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Chapter 1

"But Drew said " Stasha started.

"We can't always do what Drewcila Qwah says, Stasha. She does not have the best interests of the kingdom at heart," Zarco said."She is self serving and mercenary."

"It's true, no one knows the queen's shortcomings any better than I. Drewcila worries about nothing quite as much as her own best interests, and having a good time. But sire, let us, not forget that what serves Qwah-Co ultimately serves the kingdom. She would never do anything that might cut into her profit margins. What's good for Qwah-Co is good for the country. I'm afraid I have to agree with the queen in this matter," Facto said.

"Do you hear yourself, Facto? What you are saying? She is suggesting that we open up trade with the Lockhedes. They threaten to make war with us unless we help them set up a salvaging operation of their own and make trade agreements. In five years she has usurped my authority at every turn, she's made me look a fool to my own subjects, and turned our once regal kingdom into a smoldering trash heap. The Lockhedes threaten us, and she wants to give them exactly what they want, to give in to their demands, and you think this is a good and sane notion!"

"Because it's what we want, too. Everything Drewcila has said is true," Stasha said in a small, if convicted, voice."It's a chance for a real and lasting peace. A chance to finally unite the planet. What would better serve our people than this? Drewcila says that by making them economically stable they will have no reason to start another war. That by doing business with them we can gain control over them."

"Drewcila says! Drewcila says!" Zarco jumped out of his chair slinging his arms around and started pacing the room."I am sick to death of hearing Drewcila says! I can't believe you, any of you! These are the Lockhedes we're talking about! They are the ancient enemy of our people! Their brutality in war is known throughout the galaxy. They have killed, tortured, maimed, and mutilated countless thousands of our people, and now you want to make them economically stable. You think that if they are economically comfortable they won't make war, and I tell you that if we help to make them rich they will buy bigger weapons and come after us to wipe us out entirely. They don't want peace. They want to take over the planet and slaughter us." He glared down at Stasha."Do I have to remind you that one of the people they kidnapped and tortured was your own dear sister? That those butchers surgically removed a part of her brain making her basically dead to us? Turning her from our noble queen into a beer swilling, toilet mouthed, scavenging whore!"

"Oh that's a little harsh. I don't think my sister's a whore, Zarco."

This seemed to make the king even madder. Facto watched him rant on wordlessly. When he got like this, and he did often these days, there was no talking to him.

He muttered curses on and on until finally he ended with, '. . . they took my wife, and they turned her into Drewcila Qwah!" and slammed his ass into his throne very unmajestically.

And therein lay the real rub. Zarco said Drewcila didn't have the kingdom's best interests at heart. That she failed to understand the implications of making trade agreements with the Lockhedes. But the truth was that Zarco didn't want peace with the Lockhedes because he hated them for kidnapping his wife, operating on her brain, and turning her into Drewcila Qwah, a woman who had broken his heart and taken his country from him without firing a single shot.

Drewcila had won the hearts of the people. To them he was a puppet leader whose strings were pulled by men long dead; it was Drewcila they trusted. Drewcila who had solved the kingdom's woes, brought them into the golden age of profitable filth, and turned them into a very rich nation of salvagers.

Facto knew that Zarco was growing tired of being treated like a visitor in his own kingdom. He wanted to make a decision. Any decision, as long as it was different from Drewcila's.

Even if it was wrong.


Van Gar made his way across the spaceport. Wasn't hard to find Drew's ship. It was the biggest one on the dock, and it had a huge Qwah-Co logo painted on the side of it. Besides, it was the one hanging in party lights with enough noise coming from it to shake the entire space station.

She was having a party. She'd sent him off on a run that a monkey with a screwdriver could have done and used his absence as an excuse to have an orgy.

He stepped over a drunk on the open gang plank. The guy stirred, looked up at the huge fur covered Chitzsky and screamed. Then he passed out cold. Van Gar noticed the uniform and the blaster at the man's side and realized he was one of Drewcila's "royal guards." No doubt his only real duty on this night had been to warn Her Majesty of Van's return. He had failed, and it was no doubt this, more than Van Gar's size or intimidating stance, that caused him to panic.

