Sharoma Frontierverse Why Did The Groigan Dance? Chapter 18

Why Did The Groigan Dance?

Chapter 18

Don't Drop the Soap

Anthony reached over and tapped Sinclair gently on the shoulder. "Are you going to finish that?" He pointed to the Squire's bowl of thin, watery gruel.

"Go ahead and take it. How do you eat that stuff? You'll probably catch ebola putting that in your mouth."

"Bah, I ate worse stuff than this growing up on the streets in Leesti. Back then, this would've been a feast, son. I wouldn't've had to eat again for weeks."

Sinclair turned a weird shade of green.

Bush smiled tiredly. At least the hours were going by interestingly with Anthony here. How long ago had he been put in here? The officer took Bush's when he was tossed in the cell for assault and disturbing the public. It had to have been a while ago - Bush, Anthony, and Taranis all had considerable prison time behind them, and thus knew of many ways to spend idle time, though Taranis's record was more a factor of being allied with Anthony than any real mischief on his part. Bush's and Anthony's time had been due to criminal activities (though most were missions for the Empire and were struck from the record), but most of Bush's prison career had been spent in the outer reaches, the frontier systems, and the ways of this big prison were strange even to him. Anthony, however, had been arrested for about everything possible about everywhere possible, and chatted away like an idiot the whole time, familiar with Peter's Base's holding areas. Bush watched with amusement as he held a casual conversation with the guard.

"Hey, Charlie, how 'bout you let us out of here and I'll get Diane a nice ring or something?" Anthony asked the guard (Charlie, evidently), a short, stocky man with the beginning of a pot belly and a bored look. "I'd make it a nice one."

The guard chuckled, but didn't look up from the Imperial journal. "That's tempting, Mark, but then she'd want me to go get her pretty things too, and then how would I have money to buy beer?"

"I'm sure you'd think of something. You could become a stripper, you got the body for it." Taranis snorted and Redfield barked out a laugh. "Doesn't he though, boys?" Anthony asked them. The other four murmured agreement.

"Thanks, but sorry, guys. You do the crime, you do the time," Charlie said.

That quieted the group for a minute. Then Anthony reached his arms out through the iron bars, put on his best puppy dog expression, and said "Will you believe I didn't do it?"

That caused Charlie to smile. "You say that everytime, Mark."

"But it's true this time."

"Sure, sure. Bet your friends are innocent, too."

"Damn right!" said Taranis.

Bush nodded.

"Actually, I shot the sheriff but I did not shoot the deputy," quipped Redfield. Bush laughed, but everyone else looked at the Count, confused. "Nothing," Redfield mumbled.

The failed joke again made the room lapse into silence, the quiet only broken by the periodic groan from Sinclair, who was now paying the price for such heavy drinking with a mind-bending headache.

If he doesn't lay off he could end up like I did, Bush thought.

And so the hours passed, with everyone but Redfield and Charlie falling asleep at one time or another.

"All right, boys, time to go," Charlie declared, throwing open the heavy metal gate.

Bush rolled over, blinking the sleepiness from his eyes, to see the ample bottom of Charlie waddle out of the now-open gate, only to be replaced by the brutal face of Duke Charon. Bush didn't think the Duke looked happy.

"You heard the man, get your asses up!" Charon growled. "Someone help the Squire as well."

The room burst into a frenzy of activity as everyone rose quickly, Taranis going over to help support the woozy Sinclair to stand. Everyone stood at quiet attention, not wanting to be the first one to speak, fearful of the Duke's wrath.

Charon stood there glaring at them, his normally gruesome visage even more ugly from the look of pure, unadulterated rage that twisted it horribly; nostrils flared, mouth worked into a snarl, his face a deep red. The look was further enhanced by the clothes the Duke was wearing - orange shorts with blue palm trees adorning them, a matching shirt, and a bright yellow "Ban Military Drives!" pin. His hands slowly clenched and unclenched, the action causing small tattoos of doves to fly up his left hand. He began turning his head, fixing all in the room with a deadly stare.

"All of you out except the Baron!" he snapped.

Immediately Anthony raised his hand. "But sir, it was not his fault..."


Slowly, all but Bush and Charon walked out of the room, each placing a hand on Bush's shoulder as they left.

"Guard, please stand outside for a moment," Charon said. Charlie, knowing better than to argue with a Duke, left obediently.

Now alone, Charon motioned for Bush to sit. Bush, a knot already forming in his back by laying on the bench for so long, sighed inwardly but complied. He had to admit it felt better to touch something solid while waiting for the tongue lashing that would come next.

Surprisingly, Charon let out a deep, piercing guffaw. "You five - four, really; Sinclair was in no shape to fight - really cleaned up that bar," he said, startling Bush. Where was the cussing? "The Empire is going to be taking the damages out of your great-grand children's paychecks. And payment will be taken out."

"Yes, sir, I assumed so."

"You damn well better have. We can't have officers from His Majesty's Navy just running around smacking up civilians as they please. It's bad PR."

"Yes, sir."

"So I'm 'sir' now? What happened to good old Lorenzo?"

Bush blinked. "Sir?"

Charon smirked, a thoroughly nasty image. "That's the spirit, Jonathan, this little accident is no reason to lose your humor. Just because I am mad at you is no reason to be uncivil."

Bush grinned a bit hesitantly. "Actually, wouldn't calling you 'sir' be more civil than calling you Lorenzo?"

"Zing!" cried Charon. "That's better. Don't misinterpret me, though - I am very disappointed in you. I've seen the recordings of the incident, I know it isn't your fault, but a commanding officer is responsible for his crew, good or bad. You're to report to station command for switching tomorrow night-" Bush grimaced; he'd been switched once before, and had hoped never to have to experience it again. "-and the other four idiots are to report for waste management duty for the next two weeks. Do you get me?"

"I get you, sir."

"Don't sound so glum, Jonathan - it hurts me as much as it does you."

"I doubt it sir."

"Actually, so do I," Charon declared, then broke into a wide smile. "You boys really did do a nice job on those drunks. How in God's name did you take out thirty people?"

"Lorenzo... those implants are amazing."

They left the small room, Bush babbling on about the amazing aspects of the implants, Charon hanging on to every word.

The shadows stirred in the hallways behind them, their unseen stalker following silently.

Continue the story with Chapter 19