Galaxy Cruise: Royally Screwed
Galactic war, mass destruction, and a whole lot of wasted wedding cake.
After generations of conflict, an arranged marriage is set to unite two feuding royal families and bring peace to their worlds. But when bungling Captain Leo MacGavin botches the bride and groom’s first meeting, the wedding is off, and so is the truce!
To stop an interplanetary war, Leo needs to make a royal love connection, and fast! But when he seeks help from his confidante Kellybean, he inadvertently sabotages her budding relationship as well. To further complicate matters, his ship is on the verge of catastrophic failure, his first officer is weaponizing the safety gear, and his acting head of hospitality is a sociopath who keeps maiming the guests.
When Leo’s old flame makes a mysterious reappearance, can she help him unite the nuptial-bound nemeses, or is the whole galaxy royally screwed?
Galaxy Cruise: Royally Screwed is the second uproarious adventure of the cruise starship WTF Americano Grande, featuring aliens in inflatable fat suits, a gladiator-style singles mingle, and a few very tasteful and understated poop jokes. Grab your copy today!
Release date: September 12, 2021
Publisher: Canaby Press, LLC
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (1) alien worlds (1) escapist/easy read (1) funny (1) heartwarming (1)
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Galaxy Cruise: Royally Screwed
Marcus Alexander Hart
A warm breeze blew through the concourses of the WTF Americano Grande like a stale fart. Captain Leo MacGavin wrinkled his nose and ignored the wafting stench, as if he could eliminate it by sheer force of will. He nervously wiped his sweaty palms on his uniform for the hundredth time as he turned to a slender alien at his side.
“On behalf of my whole crew, I just want to tell you again what an honor it’s been having you cruise with us, Mister Sugick. I hope you’ve enjoyed being here as much as we’ve enjoyed hosting you. And I’m certainly looking forward to seeing your review. I’m sure it’ll be fantastic. All of your reviews are fantastic, to be honest. I’m a big fan.”
The alien snuffed at the desperate flattery. Sidge Sugick was a tall, sullen man with a permanent scowl and skin the color and texture of weathered burlap. He was also this planetary system’s preeminent cruise critic. His opinion could make or break an entire cruise line, and he knew it. And Leo knew it.
Sugick scratched a stylus on a digislate, taking notes in round pink letters. “I have to admit, your ship is unique. I’ve never seen another vessel like it in this galaxy.”
The knot in Leo’s gut loosened. “Well, that’s because we’re not from this galaxy. In fact, we’ve only been operating cruises here for about two months.” He puffed out his chest with pride. “Where I’m from, this is a top-of-the-line cruise starship, unrivaled in luxury and amenities.”
“Is that so? Because where I’m from it’s a heap of festering crap.” Sugick’s long fingers gestured with his stylus. “Most of the windows are cracked, half the venues are closed due to insufficient staffing, and the hull is pitted like a sponge with acne scars.” He pointed to splatters of snotty green staining the walls. “And I’m afraid to even ask what this disgusting mess is.”
Leo cringed as he eyed the smelly blotches. A recent cultural misunderstanding had gifted his crew with the awesome power of universal language interpretation. It had also caused the explosion of several hundred head of gelatinous livestock. The clean-up effort had not been especially successful.
“That, uh… that’s art! It’s a mural.” Leo frowned at the stains. “An impressionistic mural. Of sorts.”
Sugick pointed to a puddle on the floor. “Is that also art?”
Leo glanced down at the brown slick, then up. Rows of pipes ran along the ceiling high above. One of them had a slow, pungent leak dribbling from a junction swollen like a balloon ready to pop.
The knot of anxiety in Leo’s stomach re-tightened. The last time they’d passed a spacedock, his chief engineer had recommended pulling over to flush the ship’s overloaded septic system. But Leo hadn’t pulled over. They were too far from home to be making random pit stops. They had to stay on schedule. The ship would just have to hold it to the next planet.
That had been three weeks ago.
