History Isn’t Cheap

Book Cover: History Isn't Cheap

His name is Foog, Kymbflikpk Foog. He's an agent for the Xiyan Historical Service and prefers his Flemlik Ooze scrambled, not whipped. He's discovered evidence of a lost Xiyan colony deep in the territory of a hostile alien species and it's his job to find the truth of what happened to the colony.

But he can't do it alone.

Wallace Tran isn't sure he wants to help.

Published:
Publisher: Cyborg Bunny Press
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Excerpt:

The Kornak’s Horn was a grungy bar in a slapped-together town snuggled up to a fourth-rate space port. Staring at the remains of what he generously called his beer, Tran wondered why he’d ever agreed to come to the ass end of nowhere. Money was money, but there were limits, and he liked his bars a little cleaner and a little more civilized. He liked his planets that way, too.

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He waved an arm at the bartender, a skinny green humanoid of indeterminate species. “I’ll have another glass of whatever this is I’m drinking.” Not in a hurry, the being wiped the dust from what looked like a plastic handle and drew some mildly foamy liquid from what Tran hoped was a sealed keg attached to the tap by a clean line. A duplicate of his first drink thumped in front of him but the bartender waited for a palm scan before taking its hand from the glass and walking away with a superior sounding grunt. Tran shook his head and took a sip of the bitter tan liquid. Beer, of a sort. At least it reminded him of beer in a distant way. He swallowed with the same wince as the first sip from the first glass and was rewarded with another snort from the bartender.

The attitude didn’t surprise him. Half the sapients in the Union spent a lot of their time snickering up their sleeves at the poor, culturally backwards humans. Of course, most of the other half were regarded pretty much the same way, some of them by each other, though not always for the same reasons. Everyone needed someone to feel superior to once in a while, Tran supposed, but his experience had shown him it was all bullshit anyway. Most individuals of any species only had redeeming qualities when someone else was looking. When they thought all eyes were turned away, they reverted to whatever form they thought they could get away with.

He suppressed the shiver at the next mouthful and then a groan as a short, squat humanoid in a trench coat sat down next to him. If he’d known his contact was going to be Xiya, he would’ve stayed home on Providence no matter how big a retainer he’d been offered just for making the trip.

Humanoid and human-ish looking, Xiya tended to short and squat, no more than a metre and a half tall but thicker across the chest and waist than he ever expected to be. They’d originally come from a higher gravity world than Earth but didn’t seem to have gotten the extra strength or muscle density out of the deal that was supposed to happen. To human eyes, they also seemed to come in an odd variety of skin tones, most of them some shade of orange. The two things combined made him feel like he was talking to a cartoon character. They were a nice enough species, he supposed, if you didn’t mind them latching on to some of genre of your literature or film history and then trying to become a character from it in order to deal with you in terms your species was supposed to be able to identify with. Small details were adapted to fit themselves, of course. The effect achieved was usually at least irritating, sometimes disturbing, and once in a while nauseating. Tran had the feeling this was going to be one of the third times.

Fighting off the beginning of a headache, Tran worked out the reason for the odd contact phrase he’d been given. He gulped from his glass and let the shudder have free reign through his body as the stubby little being jacked up the barstool and leaned hard towards him without turning. The Xiya spoke out of the corner of its mouth in what he thought was supposed to be an exaggerated whisper, a hissed baritone in accented standard that might have had Slavic roots. “My brother’s goat is very flatulent.”

Tran pressed two fingers to his temple and sighed before dragging the hand down his face to talk into it. “It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.”

Bright yellow eyes and a dazzling array of beige teeth beamed from under the brim of some kind of probably, if it wasn’t yellow, appropriate hat. His mind supplied the word fedora, though he couldn’t recall ever having seen one before. A hand shot out from the trench coat and Tran dutifully reached out to ripple his fingers several times so the tips made contact with the alien’s.

“You are Wallace Tran, yes?” Not really a question. What other civilized being in that pit could possibly have guessed the code phrase, much less the proper response to an outstretched Xiyan hand? “I am Foog, Kymbflikpk Foog. You may call me Kym, if you wish, or simply Foog.” Foog grinned again, without showing teeth this time. “I am happy that you have finally arrived and apologize for the distance you have likely traveled.” Foog’s face brightened further at the bartender’s approach. “Ah, my good being, Flemlik Ooze, if you please. Scrambled, not whipped.”

A glass of thick green-brown goo appeared in front of the Xiya, who rolled its palm over to clear view before slapping it on the scanner. With a wink at Tran, Foog tossed the substance into their mouth, although slowly drained would have been a better description since it took a second or so for the goo to actually start flowing. Tran had a hard time watching but waited for Foog to finish slurping the last bit out of the glass before bringing up business.

“So why exactly do you need a Facilitator? And why me specifically?”

Foog’s eyes darted left and right and he craned his short neck to scan the entire room without turning around. There was no one else there other than the bartender, who was as far away from the pair as they could get. “Not here.” He lowered his voice to something that might pass for a whisper if the bartender wasn’t paying attention, spy persona returning as his eyes shifted from side to side. “I am staying at the lodging house on the corner. The one with three floors. Room thirteen. Knock twice, count to six, then twice again. I will know it is you.” Foog hopped down from his stool. “Finish your drink before following me.”

Tran looked at the glass on the bar, one eye squinting almost shut. “Do I have to?” He looked up, but Foog was already gone.

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