HOW TO READ THE SERIAL

SPACE SLUGS, can be found in the BOOK ONE tab.

To read Book Two, Slug Opera, please look to the table of contents in the sidebar.

7/23/09

Episode Two: The Bride

"Let go of me!" Murray shouted into Lizard Man's ear. He grunted and lifted her higher into the air. She'd stopped kicking at them when they started down the stairs, but continued to struggle verbally. The beasts ignored her, only tossing an amused look back and forth when she came up with a really good insult, or particularly weak threat.

"When Gal-Fed gets word of this," she started again. The guards snickered. "You think that's funny now, but wait till...wait...What is that smell?" Her nostrils did their best to clamp shut against the stench wafting up the staircase-from the bottom, from wherever they were taking her. Being human nostrils, they were completely unsuccessful at the maneuver, and the odor remained undeterred.

"Dungeon," the reptile on her right said.

The smell intensified as they reached the stair's bottom. The green lights mounted along the wall illuminated a long hallway. Murray twisted in her captors' grip and caught a glimpse of bars and a row of dim cells.

"You're kidding," she said. When the guards continued forward into the aisle, she renewed her efforts, twisting against scaly arms that refused to budge. The lizard duo chuckled in unison. They carried her past three empty cells. A pile of hair and muscle growled at them from the fourth.

Murray screamed. She started kicking again, only to be hoisted further from the ground. They hauled her forward, down the center of the archaic dungeon to the last stall. Sitting in this one, perched on top of a heap of straw and rubble, sat her sister.

Zora posed, legs crossed and leaning on one elbow, with a lit cigarette burning in her free hand. She wore a miniscule white skirt, a low cut vest and a veil. As they approached, she flicked a length of ash into a metal bowl beside her and slid gracefully to her feet.

"Bride's quarters," Lizard man left sniggered. They dumped Murray to the ground, and she staggered to her feet.

"Mur?" Zora said. She lifted the veil and tossed it over her red hair.

"Zora!" Murray pulled away from the scaly hands still clamped around her forearms. "Ouch." One of the guards moved to unlock the cell. Zora dumped her smoke into the bowl and stuck out her left hip.

"Hey guys," she drawled. "Play nice and let me out?"

"Sorry," the guard at the cell said.

"Orders." His buddy shoved Murray forward. They passed her, stumbling, into the cell and swung the bars shut.

"Oh, come on!" Zora stuck her bottom lip into full pout mode, but the Reptilian duo turned and headed back toward the stairs. Murray's hands found her hips. She tapped one foot against the soggy floor and stared at her sister. Zora ignored her, leapt to the cell front and craned to watch the guards' retreat. "Damn," she said.

"I'm going to kill you," Murray snarled.

"Mur!" Zora finally turned in her direction. She grinned and clapped both her hands together. "Oh, Mur. Thank god you're here."

"Zora."

"I know what you're gonna say, Mur, and you're right. You're always right, Mur. Did I ever tell you that?" She flashed Murray a completely phony smile. "Good ol Mur. So, what's the plan?"

"The plan?" Murray said. She raised one dangerous eyebrow at her sister.

"Please tell me getting tossed in here was part of the plan," Zora said. She arranged her fingers over her own hips in a mirror image gesture of Murray.

"The plan," Murray said.

"Come on, sis." Zora's voice lost its syrupy tone. "Work with me here, the distress note, the rescue?"

"The wedding invitation?" Murray asked.

"Noooooooooooo," Zora howled. "You're kidding me, right? You can't possibly be that dense."

"Watch it," Murray growled.

"Or what?"

"Call me dense again and find out."

"Jeeze, Mur," Zora dropped her hands and stomped back to her perch. She retrieved the still-burning cigarette and took a long drag. "All right, Mur, you win. You're not dense, you're brilliant. Nobody's gonna argue that one. But come on, 'help, help' is pretty self-explanatory."

"Do you remember the last wedding invitation you sent me, Zora?" Murray circled her sister.
"Huh?"

"Don't start, Mur."

"It was written on a cocktail napkin from that dive on..."

"I remember," Zora said. She waved an arm in Murray's face. "That was just a joke, Mur."

"Right. And the one before that?" Murray watched Zora's eyes roll to the ceiling as she tried to remember the prior engagement. She went on. "Or what about that time you ran out of money on Cyrrus 2 and sent me that phony ransom note?"

