Arthur watched him, thankful that certain laws existed to prevent you from seeing into others’ minds.

At least they did on Earth.

He knew there were stories of telepaths on the outer worlds but he had always thought this kind oif talk to have been the result of deep spacetraders’ whisky loosened tongues on the months’ long journeys to and from the outer rim.

When he came to think about it he was on one of the outer worlds now and his opponent might actually have such abilities…..

No! He was being paranoid. He had this game won already. His casual technique had lulled his adversary into a false sense of security so that he had been able to manoeuvre his own pieces (in a seemingly chaotic fashion) into their present positions. He would win this game in the next three moves.

Arthur rolled his shoulders into the back of his seat and stifled the smug grin that was desperately trying to surface on his face.

The sound of his jaw hitting the floor a few seconds later accompanied that of his king toppling on the far edge of the board.

My God! What? Where did that come from? He thought he had this sealed. How had he missed it? Oh crap! He had been overconfident and put too much on this game. Including his way off this rock!

As the colour slowly returned to his face he attempted to give the victor a nervous smile.

His opponent’s cheeks rose and his, until now, tight lips pulled back to reveal his conically filed incisors.

The majority of the smokey bar’s other patrons had coalesced around the table where their game had taken place and following this exchange there descended on them an expectant hush.

This rabble of mainly third generation settlers were unlikely to side with this arrogant playboy from the their maligned and resented interfering home world.

His realistic chances of slipping away quietly were very slim at best.


The barroom brawl kicked off in a somewhat cliched fashion with Arthur’s opponent upending the table in an effort to reach his bulging bear’s arms and large thick, gnarled knuckled, fingers over and around Arthur’s throat.

Luckily for Arthur he was just out of reach allowing him to duck back just as the contents of the table were propelled skywards.

Much of this were the assorted beverages of the most attentive spectators, however large portions were the spoils of the game, previously collected either side of the board, which were now dancing merrily through the air at varying speeds and in various directions.

It was a fair mixture of galactic currencies, and as such consisted of many varied materials from precious metals and gemstones to credit plastics and ISS enforceable IOU’s and bonds. The one overriding similarity was their worth and desirability to the assembled mass of clutching fingers, who now viciously fought over each falling piece.

The victor’s avarice suddenly replaced his blood lust and he joined in the fight for his winnings.

Arthur, spotting his chance, scuttled across the floor, towards the entrance. Reaching the edge of the throng that surrounded their table he was faced with a five metre dash between him and his exit.

The only problem he now faced were the two heavily armed Imperial Security Service guards standing either side of the door.

They did not seem too interested in breaking up the fight and were in fact jovially laughing whilst pointing out certain combatants and exchanging bills of currency between themselves.

Arthur wondered if his safe exit could be bought, but then remembered his entire ill gotten fortune was bouncing around between flesh, bone and concrete somewhere behind him.

‘This way friend”

Arthur turned in shock at the scrawny hand on his shoulder, ready to defend himself as best he could, but found the one good eye on the grimy face of the establishment’s landlord staring back at him. The leather eyepatch and bandana may have appeared somewhat kitsch in most places but in a hole like this……..?

The landlord lead him quickly round the edge of the throng and to a small wooden door at the end of the bar.

Shoving him through it, he handed Arthur a handful of coins and pushed him towards the end of the dark alley they were now standing in.

“Get to the port. Off world cargo vessel in ten minutes. Ask at the cargo gate for Amsall and show him this” He handed Arthur a single piece of torn grubby paper with an eight pointed asterisk inside a cirlcle crudely scrawled onto it, “Now go!”

Arthur ran.

As the barkeep stepped back into the bar and locked the small street door, one of the ISS guards came over to him.

“Feeling a bit generous today aren’t we Sharbin? Surely not siding with a homeworlder?”

‘Oh…..Ah…well you know…perhaps I have another wager on whether that one get’s off the planet alive or not…..”

“Really?…. Hmm….Put me down for 20 Krowns.”