The Universe, Then Rats, Then You Chapter 1: A Bar at the End of the Galaxy.

2008  

The beat-up white dodge dart sped across the empty field, kicking up reddish-brown clay until it came to a stop in the middle. The pasture sprawled out in front of them for acres, dimly lit by the full moon and the stars that shown brightly against the black velvet sky.  

“Here Grubbs, just stop. We’re far enough out.” a man said from the passenger seat.  

Cassian Wade was a tall man with a very dark complexion. He had a high-top fade and a neatly trimmed beard. He was broad shouldered, and his teeth were perfectly white.  He had his feet up nonchalantly on the dash as his friend, Bryce Grubbowski drove. He wore a leather jacket and a neon-colored T-shirt underneath. His other friend, Johnny Henson was in the back seat smoking a cigarette out the open window.  

The trio got out of their car, the only sounds in the stillness of the night air were the heavy thudding of the car doors behind the college students. Cassian sat back until Johnny finished his cigarette, then he joined the pair.  

“I’m telling you; this is a wild goose chase Grubbs. You did not invent a way to communicate with aliens, and even if your genius ass did, what makes you think they want to talk to you knuckleheads anyway.” Cassian said, his voice somehow always smooth and gruff at the same time.  

“And who made you the boss exactly?” Johnny said  

“I did. Think about it, I’m the one with all the charisma. I’m the only one with leadership qualities, if we made first contact with aliens, and they come down and ask for a representative from the 3 of us, I know you two aren’t doing any smooth talking.” 

“He’s got us there.” Grubbs interjected as he kneeled with his bulky silver laptop. He was mashing away at the keyboard. 

“Alright, conditions are good now, get the antenna up you two.” he called  

Bryce was a short guy, thin as a twig and a white shirt with a pocket protector away from being a prototypical nerd stereotype. His wavy auburn hair was always flopping down in his face and over his large glasses. He was wearing a pair of brown slacks with a shirt from Roswell with a big green alien on it.  

“This better work Grubbs or I’m gonna be pissed. I snuck out of barracks for this, if my CO finds out, I’m screwed.” Johnny said  

“Relax Johnny, we got this, help me stabilize the antenna real quick.” Cassian said, pushing a large metal object shaped into a cone on the top of the rickety old car.  

Johnny grabbed the other side and secured it to the inside of the car with a bungie cord that was flexed to its max.  

“We’re ready to go.” Johnny called. Johnny was the perfect all American college student. Blond haired and blue eyed, strong with a chiseled jaw. He was clean cut and clean shaven and he stood slightly taller than Cassian. He wore a green officer’s uniform with red stripes on it. Grubbs sat there for a moment and considered what message to send.  

“If you are out there, hello. Greetings from earth.” he typed and then nervously hit enter.  

“That’s what we went with?” Johnny said skeptically “Yeah, if anybody but Cassian talks, we’re screwed.”  

“It’s not real any way. We built this in my dad’s garage, no damn way this works.” Cassian said.  

A few minutes went by. Cassian put his headphones on and started playing a song from his white iPod. Just as he was about to get lost in the music, Grubbs started waving them over to him.  

“Guys… It’s fucking working look!” he exclaimed  

“Let me see.” Cassian said coarsely, pushing his friend out of the way of the computer screen.  

“Hello, it’s good to have confirmation of life on earth.” The screen read, the text slowly rolling in as if it was being manually translated first. 

“Oh, ok hold on, wait.” Johnny said, his voice shaking slightly.  

“This is just somebody with a radio fucking with us or something. There’s absolutely no way we just may have made first contact.”  

“Well, what do I type in response? L-Let’s assume this is real and we’re actually the ones making first contact. What do we say?” Grubbs was shaking with both nerves and excitement.  

“Here, let me type it.” Cassian said, “I’m the communications major here.”  

“Yeah, only time you’ll ever use it.” Grubbs jabbed in response.  

Cassian’s fingers started moving across the keyboard.  

“Hello, we are from Earth, we are called humans. We have no ill will towards you or any extra-terrestrial species.  If you’re here seeking refuge, we welcome you with open arms…” Cassian read aloud. He was cut off by Johnny pointing at the screen that was slowly scrolling more text.  

“Do not respond. They are always listening.”  

