(This bit appeared originally as the backstory for the game Red Chicken Rising. This version here is revised and rewritten to line up better with the novel. This situation, told from a different viewpoint, appears as part of Chapter 17 of They Who Are Having A Bad Day.)
Agrippa heard a piercing scream. He looked up from the morning obituarites and sat up in his bunk. Emily burst from the shower closet, dripping wet, wearing only a towel.
"There is blood coming out of the shower!" she protested. She pointed at the offending shower closet accusingly, clutching the towel in her other hand.
"Well yes," Agrippa said. He sipped his morning coffee, settled back down onto his bunk, and returned his gaze to the newspaper. "I would imagine so. Did you push the red button in the shower?"
"Yes," she replied. She was calming down a little. "I thought that was for hot water."
"No, the clear button is for water. You adjust the water temperature with the dial next to that. The red button is for blood."
"Excuse me?" Emily pulled the newspaper from Agrippa's hands and threw it to the cabin floor. "Do all the spaceships in the Bad Day fleet have showers with blood coming out of them?"
"Well yes. They want people to feel as much at home as possible. Don't the Dirty Rotten Stinking Earthie spaceships have home comforts?"
Emily opened her mouth to say something but the ship's intercom interrupted her.
"General Agrippa, report to the bridge immediately. Battle stations muave." The intercom squawked twice for effect.
"Duty calls," Agrippa said with a sigh. He drank the last of his coffee and threw the newspaper onto his bunk. He looked around their tiny cabin. "Get dressed and pack your bag, just in case."
"Just in case of what?"
Agrippa buttoned up his uniform jacket. "Just in case this battleship's captain and crew live up to their reputations."
Emily Norris studied the bridge. It was everything she expected the command center of a battleship belonging to They Who Are Having A Bad Day to be, and less. The decor was suitably dark and depressing. The concrete benches the crew members sat on looked cold and uncomfortable. Even the curtains made Emily feel bad about life in general. Several large video screens covered the front wall of the bridge, all of them filled with the image of an alien spaceship. A large motivational banner proclaiming "Oh, What's the Use" in dull red letters hung across the top of the largest video screen.
Most of the crewbeings were, like Orestes Dutherios Agrippa, very human in appearance and would be almost indistinguishable from Dirty Rotten Stinking Earthies if it weren't for the pained expressions on their faces and the profuse sweating. Aside from the humanoids, there was a fire demon working one of the consoles and a large male troll wearing a very short skirt and tight thigh-high boots seated at another console.
Out of the corner of her eye, Emily noticed a shadow moving behind her. She turned her head to find a large reptilian creature with six rows of gnashing teeth, horns on the top of its long domed head, blood dripping down its grotesque face, and a mop held in two of its front claws.
"Aaaaaaaaah!" screamed the creature.
"Aaaaaaaaah!" screamed Emily.
"Hi, Jake," said Agrippa.
"Dude!" said the creature.
Emily tried to smile politely while not moving a muscle.
"Long time no see, man," the creature rasped. It reached out a claw to shake Agrippa's hand. "Iíve been looking for you. Sorry to hear you lost your command. Lousy break, dude."
"Ah, General Agrippa," said a man standing near a large chair in the center of the bridge. Emily guessed from the excessive decorations on his uniform that he must be the ship's captain. She took advantage of this distraction to shuffle quietly to Agrippa's other side, away from the reptilian janitor.
"We've almost got video from the alien vessel,sir," said a crewman sitting at one of the side consoles.
"When will we be getting audio signal?" the captain demanded.
"You're always putting pressure on me, man!" cried the crewman. He pulled a large wrench from under his console and brandished it menacingly at the captain and other crew members. "I'm tired of all your abuse! If you think this job is so easy, you can do it yourself! Aaaaaaaaaahhh!" The crewman tore his shirt off and ran out an exit. The two crewbeings sitting at the front consoles looked at each other and made catty noises.
The monster leaned towards Agrippa and whispered loudly, "Dude, who's the babe?"
"Her name's Emily," Agrippa whispered back. "I picked her up on Zoobner Ceti."
"She's cute, for an Earth chick," rasped the creature.
"Agrippa, do you know who these people are?" the captain interrupted. He was pointing at the looming image of the alien ship.
"No idea," Agrippa replied.
"They're D'Orques," Emily whispered in Agrippa's other ear.
He looked at her quizzically. "What?"
