Master Squaregate was the kind of man hated by the entire universe. The Neila Aliens Corkhorn met in his travels were easy to tell apart from the Anthropoids due to humanoid bodies, purple skin and a humanoid face with a square cranium from ears to back. Different spots instead of hair. Charcoal sclera, Deep gray irises, to black pupils made the eyes look like big black eyes of an alien gray’s. Yet the suit should’ve belonged to pre-Victorian pianist not the President and founder of the galaxy’s biggest privately owned chain of department stores.
Corkhorn wished the man he was seeing was Master Squaregate’s head butler Thoomsdna Kcils or the apprentice butler Ssalc Gnikrow. What he met was a frantic Squaregate grabbing ahold of the camera.
The bears were covering their ears. Squaregate didn’t know how loud he was. Considering his lack of hearing aids.
“Where is that pirate! That sorry excuse of an captain I ought to rip a new Banana Split!” he screamed.
The tirade came to a standstill when someone small pulled on Squaregate’s coattail. Large round eyes glittering with innocence. His hands went through the motions.
<Dad?> signed Squaregate’s son, <Dad mad?>
Master Squaregate shook his head no. He yanked his boy into a hug so fierce the boy’s legs clamped around his waist. Master Squaregate’s wife in the background watched the scene unfold with knowing worry. The butlers flagged the door.
“Ha hi Master Squaregate, Roinuj, and Mrs. Master,” Corkhorn greeted, with a half bow. His wounds spurted open, “Kcils, Ssalc, how goes it?”
“You’re bleeding!” Ssalc freaked out to which Kcils, despite his vision problems, grabbed Ssalc’s lips and tugged.
“Bleeding?!” shrieked Mrs. Masters.
“Bleeding?” piped up Roinuj.
“Bleed . . .” Kcils trailed off, he concealed his shock by tapping his universal translator, “No, no, everything is fine. Ssalc my boy I think we need to get Rionuj a glass of water. Mrs. Masters isn’t it the boy’s bedtime?”
“MMMM-HMMMM-HMM-MMM,” muffled Ssalc yelped. He knew what he saw. He called it.
<Night-night Dad,> signed Roinuj.
Squaregate hugged and kissed his wife and son before they left. Their hands went wildly through the questions. Yet Master Squaregate hugged them to his chest with a death grip. His hands never moved until he put on his hearing aid when they were out the door.
“Master Squaregate are you alright?” Corkhorn asked.
“I should be asking you that,” Squaregate professed, “You look like hell.”
Corkhorn applied pressure to his wound. A laugh escaped his muzzle. From the bruises to the beating to the cramps and aches he answered the phone feeling like crud. He must’ve looked like crud too.
“I went through hell,” Corkhorn laughed then grimaced, “ If it wasn’t for Captain Cluck-ver’s crew telling her not to hurt the hostage I wouldn’t be standing here.”
“She didn’t listen!” chorused the pirate crew past the door.
“You sure it wasn’t because of your you know?,” Master Squaregate asked. He poked at the middle of his forehead.
Corkhorn’s smile thinned. His broken unicorn horn and inverted magic gave him the kind of protection only a self preservationist would love. A piece of the ship’s ceiling crashed to the floor just when Dr. AIEEE came back with bandages and a carpet bag.
“If we relied on ONLY that to protect me I wouldn’t be able to get work done,” Corkhorn exclaimed, “So can I ask both you and you, Dr. AIEEE, a question?”
Dr. AIEEE had Corkhorn taking off his shirt and spacesuit, at least down to the navel. Corkhorn tied the sleeves around his waist. The doctor set to work on the worst part of his wound while exchanging a glance with his brother Mr. ZZZ who happened to walk in with Quartermaster Patches at the right moment.
“Fire away,” announced Patches.
Dr. AIEEE made a go-on gesture with one paw. He sprayed the wound with anesthetic and proceeded to bandage it with care.
“I don’t see why not,” Master Squaregate surmised.
“Oy! How does a deaf asteroidlubber,” began Patches.
“I read lips,” Master Squaregate finished, “along with hearing aids.”
“. . . Oh . . . Was wonderin’ about that.” Patches shrugged.
Corkhorn gathered himself to ask the men in question, “Why was a hostage needed in the first place?”
The silence could deflect the sharpest of butter knives in its thickness. Dr. AIEEE got suddenly busy with checking bruises. Mr. ZZZ went around to hold supplies for Dr. AIEEE. Patches let loose a sigh like he failed his captain or his captain had failed him.
Corkhorn secretly guessed Captain failed Quartermaster.
Master Squaregate replied, “Because these idiots know my one true weakness is my care for my people.”
“No you idiot!” Patches hissed, “It’s because your security is armed to the hilt and the only way to get past you and smuggle your wears is with a meat shield.”
“Exactly,” Master Squaregate agreed.
Corkhorn pinched the bridge of his nose. As the meat shield in question, his headache could outdo the wound in his side.
“Enough!” Corkhorn snapped. His horn glowed white hot. He rubbed his temples. Eyes squeezed shut.
He found them all staring back at him.
“Look Mr. Master, Pirates there’s been a problem that’s been going on for far too long,” Corkhorn countered, “Captain Cluck-vers shouldn’t even know my delivery route. Heart Core Industries keeps everything private and those shock collars are made of materials found in Anthro Resources commodities.”
“Leave A.R. out of this please we’re on a recorded line,” Master Squaregate stated.
“Good,” affirmed Corkhorn, “Because we need this recorded and in the open.”
The confessions could shock a TV audience without the cue cards.
“I’m tired of making torture devices for Captain Cluck-vers.” Dr. AIEEE confirmed.
“Then you should’ve left me.” Mr. ZZZ argued.
“You are my brother dang it! Family does not abandon family,” Dr. AIEEE growled.
Mr. ZZZ stood up to his full height.
“A dignified man doesn’t give up his dignity to embarrass himself or his accomplishments.” Mr. ZZZ stated, “You’re a doctor!”
“I’m an older brother first,” Dr. AIEEE snapped.
“I should slap both of you for fighting,” Patches stated, “But since this is what the Captain wants. I can’t slap you for doing exactly what she loved seeing you two do. In-fight.”
The brothers glared at each other then scoffed in opposite directions. Now that Corkhorn thought of it, the women were petrified of Captain Cluck-vers. She did act unfairly to both sides after all. She never told the women when something was wrong and punished the men for having nothing wrong with them at all. Definitely an Anthro Resources nightmare. Like the match to a gas station waiting to explode.
“I wore about the same model of control device that others wore on the ship,” reported Corkhorn. “Roger and I broke the Manifest scanner though. Actually I want to have all the collars taken off. Everyone get treated equally. Is that okay Quartermaster, Dr. AIEEE?”
The pirates mulled it over.
“Our crew wants a guarantee that we can trust the unicorn,” exclaimed Patches, “Kicking the Captain’s butt then dictating conditions was Captain Cluck-vers specialty.”
“What the Captain says goes,” stated Mr. ZZZ, “I won’t give up my principles even if the Captain is an asshole.”
Dr. AIEEE sighed, “Sometimes we have to do things we aren’t fond of to protect what we love brother.”
“And I can’t harbor criminals,” exclaimed Master Squaregate, “It’s how my employees kept getting kidnapped in the first place.”
“Or,” Corkhorn bargained, “And I’m pushing the envelope here, sorry boss.”
“Well, what is it?” Master Squaregate urged.
“What if?” Corkhorn suggested, “What if we found a middle ground everyone can agree upon? What do all of you want to do, need to do, and we’ll go on from there.”