2648: 

Captain Ronin looked out at the vast expanse of black nothingness in front of him. It was zooming by at an incredible speed. He watched from his cabin window and paced impatiently. Most people say they can’t watch out the window when they are in a ship going through hyperdrive, it makes them sick usually. But Ronin had never had a problem with it.  

He sat down and put his feet up on the futuristic white desk in the sleek silver room with small blue LED lighting running around the edges. The room was dimly lit. He looked out the window and then got up from his desk. He made his way up the stairs and into the control room.  

His friend Johnny was sitting at the desk, resting his head against the panel that was blinking with lights and small radar blips. The giant wheel shaped like a 17th century Spanish vessel’s wheel was a few inches from him to his right. The entire ship was darkly lit and pulsing with lights from small sources. The air in the room was filled with smoke from Johnny’s cigarette in the ash tray smoldering on the console.  

“Johnny, wake up and take us to sub-light. We’re almost there.”  

“Aye Captain.” he said dutifully despite his grogginess. He pulled a lever back and tapped a few blinking buttons. The ship lurched out of warp speed and into normal traveling velocity. There was a massive sign with flashing neon lights tethered to a satellite in the middle of the vast expanse of samey darkness. It read “Welcome to Space Station Epsilon Zeta: The Beginning of the End of the Galaxy.” 

Grubbs popped his head up from below the deck and asked, “How far until we reach the EZ?”  

“Probably just about an hour or so now. Get N7 and Crankshaft to help you two polish the decks, maybe Custeau if you can get him to. I want the Samurai looking clean as a whistle when we roll into port like the kings we are. Can you believe they actually gave us 10K each for that easy ass job?”  

“Aye Captain.” Grubbs said, popping back below the deck.  

“N7, Crank, we need your help.” he called  

“I heard.” said a bored, disinterested and sarcastic voice.  

“Don’t give me attitude. You and Crank need to help with the menial tasks too.”  

“Hmmm, yes, it’s not like that’s what I was literally created to do and how dare I ever strive for more.” the monotone voice sighed.  

From below the deck a black robot with a thin wire body encased in slightly aged metal and a head that was a square with a flashing LED display that showed the facial expression that matched the tone of voice it was using. N7’s was constantly in the default sarcasm expression which was a face with the eyes slightly at an angle so that it looked like he was rolling them. A smaller robot that was a bit more bulkily built but still similar in construction with red LED lights walked side by side with him.  

They went out on the deck of the starship. It was built like a Spanish Galleon, but thinner and sleeker, the sails had been replaced with a large dome filled with oxygen that covered the entire deck. The glass around it was unbreakable without the most extreme force. They began swabbing the deck, Johnny polishing it with wax as Crankshaft and N7 mopped up any debris. The ship was sterling white, and it cut through the blackness of space like a shining pearl in a clam’s innards. The ships’ name, the Satin Samurai, was written in large, elegant gold cursive letters on both sides of the hull.  

Cassian joined in by spreading the cleaner over the deck and helping where he could, making sure they were still on course all the while. Crankshaft’s small antenna lit up and he started beeping loudly as it spun around in a small circle.  

“No Crank, we can’t attach a torpedo to the mop to make it go faster, why do you only ever think in terms of explosives, it’s like you’re having a holy war with logic.” N7 replied  

Finally, the deck had been scrubbed clean and it looked in tip top shape. They had just passed another sign that signaled to slow down if you wished to port. Ronin threw a red leather jacket on and slowed the ship to as slow as it would go. As they entered the bustling star port, a large metal device that creaked and groaned as it moved gently plucked the ship and pulled it into the dock. Two dock workers moved to ensure the air lock had closed on the ship and then the crew could step off. The air zipped out of the lock with a forceful sound as the gear on the door spun open. They walked down a short hall until they were out on the street. The foot traffic was insane with all types of aliens from across the galaxy pushing past one another. The crew members walked directly to a bar at the end of the space dock. It was called the Revolving Reaver, and it was packed. Alien music that pulsated loudly played over the speakers. The tables were all full except for a few at the back. The crew sat down at the table and pulled up an interface that had the menu on it.  

“First round is on me of course boys.” Ronin said, his hand running through his thick black hair cut into a high fade. The gang ordered their drinks and the waiter, a bug-like alien, green with 6 long arms, brought them their drinks.  