"D'Orques," she repeated. "That's a D'Orque ship. Who's the seven-foot-tall cockroach?"
"That's Jake," he whispered back. "Old friend of mine. He's cool."
"He's picking garbage up off the floor with his tongue," she observed, trying not to reveal her distaste, "and he's not bending over to do it."
"That looks like a D'Orque ship," Agrippa announced to the bridge crew.
"You've encountered them before then?" asked the captain.
Emily started to say something but Agrippa nudged her ribs with his elbow.
"Well, I wouldn't underestimate them," he said.
"I see," said the captain. He turned back to face the front video screen. It was now filled with a huge green leathery face. The face seemed to be squinting at the captain.
"Who are they?" the D'Orque captain asked. He squinted at the small screen set into the console in front of his command chair. He couldn't make out the image of the unknown ship's captain clearly.
"'Fraid I don't know, sir," replied the helmsman. "Some sort of aliens, I expect. This is the farthest we've been in this neighborhood of the galaxy."
"They do look rather funny," added the communications officer. "All pink and skinny."
"Now now Skippy, we mustn't make fun of the aliens." The captain adjusted his monacle. "Just because they look strange to us doesn't mean we can say cruel things about them! Let's see what they want, shall we? Open an audio channel, there's a good fellow."
The massive image of the wrinkled green face filled the main display screen on the bridge. It squinted at each member of the Bad Day bridge crew in turn. The face had a thick brow, yellow eyes, a snout-like nose, thin lips revealing several sets of small tusks, and a pronounced chin. A large green hand appeared and adjusted a monocle worn over the image's right eye. The face's mouth was moving as if it were speaking, but no voice was heard.
"Well well well," Captain Arg muttered, "I wonder what they're doing so deep in our territory."
"Captain, we're six thousand fernsdeens beyond our own borders," corrected the chief navigator. "We've never been out here before, and we have no idea whose territory we're in."
"Shut up, Jenson!" shouted the captain. "You're always fussing about the wrong things. This will reflect poorly on your annual performance review."
"Sir, we don't have annual performance reviews anymore. You threw the Performance Review Control Officer out the airlock last week."
"Shut up shut up shut up!" The captain threw his hat onto the deck and stomped on it.
"We've got audio," interrupted the troll with the short skirt.
"I daresay!" The voice rang out loudly across the bridge. The troll adjusted the volume knob.
"I daresay!" repeated the huge green face. "Tally ho, eh wot? Jolly good show! I daresay! Tally ho! Tally ho! Eh wot? By Jove! Jolly good. I daresay! Pip pip and all that sort of thing, eh? Smashing."
"What's this ugly freak saying?" Captain Arg demanded.
"I would imagine he's speaking in the D'Orque language," Agrippa said calmly.
"Cricket! I daresay. Eh wot? Eh wot? Smashing."
"Well I don't understand a word of it," muttered the captain. "Weapons officer, start warming up the forward blaster turrets."
"What?" The Dirty Rotten Stinking Earthie woman who came aboard with General Agrippa shouted at the captain. "What kind of idiot are you?"
The captain looked at Agrippa. "What is this Earthie woman doing on my bridge?"
"I'll escort her out and confine her to quarters," Agrippa said. He grasped the woman by her shoulders and guided her towards the hatchway in the aft bulkhead of the bridge. Agrippa whispered something into the woman's ear but the captain couldn't catch it.
Jake, the janitor, waved at the retreating figures of Agrippa and the Earthie woman. "Dude," said the creature.
The D'Orque captain was perplexed. "What's happening?"
The communications officer swivelled his seat around to speak to the captain. "They don't seem to be understanding us, sir. We're hearing them perfectly but I don't think they can understand what we're saying. Apparently they don't speak D'Orquish."
"Did that captain creature just call me an ugly freak?"
"That's what it sounded like, sir, but that was probably just a translation problem. Those words must mean something entirely different in their language." Skippy adjusted some dials thoughtfully.
"Hmmm, yes. Warm the banter box, will you old bean?"
"Certainly sir," Skippy replied cheerfully. He flipped on the language translator.
"Does anybody understand what this ugly freak is saying?" asked the Bad Day captain, dusting off his hat.
"Hello," said the huge green face, the voice somewhat lower than before. "I am Captain Lunderhoon T. Snokwoggle of the D'Orque ship L'Potage. Please accept my greetings and best wishes."
