Sunday, August 26, 2007

Excerpt from Fanke Mo'Fanke

Disclaimer: This on-off project has been in process for about 7 years now. It started as a collaborative effort with a friend, but that didn't really work out, so every now and again I revisit it and add a bit to the story. I'm putting it on here for comments. Feel free to tear it apart.

The story so far...
Aspiring author Fanke Mo'Fanke left Earth in a bit of a strop, intending to see the galaxy. Unfortunately he got press-ganged onto a spaceship run by the sinister Dr Ambidextrous. He escaped when the ship made an unexpected stopover on a planet called Chandra, exploiting an ancient colonial loophole which allowed him to leave his ship and enjoy the protection of the colony authorities if he got married. While on honemoon with his wife, a cloned educator ('blue-blood') called Omaha, who likewise needed to get married to avoid a lifetime of servitude, the luxury vessel they were on was invaded by space pirates who took Omaha captive. Fanke ended up on a spacepod lifeboat with an assortment of other passengers...

The ship that approached them was a sleek rapid transit vessel with atmosphere capability and a three-cornered identification flag emblazoned across the wide expanse of tail fin.

“Trinodliates,” remarked Rachmann. “Damn slugs. We’ll all be shipping along in bruiseberry jelly.”

“They wouldn’t carry bruiseberry jelly in a ship that small,” said one of the bankers. “They use gigantic tankers to haul that around. We insure them,” he added, noting the looks on the other passenger’s faces. Bruiseberry jelly was a Trinodliate delicacy, famed for its unappealing stench. Bruiseberries only grew on Trinos and so the jelly concentrate fetched a high price on Trinodliate colonies or among the expatriate communities scattered around the spiral arm.

Fortunately the Trinodliates had a key-code airlock and soon the lifeboat’s passengers were all out. Unfortunately none of the crew spoke any human languages. Fanke knew the most Trinodain, the eight words he had learned from Skooj the navigator on The Mile High. ‘Brrt’ – ‘Yes’, ‘Frrt’ – ‘No’, ‘Baartliggy’ – ‘Glagworm stew’, ‘Krrp’ – ‘Maybe’, ‘Strrpillzanticcy’ – ‘solar resistant navigational deep-space compass’, ‘Boissk’ – ‘Fridge’, ‘Vam’ – ‘Hello’ and ‘Trrfnirrggrr’, which Fanke suspected was an extremely obscene term or possibly the word for ‘boss’.

Briefly he tried to explain that with an active vocabulary of really only seven words he probably was not the best spokesperson for the group. But then he realised that seven words was better than none and he could try and mimic Skooj’s accent as well.

“Vam,” he said smiling.

“Ah, Vam!” said the pink slug creature that seemed to be in charge, nodding it’s head and causing the four eyestalks to bobble around comically.

Behind the lead bobbler, about twenty more of the creatures began an echoing refrain of “Vam! Vam! Vam!”

Fanke pointed to himself. “Fanke,” he said.

“Vam! Vam! Vam!” said the creatures. The lead creature pointed disconcertingly to an eyeball and said a long chain of syllables rapidly. Fanke recalled Skooj’s name had been a shortened form of some horrendously cumbersome moniker. He rubbed his forehead in frustration. The creatures all reached up and gently brushed their eyestalks, copying him.

“Vam?” asked the lead creature again before another outburst of complete gibberish that ended in a low whistle.

Fanke sat down until he was at head height with the diminutive aliens. They watched him intently. One or two began lowering themselves down from the coiled addressing position to the more relaxed reclining position, but they were slapped by their colleagues and quickly resumed formal posture.

“Me, Fanke,” tried Fanke again. “Fanke!” he tapped his chest rapidly.

“Ah,” said the lead creature. He pointed at Fanke. “Fan Quee,” he said. He turned to the assembled crew and began jabbering at them. “Fan Quee, Fan Quee.”

“Close enough,” said Fanke looking up and smiling at the other humans.

“Unless Fan Quee means ‘please eat me’ in their lingo,” said Rachmann sourly.