Ronin nodded and handed him a 5- Federation credit chip, The coin embroidered with the galactic Federation’s crest fit well into his pocket. He nodded then quietly walked off. The boys had gone off to play some of the virtual reality games in the corner of the bar, leaving Ronin by himself. Without warning or any hesitation, an alien woman came over to him. She was tall, about 6 foot and had very human-like features, but the proportions of her face were slightly off which made it a bit uncanny to look at. Her pupils were split into two distinct small orbs inside her white iris, which glowed in the darkness of the bar, and they shone even brighter against her snow-colored skin. Silver hair partially up in a sophisticated and intricate bun and partially flowing over her gorgeous crimson and gold cloak covering her back and neck.  

“Hello, my name is Anya-Maria Gravenhearth. Is that your ship in the port over there?”  

“It is.” Ronin replied simply, nodding his head slightly.  

“She’s a beautiful ship. You don’t see old school galleons like that very often anymore.” the alien replied, her hands folded neatly behind her back. She spoke in a very posh British accent, calm, calculating and slow.  

“Well thank you. She can be a bit fickle sometimes, but she’s always done us right. My name’s Ronin by the way. Captain Ronin Wade.”  

He stuck out his hand and the woman looked down at it as if he had just insulted her entire family.  

“Sorry, human thing. I just forget sometimes.”  

She forced a smile and then sat down across from him.  

“Captain Ronin, are you and your men for hire?” she asked  

“Yes, if the price and job is right. What do you have in mind?”  

“I need transport to a particularly… Distant point of the galaxy.”  

“Like how far? Are we talking Andromeda far or…”  

“Beyond that. I need to go to Sector Z17. Specifically, a planet called Kathos 12, it is a large moon that is more inhabitable than the system’s largest planet which is mostly phosphorous gas.”  

“Sorry lady, I don’t know what kind of jobs you think we do, but we are not shuttling you that far away. Call a taxi or something.” Ronin said snidely.  

Anya’s face was undeterred. “I think you misunderstood my request. I am Al Sahar, a holy priestess of the Altarian people. At birth we are given visions of what our holy pilgrimage is to be. I have fully seen mine and I need to get to Sector Z17.”  

“Look Anya. I understand your holy quest or whatever is very important to you, but there is no way in hell we’re going into the dark zone. It’s way too dangerous.”  

Anya sat stoically across the table, refusing to blink or break eye contact.  

“I’m prepared to give you 1.3 million Milkyway Intergalactic Lifeforce Federation Credits for your troubles. You will be handsomely rewarded.”  

“1.3 mill is a lot, but it’s what, a few hundred grand each? That ain’t shit for how dangerous this job is. Sorry.”  

“I meant 1.3 million each.” Anya replied simply.  

Ronin looked down at his drink and then over at his compatriots playing the games with a large headset on.  

“When do you want to leave?” he asked  

“As soon as possible.” Anya replied  

The crew stood in front of the gravity lock, waiting for the giant gear to turn and depressurize the ship’s cabin.  

“What the hell Rone, you just said we had a week of shore leave before we look for a new job. What gives?”  Johnny said, downing a large florescent yellow drink as he waited for the process of the air lock to finish.  

“Boys, Anya here is going to give us 1.3 million credits a pop to transport her to Sector Z17.” Ronin replied 

“Z17, ah yes, how could anything possibly go wrong flying through a place called the Channel of Graves.” N7 said in the only tone he knew how to use.  

Everyone was surprised by the news of the job, but they all secretly and silently knew that despite the risks, this was a life-changing amount of money that they couldn’t pass up. They all slogged back onto the ship, already half-drunk but ready to go out on another adventure.  

“Johnny, take us out of port and once we’re far enough out, engage the warp drive and go FTL.”  

“Roger that Cap.” he said, nodded and started fiddling with the control panel.  

“Grubbs let’s run a diagnostic check quick before we leave port to make sure we’re running smoothly. I want FTL and defense benchmarks stat.” 
“Ay.” Bryce replied dipping back below deck to the engine room.  

“N7, lead our new passenger to her living quarters and tell her where she can put her stuff.” Ronin directed.  

“Come this way.” the robot replied, Crank walking alongside him beeping and booping.  

“No, she doesn’t want 5 pounds of C4 as a welcoming gift. Nobody ever wants the C4 you Lugnut” N7 sighed, smacking Crank on the side of the head until his antennae stopped rotating. 