“Ah. Yes. The stinky puddle. Well, that’s an… exclusive…” Leo didn’t know how to put a positive spin on the sewage containment tanks being at a hundred and seventeen percent capacity. Before he could find the words, an anguished scream shattered his concentration. “Aagh! What the…”
The critic raised a brow. “Hmm. Sounds like somebody’s not having a good time.”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing.” Leo forced a smile. “Why don’t we just walk away in the opposite direction and forget we heard it?”
Sugick’s long legs stepped around Leo and through a broad set of double doors. Leo scrambled behind, following him outside and onto a sundeck. The planet Zerina loomed large off the bow. Soon they would be docked at its orbital spaceport and Sugick would depart to write his review. Leo only had a few more minutes to ensure it would be a good one.
He could do this. He had to do this. He owed it to his crew. If he’d been a better captain, they wouldn’t be in this mess. It was his fault the Americano Grande had fallen into an unstable space anomaly and was blasted into an unknown galaxy a hundred and thirty-two thousand light-years away.
It was his responsibility to get his people home. And to get his people home, he needed resources. And to get resources, he needed paying customers. And to get paying customers, he needed a glowing review from Sidge Sugick. And to get a glowing review from Sidge Sugick, he needed to maintain the illusion his whole ship wasn’t a three-ring shix show.
The agonized wailing grew louder as Leo followed the critic around a corner. A large circle had been painted on the deck, surrounded by a dozen children not taller than Leo’s waist. They were Zerinans, like Sugick, with the same brownish-gray skin and slight, bony build. But the kids wore strange suits that made them appear perfectly spherical, like shiny pink beach balls with polka-dot boxers and cartoonish nipples.
One of the child-balls lay on the ground just outside the circle, crying and flailing her limbs as she rocked back and forth like an overturned turtle. A woman stood by her side, pointing and laughing sardonically.
“Ha! In your face, Soozie! I win again!” She turned to the crowd of youngsters. “You little twigs stink at this game!”
Leo rushed over and helped the screaming child to her feet before turning on the old lady.
“Waverlee!” he hissed. “What the hekk is going on here?”
“You should know.” The Simishi glubbed a bubble into the glass globe of her water-filled helmet. Like the children, she was wearing a huge, inflatable rubber suit. Hers had Bermuda shorts and a macho squiggle of hair drawn on the chest. “It’s Fat Guy Fight!”
Sugick leered with disapproval. “Fat Guy Fight?”
“You got it, stretch. First one to get bounced out of the circle loses.” Waverlee thumbed at Leo. “I learned about it when I was reading up on the planet America.”
The critic turned to the captain. “This is a game from your home world?”
“No. Well, kinda. It’s complicated.” Leo sighed. “My ancestral planet wasn’t called America. And there’s no such thing as ‘Fat Guy Fight.’ Sumo wrestling was actually a Japanese sport rich in history and cultural—”
“Who’s next?” Waverlee shouted. “Oh, you’re goin’ down, Billeen!”
The Simishi took off in a waddling charge toward a boy who had unwittingly stumbled into the circle. She slammed into the kid like a cue ball, sending him bouncing across the deck with a terrified wail.
Sugick looked to Leo. “Do all of your hospitality staff display such callous disregard for the well-being of guests?”
“No, sir!” Leo said. “In fact, Waverlee isn’t even a member of the hospitality staff.”
“Then what is she?”
Leo squirmed. “She’s, uh… the doctor.”
“Interesting bedside manner.” The critic took a note. “So your chief physician is also your event planner?”
“Oh, no. Certainly not.”
“Actually, yeah. I am.” Waverlee turned to Sugick and thumbed at Leo. “Everyone who was smart jumped ship before Kid Catastrophe here dropped us into the Blue Hole. Now the suckers who stuck around have to do double duty. I pulled hospitality so…” She whirled on another child who had wandered into the ring. “Not on my watch, Cubby!”
Waverlee bounded off and slammed into the kid, sending him tumbling out of the circle. Leo yelped and scrambled to grab him before he plunged over the edge of the sundeck. As the youngster squealed in his arms, Leo blinked in confusion. Where there should have been a protective railing there was only a series of sawed-off metal stumps and an abrupt drop to the lower deck.
“What happened to the railing?” Leo asked.
“Beats me,” Waverlee said. “Actually, strike that. Nobody beats me!” She turned on the kids and shouted, “Who’s next for a balloon-belly beatdown?”