"I needed some cash, Mur. I paid you back." She squinted and thought for a second. "Did I pay you back?"

"Yes. Then you talked me into that huge hotel suite at the port."

"Man, that place was swank."

"And then got us thrown out when you brought that band back to the room."

"Haley's Tail." Zora smiled for real. "Did you know they got a big contract right after..."

"Zora!"

"The drummer was sweet on you," Zora said.

"Damn it, Zora." Murray stopped circling and did her best to glower. "Wait, he was?"

"Sure," Zora lied. At least she was lousy at that.

"No," Murray sighed. "No he wasn't." She sagged and gave in, plopped down on the pile beside Zora.

"Well he might have been if you'd just take your hair out of that bloody bun and... Jeeze Mur, get some clothes."

"This happens to be a very expensive jacket."

"It looks like a lab coat."

"It is a lab coat." She waited for it, watched Zora's mouth open and shut twice. "Leave it, Zor," she said.

"Right."

"So, what's the deal this time?"

"Oh, Murray," Zora sobbed. "It's awful!"

"It always is." Murray leaned back and took the cigarette from her sister's hand. She took a drag and passed it back.

"His name's Crantok."

"Uh huh."

"He's amazingly handsome."

"They always are, Zor."

"It's not funny, Mur. We're in serious trouble here."

"Go on," Murray took the smoke back and leaned against the mound of trash.

"It was fun at first," Zora continued. "We met in a spaceport, nabbed a little star jumper and just took off bumming around, you know. Then one morning he says, 'let's go back to my place and get hitched..."

"Are you serious?"

"Hell, how was I supposed to know he was being literal?"

"And you think I'm dense?"

"Don't start, Mur. The point is the guy thinks he's some kind of warlord."

"Thinks?" The nicotine settled into Murray's bloodstream, doing wonders for her nerves.

"He's psychotic, Mur, and he's gonna force me to marry him."

"I noticed the veil. Ashtray." She took the metal bowl from Zora. "Maybe a little domesticity would be good for you," she said.

"Listen, Mur, these aliens aren't so nice to their wives. Or their in-laws, if you catch my drift."

"All right, all right. Let me think," Murray said. She crushed out the remnants of the cigarette and turned the ashtray around in her hands.

"We have to get out of here!" Panic stole through Zora's normal sass. "Mur, are you listening to me?"

"What is this?" Murray said. She held the metal bowl up above her head and eyed the bottom.

"It's a piece of junk, Murray. We don't have time to..."

"It's a head," Murray said.

"It's just garbage, look." Zora poked at the pile of straw beneath her. "It's a bunch of trash."

"No," Murray said. She spun around and started digging through the heap. "Look, these are parts, Zor." She pried a thick metal cylinder from the rubble. "I think this is an arm."

"Murray?" Zora tugged on the back of the lab coat. "We don't have time to fart around."

"This is an android, Zora."

"A robot? Great, a nerd toy. Murray..." she whined.

"Nerd toy? Zora use your brain, androids are strong."

"Slip of the tongue. How strong?"

Murray ignored her and flipped the head right side up. A rain of ash and filters fell to the cell's floor. "Maybe the brain is still functional, even if it isn't I might be able to..."

"Hello? Murray?"

"Get up, Zora. See what else you can find in there."

"Hey, I'm not taking orders..."

Murray pushed against her legs and dug deeper into the pile. She ignored her sister's protests completely, waiting for the gears to kick into place in the woman's empty head. Eventually, Zora knelt beside her.

"How strong are these things?" she asked.

"Just keep digging." Murray said.

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7/17/09

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7/10/09

Episode One: The Wedding Invitation

The sign above the entrance to the main space port read: Welcome to the planet Crag. Dr. Murray shifted her duffel bag into a more comfortable position, resting its bulk against her left hip, and surveyed the chaos. She tuned out the sound of ships arriving and departing, the smack and rattle of hundreds of alien footsteps hustling across the station’s slick tiles, the buzz of chatter in a dozen languages, and listened for the next public service announcement.

A mechanical ping echoed through the station’s PA system followed by an artificial feminine voice speaking Gen-ish. Before Murray could catch the message, however, someone tugged sharply at her sleeve.