“May I ask what your problem is. You are a standard N7 protocol and task droid, are you not? Then why do you only have one facial expression?” 

“I was a factory defect, my sarcasm algorithm is far too high, if you can’t tell, it isn’t exhausting at all.”  

He led her down through the guts of the ship which creaked and wailed occasionally as the vessel started to gain speed. Metal piping and wiring ran along the wall and only single, pink florescent lighting occasionally provided decent exposure to see where they were going. Anya had to duck down to avoid hitting her head on the ceiling but walked gracefully still, her 7 fingered hands neatly clasping each other behind her back.  

They finally got to a dingy little cabin off the side of the starboard bow. There was a tiny window slit that some dark light was shining in from outside. You could hear the distant and constant clanking of the gears from the engine room. There was a small cot, some shelves and a small open space. There was a pithy, rusted lamp that provided a gentle green light over the room. 

 “This is the guest cabin. It’s only very slightly better than sleeping in the brig I’m afraid.” he replied. Anya had just a small bag with an ornate wooden box and a large silver chalice. There were rubies on it that sparkled even in the dim light of the small cabin. She pulled out a large metal mask with a flexible rubber tube attached to it.  

“This is a splendid living space. It is not too small or too big, it provides ample area for me to perform my sacred rituals and the murmur of the engine puts my brains at ease.”  

“Brains?” N7 replied  

“Yes, Altarians have evolved to separate their brains into two portions. One brain is purely for logic and the other is used for emotional responses. Mostly survival instincts. With our brains separated we may think logically without emotion clouding our judgement and we can react to emotional stimuli as a survival mechanism if needed with the other.”  

“Well, good to know have more brain cells than the entirety of this crew combined.” N7 said “I’ll leave you to get acquainted. I need to go check and make sure Crankshaft hasn’t tried to attach neutron torpedoes to the warp drive. Again.” He sauntered off and Anya looked out the window at the space roaring by. She smiled and then caught herself, her face returning to its usual neutral expression.  

She checked her neural interface and saw that it was past 1600 hours Federation time. She opened the box which was embroidered with the same crimson and gold as her cloak. The pattern was very intricate. Inside was a reddish sand-like substance that glittered gold in a certain light. It was thick like clay, but it was still viscous and grainy enough to fall like sand grains in an hourglass. She took a small pinch and put it into the chalice. She clicked the sides of it, and it began to heat up instantly and the substance began to smolder. She attached the end of the tube which fit perfectly into the rim of the chalice. She locked it in airtight and put the gas mask style attachment around her face. It covered her nose and mouth. She inhaled deeply and instantly she was taken to a faraway planet.  

The white alkali earth cracked beneath her feet. The sand whipped up in the wind and two moons shone brightly in the daytime sky. Anya could feel the sensation of the desert heat beading down on her. The smell of the acidic, salty sands and the earthy feel of it beneath her feet. She breathed in deeply again. Her vision changed, as if she had been teleported forward in time. The same planet, but as she looked over the horizon, a large cannon-like device was being built pointing to the sky like a magnificent trident. Anya fell to her knees on the dunes and was suddenly jolted out of her deep meditation.  

“Hey Anya.” Bryce said  

Her body snapped awake, his voice and the light hand on her shoulder jerking her out of her almost slumber like state. She removed the mask and stared angrily as the crew had all appeared in her cabin.  

“What is the meaning of this, how dare you pull me out of my holy ritual, what kind of emergency serves this indignation?” she replied in the same monotone voice as always.  

“O-Oh well, we were going to invite you up for dinner. Custeau made some Golarian soup if you want some. Figured you could get to know the crew and everything.” Johnny said  

Anya still stared at them with a fiery anger in her eyes despite her voice not changing in intonation.  

“I do not care to get to know you. Now never interrupt me during my holy meditations ever again.” Anya replied with zero emotion.  

“it’s tradition on the Samurai for us to eat dinner with a new guest or crew member to get to know them and I always enjoy learning about new species of aliens and their culture, universe views, perspective, history. I figure you would like to hear ours at least.”  

Anya continued to stare at them.  

“I want you to listen very carefully to my words.” she said, still in a calm and collected tone, which honestly made it even more chilling.  