"What kind of stupid name is that?" asked the captain. "This fool must be some sort of lunatic." The green face on the screen looked around in alarm.
"I think they can hear you now sir," Jenson hissed.
"What? Yes. Yes." The captain cleared his throat and spoke louder. "My name is Julius Spencer Cadwallader Arg and I am the commander of the battleship Ennui. You are intruding in territory belonging to the empire of They Who Are Having A Bad Day. Prepare to surrender your ship!" Arg waved a finger at the weapons officer's console, pointing at the buttons that would fire the battleship's forward batteries.
Emily and Agrippa ran through the battleship's corridors as fast as they could, their bags slung across their shoulders.
"Just what exactly are D'Orques?" Agrippa gasped.
"The D'Orques are very intelligent," she replied, "very polite, very near-sighted, and very sensitive about their appearance. Why are we running? And where are we going?"
"We need to get to the escape pods. If Arg is as competent at inter-species diplomacy as he is at running this ship, we need to get off this tub as fast as possible."
"Look," said Captain Snokwoggle into the camera, "I'm terribly sorry but I think there's been some sort of misunderstanding."
"I think they're getting ready to fire their forward weapons," whispered Luther, the D'Orque weapons officer.
"Oh my," said Captain Snokwoggle.
"Are we ready?" Captain Arg hissed at the Bad Day weapons officer.
"I suppose," shrugged the crewman.
"Eat hot death, you alien scum!" the captain shouted as he smashed his palm down on the firing buttons.
"Oh, were you asking about whether the guns were ready?" asked the weapons officer.
"Eat hot death, you alien scum!" The small image of the Bad Day captain's face was turning bright red. Captain Snokwoggle adjusted the contrast on his display, thinking the color controls were out of alignment.
"They are indeed shooting at us, sir," Luther announced.
Snokwoggle switched the video image back to an exterior view of the Bad Day battleship. "Why are they firing in every direction except towards us?" he asked.
"I think they're firing randomly," Luther replied. "I'm just speculating of course, but it looks like they just hit the firing button without bothering to aim first."
The D'Orque captain pulled a sandwich from the lunchbox he'd tucked under his command chair. "Well then," he said, "let's fire torpedoes at them, shall we?"
"Oh, thank you sir!" Luther said enthusiastically. "I've so wanted to get in some practice on this cruise."
"Here it is. Get into the escape pod," Agrippa said. He threw their luggage into the hatch and pushed Emily towards the capsule.
"Wait a minute," she said firmly. "This is a Bad Day escape pod."
"Well, yes," he said, impatiently.
"There isn't going to be blood dripping all over the place inside, is there?"
"There's not going to be body parts all over the seats?" She gestured towards the escape pod's hatchway. "Razor blades and broken glass sprinkled all over the floor? Suicide notes pinned to the control panel? Acid dripping from the ceiling? Severed heads? Dismemb-"
"Shut up and get in there! It's going to be fine." He threw her into the hatch, jumped in after her, and sealed the airlock. He leaped into one of the two seats, buckled the safety harness, and motioned to her to do the same. He reached a foot up and kicked a large red button on the control console.
"Yuck!" Emily complained. "There are suicide notes taped all over the-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
Emily's scream was lost in a blur of colors and shapes.
"The alien battleship is destroyed completely," Luther reported happily.
"Good show, lads!" The captain lifted his teacup to toast his crew.
"Two escape pods were launched and have cleared the explosion," noted Skippy.
"Shall we shoot them?" asked Luther.
"No no no," said Captain Snokwoggle. "Let's see what they have to say. Open up communications with the first one, will you old chap?"
"Um, hello," crackled a voice over the speakers. "My name is Agrippa, and my friend here is Emily. Er, terribly sorry about the fellows who were running the battleship back there. Awfully rude fellows, really. Quite embarrassing, I must say. I do hope you're not upset by the whole thing?"
"No, no, not at all," said Snokwoggle.
"Well, we must be going," said the voice. An image of the escape pod flashed across the D'Orque captain's display screen. "We'll just be heading along home now. Thanks ever so much!"
"Think nothing of it," said Snokwoggle. "Have a pleasant and safe journey to wherever it is you're going." He nodded happily to himself, then signalled to the communications officer to open a channel to the second escape pod.
"Dude!" a voice rasped over the speakers.
The content on this page was written in July 2000
Last updated: June 11, 2016