024 6:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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trekriffic
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2019 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Enjoying this. “Sundial shadows on the table.”

Love that!
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trekriffic
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2019 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Really liked the imagery in the bar when Hinkle is getting the aliens drunk and high on cigs. You set the scene so well it paints a vivid picture in my head. Word pictures.

Love that you sometimes fit the text to the image. I find myself doing that a lot too with TBOSP.

I’ll write more comments soon. For now I have to kick the cat off my lap and take a leak!
Laughing
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 17, 2019 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

trekriffic wrote:
Really liked the imagery in the bar when Hinkle is getting the aliens drunk and high on cigs. You set the scene so well it paints a vivid picture in my head. Word pictures.

Thank you! Very Happy

Painting those "word pictures" is really important, I think, and I'm glad I succeeded with In Search of Hinkle's Home. My late mother was an avid reader (with sci-fi being one of her favorite genres), but she was never overly impressed with my work. She read part of an early draft of Sail the Sea of Star, and she was honest about her reaction to it.

"Bruce, you're writing it like you're describing a movie. That's not how books are written."

She was right, of course, and I try not to make that rookie mistake anymore. But I do strive to "paint word pictures", and hopefully it's an improvement over my past efforts. Very Happy

By the way, I have another story transcribed from its old typewritten copy and ready to post as soon as I select some flashy illustrations. It's called Why Risk It?, and it's about Randy Henson (from Sail the Sea of Star and The Wishbone Express, but it takes place before either of those stories.

I first wrote it in the 1980s at about the same time as the two novels.

And I'm almost finished transcribing the old (faded) type-written copy of a whimsical tale called Hog Heaven, also first written in the 1980s, about a jovial Oklahoma farmer who meets a rude, ungrateful alien who needs help after its spaceship crashes.

The intention was to do a version of E.T., but with very different characters, a significantly different situation, a totally different outcome . . . and a 400 pound hog! Shocked

That one will have only one illustration, a simple sketch I drew of the alien. (Maybe I'll throw in a jpeg of a hog, too.) Wink

Watch for those two stories in the next week or so.
Very Happy
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Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)


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Gord Green
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2019 12:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking forward to reading your new story . It sounds like a very 50's -ish "tongue in cheek" sci-fi story.

Your writing style is very reminiscent of the Heinlien-Clarke school of solid storytelling. I find my own to be more in the Bradbury-Lovecraftian vein , in that I look at making my word construction more "poetic".

In any regard, I love your stories! I feel your characters and relish your descriptions of alien worlds and the denizens who inhabit them!

More...….Please!

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trekriffic
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 12:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So I’ve been meaning to add some additional comments to my earlier post in your story. I liked the bar scene the best obviously but I also enjoyed how you flesh out the infrastructure of the universe you are creating. It all makes sense. Seems like we’ll never outgrow the need for bureaucracies, regulatory agencies, police, and the like. Just as there will always be smugglers, thieves, and politicians trying to outmaneuver or exploit them. Anyway, you really flesh out a lot of stuff in a nice tight story so overall a grand read.

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Gord Green
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 07, 2019 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trek, if you've seen anything about our own history...from 5000 AD to the present day....You'll see that those elements have been intrinsic to the makeup of humanity!

Good stories are ones that are truthful...to our heritage and traditions...NOT just to our idealism.

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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 28, 2024 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

______________________________________________

I'd just like to thank both Trekriffic and Gord Green again for the encouraging words the both offered above. I'm very proud of the novels and short stories I've written, especially those I posted here on All Sci-Fi and illustrated specifically for our members. Cool

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Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)
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