SW beat up giant! (Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck!)
The Space Hags
"We're running short of credits. It's time to dig some terigium," Captain Melisma announced to her three-woman crew.
"Ugly and Proud Of It," was the Space Hags' motto.
True, the four-woman crew of the Harridan were not exactly beauty queens.
"Our captain's a slob," her engineer would comment frequently to her fellow crew-women. And indeed Melisma, captain of the spaceship Harridan, was a slob with her uncombed hair and general slouchy appearance in her pink uniform.
Plump in her pink uniform, Rotunda grinned and cried, "Aye, aye, Captain!" Turning to the navigation controls of the Harridan, Rotunda proceeded to plot a course. Off to the barren world, Tortuga, where Melisma's father had bequeathed her the terigium mining rights. Terigium always saw Captain Dick through lean periods. Captain Melisma planned to continue the family tradition.
"I hate digging, but I like to get my pay on time!" said Vivian Drix, the short fifyish engineer who kept the Harridan's space drives humming. With her sloping shoulders and slight middle-aged figure, she resembled a walking capital "A" as she nodded to her captain and shuffled off to her favorite haunt, the engine room. And though she may have deserved the title Space Hag in many ways, she sported a long beautiful headful of blonde hair that could make Dolly Parton envious.
"I just hope we don't have to dig too long," said Nayl Hoshigura, the ship's biologist and doctor. Nayl was a horse-faced, horse-minded, horse-crazy horse fanatic. Her long, black hair was tied back in, what else, a ponytail. Her black bangs hung over her brow like a forelock. Her black sidelocks framed her face like a horse's blinkers. And with her tall, shapely figure she always wore shoes that reminded her captain of hooves. At times her clippety-clop gait through the ship even sounded like a horse! With a toss of her black mane, Nayl clippety-clopped off to the ship's lab.
"How long 'till we reach Tortuga?" asked Melisma of her helmswoman.
"One and a half solar days," replied Rotunda, tossing her shoulder-length black wave of hair.
Melisma smiled, nodded, and went to her cabin to finish up her reports.
One and a half solar days later, the Harridan went into orbit around Tortuga. Then when the ship was in the correct position, Rotunda began planetfall toward the mining station. Tortuga's surface was spiked with promontories sometimes 300 feet tall. The only indigenous life-form were lichens which supplied breathable amounts of oxygen to anyone who landed.
After they landed the ship, Vivian, Nayl and Melisma disembarked, leaving Rotunda on the ship in case trouble occurred.
The surface here was mostly gentle brown hills, with several stony spikes rising up like skyscapers nearby. Nayl took readings as they approached Melisma's mining station where the equipment was kept. "You're right. Oxygen at barely acceptable levels, Captain," she reported.
"That's okay. It won't take long to dig enough terigium to pay us all," said Melisma.
The three got out the antigrav cart and the phasers, solar batteries fully charged. The terigium deposits were close to the surface of the ground, where previous mining had created a deep cut in the side of the hill, so it was easy to get. Nayl and Melisma dug while Vivian manned the refining equipment. The women would work for a couple hours, then rest and take refreshments aboard the Harridan, then work for a couple hours again. Rotunda and Vivian spelled each other. Enough terigium for a good large paycheck for each Space Hag filled one side of the Harridan's cargo bay.
The third day of their visit, for one of their breaks, Vivian, Nayl and Melisma decided to take a stroll.
"This planet's not much to look at, but you can still find some nice rocks," commented Melisma as they ambled over the hill from the mining station.
They fanned out as they each saw something attractive on the ground.
Melisma walked up to one huge spike of rock she had once named 'Rocket Rock' Patting its hard reddish side, Melisma relished fond memories of exploring outer space with Dad!
But this time, there was a great, big surprise in store for Melisma. A REAL great, big surprise! Four monstrous fingers came closing in from her right, clamped around her middle, and lifted her up, up up and UP! Past a pair of brown-trousered legs the size of columns. Past a belted waist. Past a long, skinny chest. To face a bucktoothed face that could fill the screen of a tri-D movie theater. Melisma was in the grasp of a thin goofy giant about sixty feet tall.
