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Week #28: Creative Writing Challenge – Alien Marketplace

July 26, 2021

Write a space adventure story that features a visit to an alien marketplace.

Me: Remind me why the hell I’m doing this again.

Tofer: Just keep looking, and stay off the comms unless you get into a tight spot.

Me: What do you consider a tight spot? I mean, my nose is shoved in some Cadex feathers and my ass is practically falling into an Illum bowl. Do you know how badly Cadex feathers smell?

Tofer: Seriously, stay off the comms. If the Diakon police listen in, I’m screwed up here in orbit waiting for your sorry ass. Just let me know when you’ve found it.

Me: I’ll bring you back some Cadex feathers.

Tofer never likes to have any fun. I seriously consider grabbing some Cadex feathers to stuff in my satchel just so he’d have to smell them. I have no idea how the Cadex can stand to smell themselves all the time, let alone why anyone would want to buy them. In fact, I have no idea why anyone would buy most of the crap I can see from my hiding place between stalls.

I’ve been sitting here with my ass in an Illum bowl for almost an hour and I still haven’t spotted the Capasium trader that has our compass. Tofer and I tracked it’s ship to the marketplace here on Pasca. It’s one of the smaller marketplaces in this quadrant, but has a reputation for dealing in legit commerce. What the Diakon police don’t know is that the upscale reputation is a great front for underhanded dealings.

Tofer and I haven’t been able to figure out what the Capasium trader is actually here for, but we know it hasn’t made any stops to unload the compass yet.

Me: This bowl is hurting my ass. I’m gonna wander and see if I can find it.

Tofer: Seriously Quillian, I don’t care about how much your ass hurts. We just need to get that compass back before Piquot finds out about it and it’s our head on the chopping block. He’s not going to be happy that we lost his entire client list locations in a game of Toobes. Just get it back.

Me: Fine fine. I’ll quit complaining. Just keep an ear on the comms.

Slowly, I ease my way out between the stalls and disappear into the crowds wandering through the cavern. The soft glow of the sconces make it easy to blend into the shadows between forms. The lighting is going to make it much easier to go un-noticed and much much easier to pick a pocket. I bet the Capsium trader keeps that compass as close as possible, although my luck with betting hadn’t been great lately. The fact that I’m weaving my way through a cavern marketplace to retrieve our compass is evidence enough of my bad luck.

As I wander, I keep one eye out for the trader and one eye on the colorful wares. It wouldn’t be helpful if someone noticed me ignoring the actual marketplace. I stop and haggle for some Bulgasi beads and buy some cinnamon from a scaly Medina woman as I browse. When I come to the arts section of the marketplace I spot the trader in front of a beautiful tapestry depicting the two-mooned planet of Tuktu and it’s colorful aurora. It’s breathtaking enough that it takes me a moment to remember the compass.

The Capsium trader haggles loudly with a one-eyed Illum merchant whose eyelid blinks slowly and regularly, an indication of undivided attention, or so I’ve heard. After a moment the Illum merchant grins with a full mouth of sharpened black teeth and motions across the street toward a small food stall. Without a word, the Capsium trader whirls on his heel and strides purposefully toward the food stall. I study him as he walks, looking for telltale bulges in his long brown coat.

Boom. Right waist pocket. It’s the right size, expected location. I’ll have to snatch it on the move when the trader finishes whatever he’s up to at the food stall. I take up a position at the end of the art section and continue to watch the trader while pretending to examine a small sculpture that looks like something my dog threw up. Why would anyone in the universe buy this crap?

The Capsium trader accepts a package from the food stall vendor and stashes it in his left waist pocket. Note to self: do not get right and left confused.

The Capsium trader starts toward me and I swing into motion, pretending to be browsing, but slowly moving in the opposite direction. I set myself up for a strategic bump and switch, the small throw up sculpture in my hand ready for an exchange. Now’s my chance.

Exchange successful, look of horror and repentance on my face, hoping the trader doesn’t notice the slight difference weighing down his coat pocket. It turns away and continues down the cavern alley with a look of disgust on its face. I sneak glances backwards while hurrying down the dim street. I finally breathe in relief.

And then I hear a garbled yowl from the other end of the street. I break into a sprint in the opposite direction.

Me: Uh, Tofer. Got a bit of an issue here. [heavy breathing]

Tofer: Are you running?

Me: No shit. Think you could pick me up?

Tofer: You have the compass? I’m not helping you until you have it. It’s your bad luck we lost it in the first place.

Me: Yeah yeah yeah. Shut your trap. I’ve got it, but the Capsium trader made me. Pick up at the Bolson shipyard in 5?

Tofer: Meet you there. Also, you’re shit at this.

I stick my tongue out at Tofer even though I know he can’t see me, but it makes me feel better as I run for it. On my way in I mapped the easiest and most winding route through the marketplace to the shipyard planetside for just this possibility. So I run, as fast as I can.

I think I’ve outrun the Capsium trader when a very solid, tall, and slimy body crashes into me from the side out of an alley. Fortunately, my luck hasn’t completely run out because it’s gotten an appendage stuck in a stall flyaway as it barreled out of the alley. I slip in the slime covering the smooth rock floor but manage to make it to my feet, and I’m sprinting down the corridor again.

I make it to The Traveler’s safety at the same time the Capsium trader heaves itself out of the stairway and into the daylight. I sketch a quick bow and hop aboard as Tofer lifts off.

I collapse in the entryway and just lay there for a moment on the cool metal. When I pull the compass out of my pocket I sit up quickly. That’s not our compass. Shit, shit. Big shit.

I study the small mechanic for a moment. There’s a button. I shrug. What’s the worst that can happen? So I press the button and out pops a hologram of the Bulgasi Emperor and he’s giving instructions. Lots of instructions. Ship locations, troop movement, money drops. My brain is overloading. Did I just accidentally steal secret military plans from a previously peaceful planetary coalition? Why did the Capsium trader have this? This was information worth killing over. Shit, shit. Big shit.

But before my brain can overload itself to the point of no return, I hear Tofer coming down the stairs to find me.

“Have I told you that you have really bad luck lately?” Tofer says from above me with a grin.

“Have I told you that my luck can always get worse?” I give him a grin back because that’s all I can really do at this point.


“Apparently I can’t keep track of right and left, or the Capsium didn’t have the compass on him at all.” I said into my lap, avoiding eye contact.

“I thought you said you had the compass.”

“I thought I did, but apparently I snatched something that we really, really shouldn’t have.” I just hand him the mechanic. Tofer watches the hologram silently, his eyes getting as large as the double moons of Tuktu.

I can see the string of swear words ready to leap out of his mouth, but they’re interrupted by an ear-piercing alarm. Someone has triggered our proximity shields. Tofer and I look at each other, and both mouth “run”.


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