“You are nothing to me but a vastly and objectively inferior species, of which there are undoubtedly trillions of spread across the galaxy. You are not special, and it is sheer arrogance to believe otherwise. I do not care about the culture of humanity or your perspective or views. You are the same to me as vermin whose only purpose is to reproduce and destroy ecosystems. Your trials and turbulations as a species mean nothing, they are naught but a wave crashing into the endless sands of time; an echo reverberating into a cold, dark and uncaring universe. In fact, you’re probably less than vermin to a species like mine. There’s the universe, then rats, then you.”  

The room was silent until Ronin simply blurted out “Damn. You didn’t have to say you hated us like that.” he added.  

“I do not hate humans. Hate would be a purely emotional response and not a logical one. Logic dictates I am simply indifferent to you.”  

The room fell quiet again. N7 walked by and stopped to see the commotion.  

“Did you have to drop the existential dread on them this fast into the journey? I’m technically the crew’s mental health specialist. I don’t know why; you literally couldn’t pick anybody worse for that job then somebody whose dialog should be written entirely in italics.”  N7 sighed, walking back down the corridor.  

“If it’s worth anything, I’m interested in hearing about your people’s culture.” Grubbs said 

“There isn’t much to tell really. We are nomadic, we settled on a desert moon called Altaris in the Scarlet Isles, which is a chain of small celestial bodies in Sector R1. The planet was resource rich, and we are constantly at war trying to defend it.” she stated.  

“That sounds a lot like a place from when we grew up called the Middle East.” Johnny said  

Anya’s face changed slightly as if she was confused.  

“Look, I know it’s not the same thing, but we had a famous story on Earth about this exact same situation. It’s called Dune. I have a copy of it with me, it’s my favorite book.” Grubbs interrupted.  

“Dune?” she said quizzically “Well in any case, I’m sorry. I don’t need to eat; my body doesn’t output or input energy or waste. I don’t need to sleep either, I simply fall into a deep meditative state for an hour a day during the ritual.”  

The crew left and Anya began to wander the ship, walking out onto the observation deck. Since her meditation had been interrupted, she needed a place to clear her minds. She watched as the stars raced by. She enjoyed watching a ship at FTL speeds, there was something so majestic and surreal about traveling so fast among the infinite stars.  

After a few hours alone with her thoughts, she returned to her quarters. She entered the dingy room by sliding the door open and then walking in. She noticed that by the bedside table was a damaged, cracked and aging book. The pages were dry and yellow, and the cover was half torn off, but she could read the title still “Dune.” She opened the book, interested and read the first page. She turned it and continued to read.  

The next morning, the crew had all gathered at 800 hours for breakfast. Custeau was cooking away on a large metal grid. He was a giant arthropod, green with 6 scaly arms jutting out from his abdomen. His body was separated into segments, and he had large antennae and menacing pincers just above his mouth. His tail was like a lobsters’ almost. Long, curved and segmented with a small fan at the end. Each of his arms had smaller claws on it. He wore a white chef’s hat and matching white jacket that had 6 holes for his arms.  

He let out a series of clicks and Grubbs replied “Yeah, we know you’ve made Sylarius Succotash twice this week already. We don’t care if you make it again tonight, it’s good.” 

 Just as the crew had sat down to eat, Anya appeared from below deck. She entered the mess hall which was a small room with a large white table, floating silver and blue chairs and a dusty lamp that hung from overhead to put light onto the center of the table. Behind it was the kitchen and in the room to the left was a bunch of couches and a small LED screen shaped like a TV along with a music system.  

“Hey Anya, care to join us?” Ronin asked hopefully, grabbing his spoon and digging into the bright green vegetables covered in rich brown sauce. She walked towards the table, her hands behind her back, but she presented Bryce’s copy of Dune.  

“I read the first three chapters of your earth literature. Unfortunately, the prose put forth by your poorly developed primate brains made me violently ill afterward, but it was interesting to experience some of your culture. The struggle of the Fremen is like the plight of my own people. I shan’t be reading any more, but it was a kind gesture.” 

“I’m glad you enjoyed it.” Ronin replied optimistically.  

“Primate brain?” Grubbs added exasperated, his brow furling in confusion.  