Van Gar made his way through the rabble and revelers, a mixture of the Barions that manned Drew's ship and the usual spaceport scum one found down on the docks. One guy pushed a drink at him, and Van Gar flattened him with one punch. He just wasn't in the mood.

When he got to Drew's quarters the door was shut, and he found to his dismay, locked.

He pounded on the door."Drewcila! Open this fucking door."

"Ah fuck!" he heard her exclaim. Then, "Who is it?" she asked in a voice dripping saccharin.

"You know who the hell it is, Drew! Now open this god damned door!" Van Gar screamed.

After several minutes the door opened and three men, two women, a midget, and a goat walked out in various stages of dress. They each looked at him and smiled weakly before walking on. Except for the goat which squatted down and managed to piss on his boot before he could move.

Van Gar took a deep breath, then let it out and walked slowly into the room, closing the door behind him.

Drewcila stood in the middle of the room in a red and black silk robe that barely covered her butt, lighting a cigar with her laser side arm. She took a couple of puffs then looked up at him.

"Have a bad trip?" she asked.

"Is that all you have to say?" Van Gar asked in disbelief.

"You get a haircut?"

"This isn't funny, Drewcila. I come back to your ship to find it in shambles with drunks everywhere. Even the guard is passed out cold . . ."

Drewcila's eyes narrowed to slits and she hissed."That bastard . . ."

'. . . you're in our bedroom with the door locked with . . . three men, two women, a midget and . . . a goat!"

"Hey! The goat belonged to the midget," Drewcila defended.

"Every time we're apart it's the same thing . . ."

"Well, not always the same thing," Drewcila said, smiling in spite of her best efforts to look chastised.

"I'm not amused, Drew," Van Gar warned.

"Well, neither am I . . . now," Drew said, and this time she didn't even try to stop her grin.

"Just stop!" he screamed."Don't you see? Didn't you know? When Chitzskies fall in love we mate for life."

"Oh really? That must make it awfully awkward to get anything else done." She started contorting her body into weird angles."You could drive a ship, but I'm not sure about a land vehicle. And tying your boots—well that would just be right out. Eating dinner would be strange, especially if you had guests . . ."

Van Gar let out a long throaty growl."God damn it Drew! I've had it with you. I'm tired of your shit. Don't you understand . . . I'm at the end of my rope. You . . . you've changed. All this power and money has corrupted you."

"Ah . . . and I used ta be such a sweet little thing, too." She walked over and poured herself a drink."Give me a big fucking break, Van. You knew what I was when we got together. I didn't keep any secrets. The only difference is that I used to be a poor asshole, and now I'm a rich one. I can afford more expensive perversions, and why shouldn't I have them?"

"Because I love you," Van Gar screamed."Because we're supposed to be a team. I'm supposed to be all you need."

"Wow! Would you look at the ego on you." Drew downed her drink and looked at him with a critical eye."Cut through the shit, Van. We all know what the real problem is. You want to be an equal partner, and I won't cut you in. It really chaps your ass that everything's in my name. You seem to think that just because we're together . . . that just because we screw, you should be entitled to half of everything I have. Well there never was a dick worth that, so you can hang it up. You're living off me, so I don't think you ought to be the one screaming around making demands about how I live my life."

She knew she'd gone too far then because she could see his breath rising in his chest as he puffed like some antiquated steam engine. His nostrils were flaring, and she could even make out the veins popping up on his temples. Not an easy thing to do through all that hair.

"I may have worded that just a little too strongly. I think maybe you're taking it the wrong way . . ." Drew started.

Van Gar covered the distance between them in three huge strides and backed her against the wall.

Drew patted his chest and laughed nervously."Ah, come on, baby. I didn't mean that the way it sounded."

He looked down at her.

"You just don't give a damn do you, Drew?" Van Gar hissed. She started to give him some flip answer, and he shook his finger in her face."Don't you dare. You say and do whatever the hell you please. It never occurs to you that maybe I want . . . need . . . deserve, more from you. You use everything and everyone to build your empire. How much money do you need, Drew? How much money can you spend?" She started to answer him, and he glared at her. She was silent."I'm tired of being your errand boy. Just another sex toy. What the hell is in this for me? And no, I don't mean your material shit."

