It was an ordinary night at the Corrosive Mold Inn.
Captain Quasar sat in his usual stool, the one furthest from the stench that emanated from the kitchen, nursing a glass of Alterran whiskey. An onlooker would have called his posture relaxed- Captain Quasar seemed unaffected by the chaos in the bar around him- but an especially observant onlooker would notice that Captain Quasar’s right hand never strayed too far from the laser pistol that rested in his hip holster.
Captain Quasar downed his whiskey, and was about to call for another when the bar fell silent. Quasar sighed. There were two things that would cause the patrons of the rowdy bar to stop and take notice of anything other than their gambling, petty squabbles, and chatting up the barmaids. Those two things were named Elmer and Ray Eris.
Sure enough, in the next moment the bartender shouted, “it’s the Eris brothers!” and dove under the bar.
“Now settle down, Tobias,” Elmer Eris sat to Captain Quasar’s left and slapped his hand on the bar. “I’m a paying customer. We don’t want any trouble.”
Captain Quasar shifted uneasily in his seat, remembering the last time Elmer Eris had said the words, “we don’t want any trouble.” Two people had been taken out of the bar in body bags, and another two had ended up in traction.
After a few moments the bartender cautiously emerged from behind the bar.
Elmer smiled, baring his mouthful of sharp, green teeth “Just give me the usual, Tobias.”
The bartender, Tobias, sat staring at Elmer. A single drop of sweat trickled down his forehead.
“What’s the matter?” Ray Eris asked, sitting down on Captain Quasar’s right. “Don’t you remember Elmer’s favorite drink?”
Captain Quasar’s head shook almost imperceptibly. Elmer ordered a different drink every time he entered the Inn.
“Of- of course I remember,” Tobias stammered, grabbing a bottle of beer from behind the bar.
Elmer grabbed the bottle from Tobias’s hand, smashed it on the floor, and looked back at Tobias, still grinning.
“So- ah,” Tobias stammered, trying another bottle, “will you boys be in town long?”
“Just long enough to get what we need,” Elmer said, smashing the second bottle.
Tobias turned around and quickly grabbed several bottles at once. Elmer smiled, grabbed the bottle of Alterran whiskey, and swept the rest of the bottles onto the floor.
“After all of these spills, I guess this drink is on the house.”
Tobias nodded, grabbed a mop, and shuffled over to the broken bottles piled on the floor.
“Hey Elmer- there’s the old man,” Ray said abruptly, and the two men stood and strode toward the far corner of the room.
“Here, Tobias. I’ve got this round.” Captain Quasar slapped 50 credits on the bar- more than enough to pay for the wasted booze. Then Captain Quasar stood and walked slowly toward the crowd in the back, which was beginning to form around the Eris brothers.
“Hey, old man,” Elmer Eris was saying to an old man who sat in the back corner, “you owe me 80 credits for the power converters.”
Elmer and Ray had flanked the old man, each grinning their reptilian grins, but the old man seemed nonplussed. He leaned back in his chair, twirling the end of his long, white beard.
“Now Elmer- we settled on 50 credits, and I paid you fair and square.”
“Price just went up, old man. Your ship is old, and those parts are hard to come by. Let’s call it opportunity costs.”
The old man sighed. “I’ve taken a look at the power converters- the serial numbers were filed off, as though they were stolen.”
“You calling us thieves, old man?” Ray growled.
The old man stood slowly, and looked Ray right in his yellow eyes. “All I’m saying, Ray, is that it seems like you and your brother are both on the ‘naughty’ list this year.”
Elmer’s left hand reached for his ray gun. “You a bounty hunter, old man?”
At those words, Ray reached for his ray gun as well, but before either brother could draw, two shots rang out. A stunner hit Elmer square in the back, and as Ray turned to face the attacker, another blast hit him in the hand, knocking his ray gun to the floor.
Ray growled- a low, menacing rumble that emanated from an air sac under his chin. “You don’t seem to know who you’re dealing with, stranger. Why don’t you run along and mind your own business.”
“I know who you are,” Captain Quasar said. “I’ve been tracking you two across the galaxy. Thing is, tonight is my night off, and I came here to mind my own business and have a drink in peace. But you two made a mess of the joint, cost me 50 credits, and drank the last of the Alterran whiskey.”
“So?” Ray said.
“So tonight, I rid the galaxy of two more scumbags.”
Captain Quasar raised his ray gun and readied another shot.
“Now go easy on the boys,” the old man interrupted. “After all, it is Christmas eve.”
“It’s Christmas- what?” Captain Quasar said, turning to the old man.
Ray chose that moment to dive for his ray gun, but Captain Quasar spun back toward him and hit him with a blast square in the back of the neck.
“Don’t worry- it was a stunner,” Captain Quazar said. He holstered his ray gun and grabbed the unconscious brothers by the napes of their necks. “I only get the bounty if I bring them in alive.”
The old man smiled a wide, toothless grin.
“What a night,” Captain Quazar groaned after he’d deposited the Eris brothers in his ship’s brig. He threw himself into the cracked and torn pilot seat, leaned back, and closed his eyes.
Then he opened an eye just a crack, noticing a red envelope on the dash. With a groan, Captain Quasar sat up, grabbed the envelope, and leaned back in his seat again.
Dear Captain Quasar,
I had my doubts about you, but tonight you proved yourself to be one of the good guys. You helped Tobias, saved my neck, and brought the Eris brothers in, unharmed. For the first Christmas ever, you’ve made the “good” list. In this spirit, I’ve outfitted your ship with the new railgun you wanted.
Captain Quasar jumped up, ran to the window, and there, at the front of the ship, was a brand new railgun topped with a bright red bow.
Captain Quasar really wished he’d been able to finish his Alterran whiskey. He sat back down, took the controls, and started his ship’s engines.