"Mr Rachmann, must you be so negative?” asked Mrs Grissel in an imperious tone and then the arguing started.

On the floor Fanke looked at the lead alien who looked back at Fanke. Mrs Grissel and Jack Rachmann had tolerated each other in the confines of the lifeboat, but now that they were technically safe they were both not going to stand any more nonsense. Mr Grissel ineffectually tried to halt the tirade on both sides while the bankers started moaning at both of them too. Fanke rolled his eyes. The alien smiled back.

The assembled ranks of Trinodliates parted to allow two more pink creatures through hauling a small cart. Aboard the cart a silver tray steamed gently with a huge pile of noodles and a familiar looking sauce.

“Frrt baartliggy,” said Fanke flatly.

The Trinodliate nodded. “Brrt kayoooomba baartliggy!”

“What is it?” asked Mrs Grissel, breaking off hostilities at the sight of what appeared to be food.

“Trinodliate food. Their staple diet,” said Fanke.

“Is it safe?” asked the chef.

“Oh, yes,” replied Fanke. “And very good for you. There was a crew member on the ship that took me to Chandra who would eat nothing else.”

“What was he, ship’s idiot?” sneered one of the Malibou bankers.

“No, ship’s navigator. Top universities, scholarships, everything,” said Fanke. It was true; Skooj had been ridiculously over-qualified for the ragtag Mile High crew.

He watched them eat the Glagworm baartliggy, all of them except Rachmann. The moustachioed older man chewed gum that he claimed offered him all the nourishment he needed. Unlike any of the others, Rachmann had noticed that Fanke was not partaking in the meal and winked at him.

Sidling over he said: “You know what that stuff is, don’t you?” He waggled his eyebrows conspiratorially.

Fanke nodded. “Glagworm stew.”

“Your former navigator was a Trinodliate?”

“That’s right,” said Fanke

“Well, I think I ought to point out a couple of things then. First, don’t mention your friend’s name because it was probably an outcast from their race. And second, have you noticed that when people are hungry they stop thinking laterally. Nobody here questioned your navigator story because they all assumed he was human.”

“You’re not human, are you?” said Fanke.

“No, I’m a Ruuj. I was on the Paradise Moon on a scouting mission, in disguise of course. My business partners wanted to know if there would be any problems with us opening a casino on board. Of course that’s all been rendered immaterial now.”

“A Ruuj?” asked Fanke. He had heard rumours of the shape-changers from the space-hogs in the crew.

“No, of course not, just a middle-aged business man with an interesting moustache.”

Fanke peered at it and noticed that instead of hair the moustache was a finely constructed mesh of incredibly thin tiny tentacles.

“It strains the oxygen from the air straight to my under-skin gills,” explained the Ruuj who Fanke still knew as Rachmann. “Look I’m about to leave. I don’t think I want to stay for this part of the pleasure cruise. But you are an interesting fellow. If ever you make it to Ruujmikon, then look me up.”

He passed Fanke an encoded business card. Fanke stared at it and as he did so an emblem appeared on the blank white card.

“See you around,” said Rachmann and then he was gone.

Fanke blinked twice, but Rachmann had just disappeared with a shimmer of light. He held the card tightly in his left hand while reaching out with his right through the space where the man had been sitting. So, he had witnessed a Ruuj “Dispersal”. That put him in a lucky category of one. The space-hogs had mentioned this legendary talent, but even the most drunken crewman on his first night’s leave would never believe Fanke had actually seen it happen.

“Where’s Mr Rachmann?” demanded Mrs Grissel in her most authoritarian tone. There was a slight tremor in her voice that betrayed her uncertainty.

“He’s left,” replied Fanke, still looking at the card.

“What do you mean ‘left’? Where did he go?” demanded the chef.

“Mr Rachmann was not all that he appeared to be. He had the means to leave and so he took it.”

“I knew it,” said Mrs Grissel triumphantly. Turning to her husband she announced. “He was in the secret service. That's why he was so damn obnoxious!”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5/9/07 04:41

    Have you ever read the spellsinger books by alan Dean Foster? This reminded me of a good way.