"Hey, lady," a voice like sludge percolating drowned out the station information. Murray sighed and looked down. "Energy boost? Trancs? Lucid-Max?"The voice continued. It issued from the wide, rubber lipped mouth of a four foot high toad. Two slimy bowling ball eyes blinked up at her, glowing swamp orange against the thin, blue strip lighting threading between the floor tiles. The creature--Murray catalogued its species and planet of origin for her mental records--wore a rough red vest spotted with bulging pockets. Its fat-padded fingers tugged the front open in a universal, sly gesture. "You got need?"it asked her.

"No," she said. She straightened her spine and cast a nervous look in all directions. "Go away."

"I got Gasmic, Lady,"the creature continued. Murray felt her cheeks heat in embarrassment. "I got what you need."

"I most certainly do not..."she started an indignant retort, but that was, after all, what it wanted, interaction, conversation, an angle to work. "No," she finished and took a long step forward. The creature’s short legs scrambled to bring its body alongside her again.

"Lady, give me a break, I got young to feed."

"God help us."

"Give me a cred chit and I’ll vacate."

Murray frowned, but slipped her fingers into the neck purse she wore hidden under her blouse. "I’m a scientist," she said. "I know what that stuff does to people."

"What’s people?" the toad said. "I’m no doctor. I just give em what they want." His eyes tracked her fingers, blinked faster when she brought out the chit.

"Fine," Murray said. "I want information." She lowered the credit toward its grasping digits. "Where’s the service counter in this bloody zoo?"


By the time it was her turn at the head of the line, Murray’s shoulder had gone to sleep. She’d alternated resting the bag on either side until it hardly mattered. She ached, she was grouchy, and she hated space travel. When the woman manning the counter waved her forward, Murray shuffled up, dropped the duffel in a heap and let out a relieved groan.

Three of the woman’s eyebrows shot up quizzically. She pressed the larger of her two mouths into a thin, customer service, smile and said, "May I help you?" in Gen-ish.

"Yes, excuse me." Murray struggled to recall her Gen-ish.

"Yes," the woman tried to hide her sigh. "What can I do for you?"

"I just arrived." She bent over and slid Zora’s letter from the duffel’s side pocket.

The woman watched, all six eyes narrowing. "Obviously," she said.

Murray ignored the sarcasm. "Yes, well I just arrived and I need transportation to the..." She turned to the letter and read, "Crantok Palace."

"Seriously?"

"Of course." Murray verified the name on the invitation. "Wait, why?"

"No reason. I can arrange for a shuttle within the hour. Is that suitable?"

"Yes, that’s fine." Something about the woman’s tone made her nervous. She rambled on. "My sister is getting married there."

"Seriously?"

"Why do you keep saying that?"

"Nothing. You’re sure it’s the Crantok Palace?"

Murray offered Zora’s letter across the counter. The woman took it. As she read it, the lips on her smaller mouth moved silently. The large one frowned.

"Crantok palace, it says so on the invitation," Murray pointed to the embossed, gold lettering.

"It also has: Help, save me, written at the bottom." The woman squinted, a flurry of odd-sized lids and lashes. "In lipstick, I believe."

"Well, that’s Zora for you." Murray shrugged. Not everyone understood her sister like she did. "She has a unique sense of humor."

"Hmmmm."

"Is there a problem?" Murray adopted her no nonsense tone, useful for reining in unruly undergraduate students. She raised an eyebrow back at the women. She only had the two, but somehow the gesture worked better that way.

"No," the woman’s fingers flickered into action across her keypad. "No I’ll just make the arrangements."

That’s more like it, Murray thought with a sniff of triumph. I’m a scientist, damn it. She’d had about enough of the Crag spaceport. She rolled a kink out of her shoulder and nodded to the woman. "Thanks." Still, it never hurt to be polite. "Do you know where I can pick up a gift?"


The shuttle proved little more than a glorified hover cab. Another toad, the drug dealer’s cousin no doubt, drove the wreckage, and Murray attempted to avoid looking at the slimy, wart studded skin. Unfortunately, the view out the dingy window was almost as unappealing.
Outside the port city, the planet turned abruptly into pinnacles of ash-colored rock standing boldly amidst low, bubbling mud pools. Thin strips of solid ground wove between these, but the whole landscape screamed swamp. Murray eyed her driver. The habitat would be a plus for the amphibious set.