Ronin smiled kindly, his feet now up on the table, he was leaning back with the bowl near his chest. He tapped a button and a small screen rose from inside the counter opposite the table. The tv turned on and the channel was set to the galactic President’s speech from earlier that morning. He was standing at a podium in front of the silver and blue of the Milkyway Federation crest.  

“Now, what we’ve done for the citizens of…” He leaned away from the microphone and off to the side, looking off stage.  

 “Latvaneria, Latvernia?.. Christ there’s too many fucking planets.”  

“Latvernia.” the assistant said.  

The Galactic President Fendrok Zorkron, stood tall. He was humanoid in appearance. Short brown hair, fair skin. Strong bone structure. He looked every bit the relatable all American working man.  Custeau clicked something at them, and Ronin waved his hand.  

“Of course he doesn’t look like a Sylarian to us. Remember, he has a special neural implant that shows him as whatever your idea of an inoffensive politician looks like.”  

“Anyway, like I was saying, what we did for Latvaneria was, really nothing but a vain attempt to gain some good publicity before the upcoming elections. I do not care about anything but money and power.” 

A news reporter appeared on screen, she was an alien with red skin and a long neck.  

“That stirring speech was given earlier today by Galactic Federation President Fendrok Zorkron where he then outlined his plan for restoring the failing infrastructure of the Milky Way galaxy.”  

The footage cut back to the President from earlier in the day again.  

“That’s a great question, but unfortunately, I don’t care about anything that doesn’t benefit me or the people that keep me in power personally.”  

Anya suddenly ran out of the room like she had seen a ghost. The rest of the crew looked down the hall for her, very puzzled. She came back, walking calmly as ever.  

“I’m sorry, my second brain activates my fight or flight response when I hear the idiocy of politicians.” she explained  

The crew collectively heaved a sigh at Anya’s quirkiness that they were still getting accustomed to. N7 walked into the room, the automatic doors opening and closing shut behind him.  

“Well, unfortunately, being a politician, these days requires having the part of your brain that experiences shame removed. And I’m not being sardonic, that’s actually how it is.” he said as he walked lackadaisically to start helping put the pots and pans and other dishes into the washer.  

Custeau handed him 6 dishes at a time and his chef’s hat popped up to reveal a small isopod with tiny antennae and two little pincers. His shell was segmented and brown and despite being very simple, his bug-like compound eyes were very expressive. He grabbed a small bowl and pushed it to edge of the counter for N7, then he did it again with a spoon and some forks.  

“Thanks for helping Emrick, even if all you can do is push spoons vaguely in my direction.”  

N7 loaded all the dishes from the morning’s breakfast into the square machine. Ronin was the last to finish his meal and put his dish in the washer. He hit the button with the side of his fist and a green light flashed. It beeped and instantly the dishes were clean and sanitized without using any of the ship’s water. They immediately started stacking them up for dinner later that night. 

“Definitely add that dish to the rotation Custeau. That was delicious.” Ronin said, walking away back to the captain’s cabin. Custeau essentially gave him what equated to a thumbs up with his claws. Everyone went about their duties as they always did. Johnny was on navigation; Bryce was down in the engine room with N7 making sure the ship was running properly, taking diagnostics, benchmarks, and then he continued his current engineering project which was to make the ship’s water systems more efficient.  

After a few hours passed, Ronin went into the navigation deck where Johnny was sitting watching a show on the small screen behind the console. The navigation deck was essentially just a small room that had a window that lookout out on the rest of the ship. It had a small passageway down below deck via a ladder.  

“Johnny, slow us down to sub-light. I want to make a stop at this last space port.” Ronin said  

“Sir, why do you want us to slow, is there a problem?”  

“No, there’s just this old bar at the end of the galaxy that I’ve always wanted to go to.” he smiled.  

Soon, they came up on a typical small port colony. The space station was just big enough to dock your ship and provide basic services. The only homes were small apartment budlings for the dock workers and the other employees on the station.  

The one attraction here at this station, Port Zenith, was the Queen of Diamonds bar, and their signature drink with the same name that was known throughout the galaxy. They rolled slowly into the port, the giant red arm grasping the ship’s hull gently and guiding it to the dock. They went through the same process of exiting the ship’s airlock and then they got off the ship. They all made their way to the Queen of Diamonds which was right next to the star port. The bar was lit up with neon signs, usually cigarette sponsors. The bar was dimly lit by fluorescent overhead lights. The port in general was nowhere near as populated as the last one they were at. The bar was fairly full of regulars and drifters alike, but hardly bustling with foot traffic.  

