(Read part one here)
Being tricky meant choosing the game that made the best use of Felix’s talents, and that meant not trying Ring the Bell.
“Aww, c’mon, it’s just for fun.” Zed smiled his most winsome smile—or simply plucked another charmer from the collection. “And you’ll like the thing you have to do for me.” He winked. “Promise.”
Zed was obviously thinking of sexy things. Felix liked sexy things. “Fine.”
Elias went first. Felix did not laugh when the captain failed to ring the bell. Nessa gave it her best, swinging the mallet against the plate with a small shriek. She did not ring the bell. Felix didn’t really care if Zed managed the feat, he simply enjoyed watching his man move—his grip on the mallet handle, the way his torso twisted, the bunch of musculature in his arms. He rang the bell.
Despite his contrary nature, Felix gave it his best shot. The holographic arrow darted up from the plate and stopped just short of the bell. The silence was deafening. Mustering a smile, he handed the mallet to Qek.
“Give it all you’ve got!” Nessa encouraged, jumping and clapping her hands like a toddler.
Qek’s forehead smoothed, a sure sign of thought. Then she swung the mallet down with surprising force. The arrow shot up the pole and slammed into the bell.
“And the winner is our ashushk friend!” the barker announced, handing over a fluffy approximation of a Gentian squirrel.
Qek counted the tentacles, perhaps checking for anatomical correctness. “I have not seen a live Gentian squirrel, but in the pictures I have seen, they are not pink.”
“It’s a toy, Qek.”
“Do adults play with toys?”
Nessa cuffed the side of Felix’s head before he could instruct their pilot further in the art of human sexuality. “Hey.” He rubbed his offended curls.
“Think of it as a keepsake,” Nessa said.
Producing a wrinkled smile, Qek stuffed the squirrel under her arm. “What will we play next?”
Elias was scratching his head. “How come Qek managed to ring the bell harder than Zed?”
“I deduced it was a matter of applying the correct amount of force to exactly the right point of the plate.”
Zed laughed. “Okay, let’s see you apply science to Whac-A-Lem.”
Qek whacked the Lems that were only thinking about poking their holographic noses out of their holes. Then she bowled a perfect game of Skeeball. When all of her stupidly light ping pong balls found their way into fishbowls, Felix had to bite his lips over a pout. How was she doing this? More importantly, without any points, how could he convince Zed to help him flush the water cycler aboard the Chaos? Sexy favors be damned, that was a messy job and he wanted help with it.
The little blue ashushk bounced up and down on her toes, a move obviously borrowed from Nessa, as she collected her prize for popping the most balloons with a dart.
Felix elbowed Zed. “You were covert ops, man. How come you can’t kill six balloons with four darts?”
“Because it’s not fucking possible!”
“Qek’s green giraffe begs to differ.”
Grumbling, Zed led the way to the shooting gallery. “Okay, this is where we’ll separate the men from the ashushk.”
Nessa’s hand shot out before Zed could duck and he got his first cuff of the afternoon.
Felix leaned in to Zed’s side. “You know Qek looks after the weapons stored aboard the Chaos, right? She can break down a plasma rifle in thirty-seven seconds.”
Zed gaped and Felix wished he had a ping pong ball. His mouth formed the perfect O.
Qek won the match—passing off yet another stuffed animal to Felix—and then she met her match. “I do not understand the point of the next game.”
Felix glanced up from an intense study of the neon yellow python wrapped around his wrist. The faux fur was incredibly soft and the eyes were sort of cute. “Huh?”
“It’s a kissing booth,” Nessa explained.
“How is the game played?”
“Well, it’s not a game. You just pass over some credits for the chance to kiss someone really attractive.” Felix glanced at the booth’s occupant and frowned. “Ah, normally it’s a really good looking girl or guy. I dunno what that’s supposed to be.”
The booth’s attendant waved them over. “Want to kiss the Guardian?”
Looked like a cross between an elephant and a Berian cockroach. This was supposed to be the most technologically advanced species in the galaxy?
Zed poked a finger toward the shimmering holo. “That is not a Guardian.”
Elias nudged Zed in the middle of the back. “You should probably kiss it to make sure.”
“I wonder what the Guardians would make of this representation,” Qek mused.
“I got reliable information that this is a bona fide depiction of an actual Guardian,” the barker said.
“I think you’ve been hoodwinked,” Elias replied.
Nessa tilted her head. “I don’t know. I think it has a certain majesty.”
Zed slung an arm around Felix’s shoulders. “Well, I’m not going to kiss it. Not when I got a perfect pair of lips right beside me.”
Corny as hell, but the declaration warmed Felix’s middle. “Neither of us got any points,” he murmured, putting his mouth close enough to Zed’s for that kiss.
Zed pecked his lips. “Just as well we didn’t wager with Qek.”
“I would have asked for help flushing the water cycler,” the little ashushk said.
“I thought it was my turn to do it?”
“Perhaps you’d like to help me with it, Fixer?”
Not really, but it would be uncharitable to say no when Qek had given him his fluffy yellow snake. Felix mustered a smile. “Okay, sure.”
Zed’s lips brushed his ear. “After, I can give you another job to do. One you’ll enjoy.”
Felix’s smile spread into a grin.
“Hey, isn’t anyone going to kiss the Guardian?”
Felix gestured toward Elias. “It’s all yours, Cap’n. Go for it.”
Find out more about Zed, Felix, and the rest of the crew's adventures at www.chaosstation.com.