"WHAT IS THIS?" he boomed in amazement at the tiny lady in his fist. The tip of his nose, a pointy honker long enough to shade a family picnic or do Cyrano DeBergerac credit, wiggled in perfect time with his words. Then he cast his eyes down. "ANOTHER ONE!" he exclaimed in a train-whistle squeal. He reached down and came up with Nayl, her face blank as if she did not realize what had hit her yet. "TWO OF THEM!" he hooted with joy, bunching Nayl and Melisma together and holding them up like Liberty's torch.
"Just bring your face within slapping range..." thought Melisma as she drummed on his fist and looked down at him.
"I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO TELL MY BOSS!" With that he brought his two tiny captives down to shoulder level and joyfully began lumbering away with them.
"His Big Boss, I presume," muttered Melisma, squirming against Nayl and the fist that pinned them together. She could feel his great bones jar with his every giant step.
Nayl was still in shock. "Due to the inverse square law, his breathing capacity would have to increase fourfold every doubling of organic mass. Such a being could not exist, therefore we have nothing to worry about."
"Terrific, Nayl! Now tell me how we get out of this fix we're not in."
Just then, "Another one!" boomed through their heads. Down he pounced again and gathered up Vivian. "Oh, joy! Rapture! Three tiny little specimens! I love it!"
As soon as the giant squeezed Vivian into the same fist with her captain--"Giants?!?! You didn't say anything about giants!!!" barked Vivian at Melisma.
"That's because there weren't any," Melisma replied with her unflappable cool. Considerately, the giant held them all facing each other.
Vivian glared up at her captain like Suspicion personified. "Are you sure?!?"
"Of course, I'm sure! Dad and I have come here plenty of times and never saw a giant once. In fact, this planet checked out clean for lifeforms of any sort except lichens."
"Well, this planet's got a lifeform now!" Vivian remarked acidly as she looked down at the great fist that had them pinned together.
"A very big one!" added Nayl nervously.
Melisma lowered her voice. "Thank goodness he didn't get Rotunda!" Though she couldn't think what one tiny little Rotunda could do against this monster humanoid, the thought that at least one intrepid Space Hag was still free was a comfort. Melisma raised her voice again. "He must have landed here since our last visit. Sorry I didn't check out things first before we landed here. But this planet is not exactly the sort of planet anyone would want to live on."
"WHICH IS EXACTLY WHY THEY SENT ME HERE!" boomed their captor, jouncing merrily along. "THEY PUT ME DOWN HERE AND LEFT ME IN EXILE. BUT I WILL HAVE MY FREEDOM! YOU THREE LITTLE SPECIMENS ARE JUST WHAT I NEED TO GET BACK TO CIVILIZATION AGAIN!"
This giant had been exiled by his people? Great! They were in the hand--literally--of a possible criminal!
"You're going to trade us away for your freedom? That's disgusting!" said Vivian.
"You're not very pretty specimens, but you should be enough."
"May I bite this big beauty bigot?" asked Vivian, baring her teeth at Melisma.
"Not from fifty feet up, you don't!"
"Huh! With that honker, he's not too pretty himself!"
Melisma considered. "However, you can slap him if you want."
Vivian pounded and slapped away at the happy giant's fist as he tromped over barren hills and valleys. Her blows had little effect, of course, but it let him know his prisoners were NOT happy! Finally he reached his outpost, a stupendous stadium-sized structure painted brown to blend in with the planetscape.
"I've never seen that before," said Melisma. "They must have plunked him down here within the past three months."
Opening a round-cornered eighty-foot door, the giant stepped in.
"Who are you?" asked Melisma.
"I am Quimbus Flestrin!" BOOM! went the great door behind him, Straightaway he headed for a subspace transmitter the size of a house and, still grasping his bunch of captives, began pressing buttons to transmit to his boss.
"Excellency! Boss!" he said excitedly. "This is Quimbus Flestrin at Outpost Quigla."
"What's your news, outpost?" the transmitter crackled.
"I have discovered little intelligent life on this planet!" Quimbus turned and grinned a three-foot toothy grin at his captives. "THREE little intelligent lifes to be exact!"
"Trying to get out of your duty, eh, Quimbus?"