Custeau was the first to walk to the bar, he had switched out of his chef’s clothes and into his casual wear. He still wore a black beret that hid Emrick beneath it. The rest of the crew strolled up behind him. The trio of friends stood at the bar until the bartender, an alien with blueish green skin and two big horns on its head turned to them.  

“Can we get a round of the Queen of Diamond shots please. Anya, do you want one, it’s on me?” Ronin asked  

“Thank you for the offer but I can neither taste nor get drunk, so I’m afraid it would be credits wasted on me.”  

They ordered four shots for the group and the bartender used his extra arm to mix the cocktail faster. He presented them the drink, filled to the top of the small glass. It shimmered red and purple and looked beautiful as the sparkles danced in the liquid.  

“To a new adventure and new friends.” Ronin said, raising his glass. They all cheered him and then downed the shot in one gulp.  

“It tastes like heaven, but it burns, it burns like hell.” Johnny shouted as he could feel the thick liquid going all the way down to his stomach. Despite the burn, it left a delicious and fruity aftertaste.  

They ordered another round and sat at a small table. Custeau was still at the bar talking to another alien. The group of aliens behind him started to push each other, with one getting aggressively in the other’s face. Suddenly, they were having a full-on fist fight. Custeau got pushed by them into another patron who was carrying about 4 full beers. They spilt and the alien turned around and slugged Custeau in chest.  

Ronin saw what was going down and slammed his drink down to get up and help.  

“C’mon boys.” he said as the rest of the trio got up to help Custeau. They ran over to the bar and started restraining aliens from behind. Out of nowhere, Crankshaft appeared holding up a liquor bottle with a dishtowel in the spout.  

“Molotov!” he squeaked, holding up the bottle.  

“Crank no!” Johnny and Grubbs shouted in unison, but it was too late, he had already launched the Molotov cocktail into the center of the bar. The alcohol spread and caught fire, burning a few chairs and tables. Luckily, the fire only lasted until the alcohol had burnt off, but now the entire bar had devolved into a drunken brawl as the employees desperately put out the fire first.  

“Are you going to help them or are you just enjoying the gladiatorial arena as a spectator?” N7 said listlessly.  

“Helping would be an emotional response; logic dictates they are currently in no serious danger.” Anya replied, her hands still folded stoically behind her as she stood watching Ronin and his friends fight off the other bar goers. A man ran by her with a heavy chair lifted and about to smash it over somebody’s head. Anya stuck her foot out unceremoniously and tripped him without breaking her proper posture or showing any emotion. The man fell, hitting his head against a table and knocking himself out. Ronin swung on an alien who dodged it and smashed a beer bottle over Bryce’s head which left a huge gash which streamed blood. Custeau’s hat had been knocked off and Emrick had hidden on the bar top, climbing up to take sips from abandoned drinks.  

Finally, the security at the bar got the situation under control. The crew all left before they could be kicked out and soon, they were waiting in line at the port’s medical clinic.  

Grubbs was sitting on a hard plastic chair in the waiting room. The clinic looked like any other, boring, white and sterile. Posters of medical information written in alien languages dotted the plain walls. He held a small bag of ice on his head as an alien walked out of the room.  

“Bryce Grubbowski.” the alien said. 

He stood up and followed the extra-terrestrial to the back. He entered a door. A hominid looking body was turned facing away from him writing something on a clipboard.  

As she turned, her face was that of abject shock.  

“I’m sorry, a-are you human?” she asked.  

“Yeah.” He replied wearily  

“Like from earth?” 

“Born and Raised.”  

The girl sat there in awe still.  

“I’m sorry, I’ve just never seen another human being, let alone another one who was actually born on earth.” she stated. “My name is Doctor Suzi Sears by the way.” 

“Bryce.” he replied. It felt liberating to stick his hand out and have it met with something other than utter disdain. In all his years of traveling the universe, he had never seen a human that wasn’t one of his other two friends. Suzi was a thin girl with jaw length black hair. She had big gorgeous brown eyes and a very symmetrical face. She was thin but her hips had a nice curve to them. She wore a white medical outfit which made her jet-black hair pop against her softly tanned skin. She had a bright smile and a very calming prescence, her voice was soft and airy.  