Drew was silent.

"Well!" Van Gar yelled.

"Oh . . . am I allowed to talk now?" Drew hissed back. She was now every bit as mad as he was, maybe even more so. She started poking him hard in the chest till he was the one backing up."You know what's in it for you. Three square meals a day. All the booze you can drink. Partying till you puke. Sex with me most any time you want it. Those things used to mean something to you. You want to know who's changed? Well it ain't me, ass bite. It's you . . . you're the one who's changed. All this commitment bullshit. I don't want that shit, and you didn't use to want it, either. You're not the boy I fell in love with." She bit her finger and looked at him in mock pain."That's what hurts, baby. That's what really hurts."

Van Gar looked silently around the room at the scattered beer bottles and cigar butts, then he looked Drew up and down.

"You're right," he said, nodding his head slowly."It's time I went back to my people." He turned and started to walk away slowly. Drew followed."I ran into a Chitzsky at the last port. He told me my people are building a colony on the planet Utarus. I think that's what's been calling me. I want to go there to be part of building a new world for my people . . ."

"Are you fucking kidding me, Van? Ah, come on . . . I mean all right, maybe the midget and the goat were a bit much . . ." He just kept walking, and Drew had to practically run to keep up. She laughed and slapped him on the back."Come on, man, snap out of it . . . So there was a goat in our bed room. Is that really any reason to leave? To go off on some cockamamie bullshit religious pilgrimage? Come on, Van . . . I mean really . . . farming and praying and watching herd animals graze. That's not for you. You're a salvager. You're my mate. Do you really want to trade all of this . . ." she motioned around the disheveled ship as she followed him down the hall '. . . for some motionless piece of dirt? Trapped in one spot, never again to float out amongst the stars?"

He stopped and turned to look at her.

"What's here for me Drew? To be your lackey? Make me a full partner in our relationship and in the business, or I swear I'm out of here."

So, that was it. Nothing in the world but a bluff. A con to try and get part of her business. Well, she was the Queen of Bluff and the best grifter in the galaxy, maybe the universe.

Two could play at his game.

Drewcila seemed to think about it a minute, at one point holding both hands up mumbling to herself and acting like she was a scale. When it tipped all the way to one side she looked at Van Gar, shrugged, put her wrist-com to her mouth and pressed the button.

"Prepare Van Gar's ship for takeoff." She lowered her hand and looked at Van Gar."It's been swell. Have a good trip, farm boy. Take Frank with you. He can bring my ship back after he drops you where you're goin'."

Van Gar's jaw dropped as he watched her turn on her heel and walk away puffing on her cigar. A large green-toned alien of undetermined sex or origin stumbled by, and she grabbed it by the arm and started dragging it back to her room. Not that it really seemed to be putting up much of a fight.

Van Gar turned on his heel and stomped off the ship.


"He did what?" Drewcila screamed.

"He left," Jurak, first mate of the ship, said as he cringed, fearing her reaction.

Drewcila slumped into her command chair on the deck resting her chin in her hand as she leaned against the arm looking thoughtful.

"Damn! That didn't go at all as I had planned," she mumbled. Finally she took a deep breath and let it out."He wasn't supposed to do that. What the hell has happened to that man? I don't understand him at all. I mean he was supposed to come back, kiss my ass, and beg for my forgiveness. He wasn't supposed to leave. Has he gone completely mad?" The crewman started to answer."Don't answer me, you moron! That was a rhetorical question. Please, don't tell me he has charted for the Harish System."

"He did."

"What did I just say!? Crap, what an idiot!" Drew took a deep breath and started punching buttons on her console mindlessly.

Jurak just stood there, not quite knowing whether to leave or stay and what to do if he did either.

"What the fuck is this?" Drew screamed, slamming her fist into her console."Our stock is plummeting." She started punching buttons more carefully now."What the hell happened?"

He looked over her shoulder at the read out.

"Your majesty . . . it would appear that the Barions have gone to war with the Lockhedes again," he answered shakily.

"Well ain't this just a zippidy-doo-da day."



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