"But Brumbus, I've discovered three intelligent alien life-forms only six feet tall!" exclaimed Quimbus. "I can't wait--"
Wild laughter crackled disagreeably out of the subspace transmitter. Quimbus wilted. "Hahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa! Trying to convince us you're going crazy? Well it won't work! There's no intelligent life under twenty feet, Quimbus! Is that understood?"
Quimbus looked frustrated but determined. "Yes, Leader-but-"
"And I hope you do go crazy! It would bring me great pleasure! Little aliens only six feet tall! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"
Quimbus winced at the loud CLICK that said the transmission was final.
Dejected, Quimbus looked at his transmitter, then his captives. Even the point of his brown bangs between his eyes looked dejected.
"Looks like your bosses don't believe in us. You'll have to let us go, Quimbus," stated Melisma.
Quimbus' hazel eyes turned all smiles again. Bringing the Space Hags closer to his enormous grin, he said, "Sooner or later, my little ladies, they will bring me supplies and then I can show you to them. Then they'll HAVE to believe in you. All I need do is wait. Meanwhile you can keep me company!"
"Ooof!" went the Space Hags as Quimbus hugged all three of them to his immense chest.
"Brumbus would not let me bring even one pet out here to keep me company!" Quimbus held Melisma, Nayl and Vivian up before him in both hands. "Now I have three pet people! Let's play some games!"
"Oh, great," muttered Vivian. She hung onto the right thumb in her lap as its owner got up.
Putting them on a table in the middle of the room, he fetched out a game board that covered as much space as a good-sized room on the table. The Space Hags' hair flew up in the breeze as he set the big gameboard down before them. "There." Towering over them like Mount Rushmore even when he sat, he grinned a goofy grin at them.
"Are you laughing at us?" asked Vivian.
"Who, me? I would never make fun of your size!" He turned to Melisma. "Your move, Shorty!"
After Quimbus explained the simple rules, Melisma picked up a black game piece half her height and moved it to another square, but said, "We're not pets, Quimbus. We have lives of our own and a schedule to keep. I'm due to meet up with the Altaires in two weeks to pick up passengers and medical supplies and you are going to make us late!"
"Not to mention make our paychecks late!" groused Vivian.
Quimbus looked down at them derisively. "Do you think I care?"
"No, I don't think you do," replied Melisma.
"Besides," he went on as he counted on his fingers, "I'll feed you, water you, take care of you, and so you will never need worry about paychecks again. If you don't like to think of yourselves as pets, fine. Think of keeping me company as your new job and think of me as your new employer. At least until my people come and see you, and then keeping THEM company may be your new job while I will be free at last."
Several games later, three of which Melisma won, he declared himself tired, and put them in a cage in his control room. Giving them one of his socks apiece to sleep in, he went off to his cabin to sleep himself.
"You actually had the nerve to beat him," said Nayl.
"At least our jailer's a good sport," Melisma replied as she settled into her purple sock.
Nayl got the other purple sock. She now spoke up. "You know what this means? There's a whole civilization of giant Quimbuses out there, on the verge of meeting our civilization!"
"If they're ALL like Quimbus, there goes the neighborhood," muttered Vivian.
Nayl put hands on shapely horsey hips. "Vivian, you once boasted you could beat up any chauvinist no matter how big, strong, or many."
"Quimbus is not a chauvinist; he's an idiot. If he were a chauvinist idiot, that would be different."
Next morning, Quimbus lined up the Space Hags on his mess hall table. Then the giant sliced three chips from his dried space rations, and gave his tiny 'employees' one chip apiece.
Taking the chip he presented to her on a fingertip, Vivian bit into it and made a face. "Yecccch. They're really punishing this guy."
"Tastes like hay," said Nayl.
"I"m glad you like it," said Vivian.
Nayl gave a shake of her ponytail and a dignified snort. "I like horses but that doesn't mean I like eating like one, Vivian."
Quimbus nibbled away at his share with sour mouth and wrinkled nose that said HE didn't think much of the diet his boss had put him on, either. "It's not much, ladies, but it IS breakfast," he quipped.
After breakfast, Quimbus had planetary conditions and this planet's sun to monitor, so he put the Space Hags in their cage then went over to his control center.