“Well Bryce, this doesn’t seem too bad. I’ll just go grab a Med-vac and we should have you fixed up in no time.” she said cheerfully. She went into the back and grabbed a small device, like a radar gun that she pointed at Bryce’s injury. The machine sent out a blue light then a green ray and the wound was instantly healed, the swelling gone.  

“So, when were you frozen>” she asked  

“Oh 2008 if I remember correctly.” Bryce replied  

“2010 for me.” she replied, taking off her plastic gloves and throwing them in the trash.  

“Oh wow, small galaxy, huh?”  

“Sure is. Well, you’re all set to go. I hope you stay out of trouble at the next star port. And I’m glad to know I’m not alone in the universe.” she laughed  

“Yeah, it was good to know we’re not the only humans from earth out there.” Bryce smiled wryly.  

“Wait, there’s more of you?” she replied  

“Oh yeah, we have 3 humans from earth on our ship, the Satin Samurai, it’s in the port right now.” 
Suzi looked out the window like her entire perspective of the universe had just been changed. She had lived on this star station for a decade, seeing all matters of travelers and vagrants alike. She had never thought she’d see another human again in her lifetime, and for three to show up at her doorstep suddenly seemed like fate. She sighed and smiled brightly again.  

“Well good luck out there among the stars.”  

“You too.” Bryce said, grinning nervously and awkwardly.  

He left and made his way back to the tunnel where the air lock was. Custeau had grabbed Emrick off the bar top where he was laying belly up and put him back under his hat. The crew once again waited for the boarding process to occur. Suzi stared at the large star ship out her office window. She had always secretly dreamed of being a medical officer on a ship. Just as Bryce was about to step onto the galleon, Suzi came running down the tunnel.  

“Doctor Sears.” he stated 

“Bryce. Um, i don’t know if you need a medical officer or whatever on the ship but… I have to take this chance. Please let me come with you.” she begged, her eyes pleading with him.  

“You don’t want the life of a merc, Suzi. Trust me, it’s no fun. Besides, this current job we’re on is bound to be incredibly dangerous.”  

“Bryce, I don’t care. My entire life I’ve assumed I was the only one of my kind out there. I’ve never fit in with anybody, and for three humans from earth to come here out of the blue… Feels like some kind of destiny. I don’t know, I may not fit in with you guys, but I have a better chance of fitting in with my own people than anywhere else in the galaxy. Please, please give me a chance.”  

Bryce turned to Cassian who looked back at him with a knowing grin on his face.  

“We do need a medical officer badly on this ship.” Ronin said, “I’m tired of getting patched up by Butcher Bot over there.”  

“We could use a woman on board too y’know.” Custeau said  

“Ah yes, three men who haven’t seen a woman in 600 years living on a tiny boat in close quarters with the only female of the same species in 10 trillion lightyears, how could this possibly end badly.” N7 sighed, walking below deck.  

“It’s a good thing Grubbs is gay then.” Johnny smirked  

“Shut it Henson, I am not.”  

“Doctor Sears, I must warn you this journey is going to be quite dangerous.” Anya jumped into the conversation to get it back on track.  

“Well then you’re going to need the best medical officer, aren’t you?”  she said cheerfully.  

“Welcome aboard the Satin Samurai.” Ronin smiled, shaking her hand.  

They all marched up to the main deck, to the control room. The ship had left the dock and now was very slowly drifting toward the boundary of the space station. Ronin held his white iPod in his clutched palm scrolling through it.  

“Is that an iPod? I haven’t seen one of those in so long, my god. What a memory.”

“You wanna look what I have on here?” Ronin said smoothly  

“Sure.” Suzi said, taking the small device from him.  

She looked through it, a lot of jazz albums, some hip hop and RnB. A lot of rock music. She stopped at Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out.” 

“Oh wow, I haven’t heard this song in literally forever. Can I play it?” Suzi asked 

“Of course.” Ronin said, hitting the play button. It played over the sound system in the ship.  

“Johnny, set a course for 1.5 million knots and make the jump to light speed. Who knows what awaits us in the cosmos.”  

“Aye captain.” Johnny replied, pushing forward on the control lever until it was as far up as it could go. The ship lurched into warp speed as the stars and celestial bodies around them whipped into nothing but passing white streaks as they flew by.