The cab slid to a stop. Murray sprang through the sliding passenger door and gulped a breath of soggy, swamp air. It was a step up from eau de toad driver. Her duffel thunked to the ground beside her, tossed from the vehicle by a stubby amphibian arm. She looked from it to the outstretched palm and sighed. Another cred chit down the drain, she thought and passed over the coinage.

Crantok Palace rose out of the muck nearly indistinguishable from any other rock spire. Shadows hovered around the building’s crags, casting its peaks and crevices into eerie relief. A solid pathway wound from where the cab waited between a cluster of smaller spires and up to the distant arch of gate. Murray shivered despite the muggy air. She turned back to the driver.
"Are you certain this is the right place?" she asked.

"Only one Crantok Palace, Lady," the toad answered. Murray stared at the lights glowing green in the slit windows.

"Maybe you should wait," she said. The hum of engines kicking into gear engulfed the statement. Murray spun around as the cab lifted, swung a slow circle and started back the way they’d come. "Wait!" she called, stumbling a safer distance from the maneuver. "Damn."

She shrugged and heaved the duffel back onto her shoulder. Reaching around to the side pocket, she retrieved her invitation, tucked her wedding gift into the crook of one arm, and started toward the gates.

"Halt!" A pair of twin Lizard men stood like bookends on either side of the arch. The one to the left snorted in emphasis while his buddy repeated the command. "Halt!"

"Uh, hello there," Murray said. Her feet obediently rooted to the spot. The guards held no weapons, and looked like they didn’t need them.

"State your business!" Lizard on the left said.

"Business. Right. I’m here for the wedding." She answered.

"The wedding." Right guard parroted. Both of them just stared at her.

"I assure you," Murray tapped a foot against the stone path. "I am an invited guest."

"The wedding." Left guard chimed in. "Right."

"Bride or Groom?" his partner asked. Now they were getting somewhere.

"Bride," Murray said.

The Lizard men took a unified step toward her. They spoke together, "Bride?"

"Yes, Bride," Murray snapped. She needed a nap and a bath, vowed to kill Zora when she saw her.

"You sure?"

"Yes, I’m sure. Look." She shoved her invitation under two scaly noses. They read it, nodding together as they did so. A tickle of doubt wandered through Murray’s thoughts. The guards exchanged a glance that did little to help. Still, it wasn't until they grabbed her that she thought to be scared.

"Halt!" Left guard shouted.

"Seize her!" His twin yelled, which seemed redundant to Murray considering she already dangled above the ground, gripped by four thick reptilian arms.

"Crap," she said. Her scaled escort hauled her toward the gates. "Oh Crap." Zora was a dead woman.

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Introduction to the Serial...

I'm a big fan of bad nineteen eighties science fiction. Since the story posted here is for my own entertainment as much as the readers', and since it's in essence, free. I plan to have some fun with it.

I can pretty much promise that you won't find any literary brilliance here. Nor do I intend to address anything socially relevant, meaningful, esoteric or of any practical value.
I can't promise any set posting schedule. If you read my other blog, you know I have small children.

I do promise you a story, when I get around to posting it.
It will most likely be light hearted, hopefully fun, and, gods willing, at times funny.

So why space slugs?
It started with a puppet, and originally a puppet play. As puppet's have a tendency to do, this one took on a personality of its own, demanded more story, and stole the show.
I'd like to think the reader here could imagine the tale done that way: hokey, cardboard sets, ragged cloth and found object puppets, home-made sound effects.
I'm going to pretend you're all cooperating with this, so don't tell me otherwise.

Listen to the cheesy, synthesizer, space themed music. The tempo quickens, without much skill, as the curtain rises--off center. Hot celo-tinted lights cast the sets into a blue haze. The sound of shuffling offstage momentarily breaks the mood. Then, in a clatter of jointed parts, the character enters. At first, you might cringe. You will notice the joints, the strings or rods, the awkward movements. Give her a minute. Let the illusion take you and, soon, you will move with her through spaces suddenly life-sized. You'll forget her flaws, her strings, and see only the dance...and the story.
I hope you enjoy it.

*Now for the technical mumbo jumbo*
All rights to this work are property of the author. Please feel free to
share, copy, post at will without changing the work and with full credit given to
the author. (and a link back here is always nice)
Any other use requires specific permission. Please contact me and ask first.
Thanks
Frances

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