While Quimbus worked, Nayl looked out at him dejectedly and said, "This is boring."
Vivian gave one of the cage bars a fierce rattle. "Being held prisoner generally is! It's happened to me several times, so I know." She looked over at Quimbus and added, "Only my other jailers weren't quite so big!"
"I wonder what Rotunda's doing," muttered Melisma.
The Space Hags discreetly tried and failed to find any weakness in their cage. There was nothing to do but play word games with each other until Quimbus served lunch on his outstretched fingertip again. Dried space rations again.
And water served in a thimble, and two bottlecaps.
"Your standard bread and water prison diet," sniffed Nayl at the space rations in one hand and the bottlecap cradled in her other arm.
"I think I'm gonna' puke," said Vivian.
In the evening, it was fun time. Quimbus took them out to play games with him. Then put them back in for the night.
Next morning, Quimbus made his regular report to Brumbus, his boss, and once again he tried to tell the unreasonable tyrant there WAS intelligent life under twenty feet, darnit!
"I have three tiny little ladies, I tell you! They're itsy-bitsy! Teeny! No bigger than my hand!"
"Next you'll be telling me you're seeing little green MEN, Quimbus! Hawhawhawhawhawhaw! Little green men! Oh, I crack myself up! Hahahahahahahahah!
As his cruel boss went on and on and on, Quimbus leaned back, rolled his eyes, made frog-faces and stuck his tongue out at the transmitter.
"I don't think he likes his boss," Melisma commented.
"But Captain, he's an alien," Nayl protested. "For all you know, he could be showing respect."
"Nayl," said Melisma, "when a man makes faces at a transmitter that has no visual, I don't think it's to show respect!"
The end was the same, though. No matter what, Quimbus was exiled at this lonely outpost, and he was going to stay exiled.
Oh, yes, this giant was so glad to have company--even a little company! That evening, he picked Melisma out of the cage and put her on the table before him. "Can you think of any good games we can play?" asked Quimbus, his head perched on his hand.
"How about no-holds-barred wrestling?" Melisma deadpanned.
Quimbus gave her a blank look. Then pinned her down with one hand.
"Okay," said Melisma. "Let's try something else."
That evening, as Vivian settled into Quimbus's sock to sleep, she said, "You know what I really hate about this?"
"What, Viv?" asked Nayl.
"Eating, playing and sleeping in the same clothes all the time! Yuck!"
"We've been in this cage for three days," said Nayl, leaning against the back cage bars in utter dejection. All three of these proud-to-be-ugly ladies were going stir-crazy!
Vivian looked at her, turned with a casually-determined mien and walked off to the front of the cage.
Captain Melisma knew the look on her cynical, bad-tempered engineer's face all too well. "Where are you going?" asked Melisma.
"In our hopeless situation, there is only one kind of diplomacy left," Vivian answered. Leaning on the bar running across the front of the cage, Vivian yelled at the giant in her most raucous fisherwife voice, "Hey, Quimby! Is that your nose or are you eating a carrot?"
Stiffening up, the alien giant turned around in his seat. "Did you just insult me???" boomed Quimbus. He seemed as much incredulous as annoyed.
"No, I didn't, Vacuum-Brain!"
He frowned suspiciously. "What's a carrot?"
"A long, pointy thing--like your nose!"
Quimbus' gaze unfocused as if deciding what to do.
"Vivian! How could you!" Nayl squeaked.
"Brilliant strategy. Get him to put us out of our misery," was Melisma's only comment.
Gaze focused again, Quimbus rose to his full sixty-foot height and approached the cage. His outsized hands fiddled with the lock. "You come out here, and we'll have this one out, little lady," he rumbled mightily as he looked down through the top of the cage at his opponent.
"Yeah! That's right, Carrot-Nose! Come get me!" Vivian jeered as his fist reached in and gathered her up.
"I can't look!" squeaked Nayl. Covering her eyes with her hands and plugging her ears with her thumbs, Nayl huddled in a corner.
In short order, Quimbus in a chair, Vivian on the table before him, the two were having it out! "Shorty!" "Vacuum head!" 'Tiny!" "Needlenose!" "Itsy-Bitsy!" "Crackbrain!"
Reaching into her pocket, Melisma took out her recorder and began a new entry. "Captain's log, stardate 13:14:2307."
"Flyweight!!" "Giraffe!" "Pocket-sized!" "Numbskull!" "Bantam!" "Featherhead!"
"While we seem no closer to freedom..." Melisma continued.
"Nit!" "Beakface!" "Speck!" "Peabrain!"
"...we have begun negotiations with our captor."
"Insect!" "Stupid!" "Germ!" "Idiot!" "Atom!" "Imbecile!" "Little nothing!" "Big lug!!"
Hot and fast the 'negotiation' escalated.
"Squeem! Twacky backawack!" yelled Vivian.
"Thrumped knodle!" he bellowed down at her.
Vivian's face turned beet-red with anger. Clenching her teeth mightily and screwing up her face like a pitcher hurling a scorching fastball, Vivian yelled, "DONGBLUGGED SCRINK!"
"Dongblugged--scrink?" Quimbus's chin began to tremble. "D-d-d-dongblugged scrink?" Reeling as if Vivian HAD hit him with a scorching fastball, his eyes filled with tears. Then his mouth opened wide and, "WAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Tears flowed down his face like waterfalls. "BOOO-HOO-HOO-HOOOOO! WAAAH! SOB!" Picking up Vivian in his fist, he bellowed at her, "Y--y--you WIN! SOB! D-dongblugged scrink! SOB! SOB! SOB!" Staggering over to the cage, he set her back in with trembling fist. "D--d--dongblugged---sc--sc---WAAAAAAAH! BOO-HOO-HOO-HOO-HOOOOOO!"
Vivian looked after him amazed as he staggered back to his control center. "Looks like I really did it that time," she muttered.
"You destroyed him," said Nayl, impressed.
Melisma critiqued her engineer's negotiating technique. "You had to lose your temper, didn't you, Vivian?"
"I know, I know."
"Calling that sixty-foot alien a squeem and a twacky backawack was bad enough."
"Well, he called ME a thrumped knodle!"
"But 'dongblugged scrink'?????? You really did it THAT time!"
"I know, I know."
"I hate to see an overgrown man cry!"
Later, when Quimbus recovered, he peered through the top of the cage. Locking eyes with Melisma, he unlocked the cage, lifted Melisma in his big hand and sitting at the table, stood her on the palm of his left hand. "The black-haired one is too scared, and the blonde-haired one is too angry. However, YOUR attitude is just right," he told her.
Melisma liked being at the alien giant's eye level better than down on the table looking up at him. Drawing herself up to her full height, which wasn't very much compared to his, Melisma told him, "The black-haired one is called Nayl Hoshigura, the blonde one is called Vivian Drix, and I am Captain Melisma Martain."
"Ah, YOU are the captain." Quimbus pointed a big forefinger at her.
Melisma crossed her arms. "That's right."
"That's why your attitude is just right. Captains should never be too scared or too angry."
"I appreciate your sparing the life of my engineer," said Melisma.
"Oh," he said as if it were nothing, "among us insults are the acceptable way to do battle. I'd love to let Vivian have at my boss."
"You never hit each other?"
"Not unless we want to get hurt," he replied. "I was sent out here after I had an insult fight with my boss."
"Because you lost?"
His big shoulders slumped about a yard. "Because I won."
Looking around the drab, brown vastness of Quimbus' outpost, Melisma said, "All I can say is your boss is a sore loser. Lousy food, lousy job, lousy place to stay..."
"Oh, I like the job. I'm an astronomer," said Quimbus proudly. "But you are right about the food and the place to stay. The worst was being alone, until you came along."
"Quimbus, let us go. I can sympathize with your problem, but what you're doing to us isn't right," said Melisma.
"Is it right for me to be all alone?" asked Quimbus firmly. "No. Certainly not!"
"Quimbus, we haven't had a bath or a change of clothes in three days!"
The instant Quimbus rose and took her over to the sink, Melisma knew she should not have said that. "What are you doing?" she asked as Quimbus filled the sink below with warm water. Dunking her in fully-clothed, Quimbus reached for a green squeeze bottle of cleaning agent.
"Quimbus! I'm all grown-up--er--I'm as big as I'll ever get, Quimbus! I may be small, but I'm still an adult! I can wash myself!" she exclaimed, rolling out of his fingers.
His hand swished down and got her in its clutch again. ""See how bored I am?" The truthful look on his face truly frightened. "Thanks for giving me something to do."
He squeezed a gigantic glob of green on Melisma's stomach, scrubbed her to a soapy lather, rinsed her off under a gigantic stream from the tap, wrapped her in a towel and set her back on the table. Huddling in the towel for warmth, Melisma felt bad for her crew as Quimbus did the same to the trembling Nayl, and the squirming Vivian who called the giant every scorching moniker in the insult dictionary.
And bit him, too.
"There! THAT ought to give ya something to do!" she yelled as he stared incredulously at the bleeding tooth marks embedded in the tip of his thumb.
Leaving Vivian to wash herself up, he hurriedly went for the first-aid kit.
By the time he finished nursing his thumb, Vivian had climbed out of the sink. "Well?" she exclaimed. "Are you going to kill me for that?"
"I'm not the idiot you think I am! I took you prisoner and locked you up, didn't I? I EXPECT you to be angry!" he boomed. "Just like I'm angry with Brumbus for making me a prisoner on this planet!"
Vivian defiantly folded her arms over her chest. "You're not even going to eat me?"
"Yeah! Eat me! Hair, bones, guts--" recited Vivian as Quimbus slowly turned a pale shade of green. "--brains, kidneys, lungs, eyeballs--" she continued as he gagged, retched--- "--AND ALL!" she yelled after him as he quickly lumbered outside.
"I'm sure glad he didn't barf in here," said Vivian.
When Quimbus recovered, he returned and gingerly picked up the ship's engineer in such a way that she could not bite him again as he set her back into the cage.
Quimbus picked up Melisma in the towel he had wrapped her in and said, "You and your clothes are clean, now! Feel better?"
Melisma slapped the pointy tip of his nose.
"I'm sorry. I'll try to watch what I say to that guy," said Melisma as they went to sleep for the third night.
"At least we're clean," said Nayl.
"And totally humiliated," snarled Vivian.
Next morning, it was space ration time again, and word game time in the cage again as Quimbus went about his work. "Ladies, I will be gone for a while. See you when I come back!" The smiling giant waved to them as he stepped out the door.
"I'm thrilled," muttered Vivian.
"I wish he'd let us go!" wailed Nayl.
"He ain't going to let us go, so we'll have to let ourselves go," said Vivian, walking over to the lock. Picking a bobby pin from her hair, she began messing with the mechanism. "I couldn't try this in the dark or while Quimbus was watching, so I'll try it now."
Nayl and Melisma admired Vivian as the intrepid engineer went at it trying to pick the lock. Several grunts, 'Ahhhs' and 'Oooofs' later, there was a loud 'click!' and the lock sprang open! "Hah!" cried Vivian in triumph. "Good thing it was a cheap lock not meant to hold people," she added as she dropped the lock on the floor and opened the door.
"What do we do now?" asked Nayl as they stepped out onto the shelf. "We're still trapped in this place."
Just then a window shattered with a tremendous crash and the Harridan's hovercraft hummed into the outpost with Melisma's Deep Space Navigator First Class at the helm. It was Rotunda to the rescue!
As they hightailed it out of Tortuga on the Harridan, Melisma congratulated her navigator. "Thanks for not letting that giant make specimens out of us!"
"Yeah! Thanks, Rotunda!" Vivian clapped Rotunda on the back. "I don't think I could have stood him giving me another bath," she added to her captain.
Rotunda grinned like a possum as she piloted the ship. "Hey, what are friends for?"
"How did you get Quimbus out of the way long enough to break into his outpost?" asked Melisma.
"Well, I built a special torpedo, waited until he came outside and--"
"Captain?" When Nayl was preoccupied by a problem, she sometimes forgot her manners. "I'm missing a gallon of tranquilizer!"
"Hey! Look there!" Vivian pointed down at one of the rolling hills of Tortuga.
Draped over a hill Quimbus lay peacefully snoring with what looked like a tranquilizer dart in his gluteus maximus. His gluteus VERY maximus!