The children whimpered and backed away as Leo pounced between them and the doctor. “Hey, I have an idea! How about instead of one-on-one you play kids versus grown-ups?”
A boy cocked his head. “But there’s only one grown-up.”
“Exactly,” Leo said with a smile.
The look of fear evaporated from each tiny face as they realized the numbers were suddenly in their favor. Waverlee bounded to the center of the circle and crouched in a rotund fighting stance. “Bring it, pipsqueaks!”
With a high-pitched battle cry, the kids charged. The doctor squealed as a dozen underwear-clad beach balls pummeled her to the ground. Leo turned to Sugick with a pained smile. “As you can see, a cruise on the Americano Grande is fun for guests of all ages, and great exercise for the youngsters, who—”
“MacGavin!” a gruff voice shouted. “Get over here and make yourself useful.”
A burly Ba’lux man marched out of the ship and across the deck. He wore pocket-covered tactical pants in black-and-white camo and a tank top that showed off the rippling muscles of his back and left arm. His right arm was an aftermarket replacement made of burnished gray metal packed with wiring and throbbing rubber veins.
The orange-skinned officer had the end of a massive bundle of cables hefted over his shoulder, dragging the rest behind him like an oversized fire hose that snaked away through the doors to some unknown origin point inside the ship. He barely looked at Leo as he passed by, hauling his load down a staircase to the lower sundeck. “On the double! I’m not getting any younger.”
“Coming!” Leo scampered after him, beckoning for the critic to follow. “Mister Sugick, this is Commander Burlock, my first officer. He’s got over thirty years of naval experience, so the ship is always in good hands with him on the bridge.”
Sugick raised a brow. “And you take orders from your underlings?”
“What?” Leo chuckled. “No, I totally don’t.”
“Kinda seems like you do, seeing as how you’re doing exactly what he ordered.”
Leo scowled and slowed his pace. “Well, teamwork makes the dream work, am I right?”
He reached the bottom of the stairs and froze with a surprised gasp. A tower of cobbled-together machinery was bolted to the lower deck. Two huge metal beams extended from its face like the prongs of an enormous, twenty-foot-long tuning fork aimed over the gunwale. Burlock dragged his cables over to what looked like twelve gray oil drums wired into an engineering console at the base of the tower.
“Interesting,” Sugick said, clicking his stylus. “Is this equipment for another of your American games?”
“Like hekk it is.” Burlock dropped his bundle of wires and started twisting the ends onto terminals on the barrels. “This is no toy. This is a twenty-one megawatt railgun.”
“What?” Leo choked. “I’m sorry, where did you get a railgun?”
“I built it.”
“Out of what?”
“Out of rails, obviously.”
Leo suddenly realized the two parallel metal beams were each made of a dozen lengths of purloined deck railing braided together. “Uh, Burlock, I don’t think this is safe.”
“It’s perfectly safe.” The commander gave his machine a loving pat. “This naughty girl uses electromagnetic energy to launch fifty-pound metal slugs at seventeen-hundred miles per hour. That’s enough kinetic force to bust through twenty inches of hardened chromasteel.”
“Wow, okay. I meant I don’t think it’s safe to remove a bunch of railings, but what you said actually sounds way more unsafe.”
Burlock clapped a meaty hand on Leo’s shoulder. “You’ll thank me the next time we’re in a combat situation.”
“The next time?” Sugick asked pointedly.
“The first time!” Leo corrected. “We’ve never been in a fight and we don’t intend to start one. We’re peaceful people.”
“There’s no harm in peaceful people having the means to keep things peaceful.” Burlock twisted a large dial on the console and Leo jumped as a flicker of sparks danced across the barrels. “I’m charging the capacitors for a low-power trial run.” He tapped a gauge. “Keep an eye on this for me.”
“Actually, can we do this later?” Leo tipped his head to Sugick and hissed under his breath. “I’m kind of in the middle of something here.”
“Just turn it off before it goes into the red,” Burlock growled. “I’ve gotta go prime the firing mechanism.”
He scaled the imposing metal tower and started calibrating the machinery at its top. Sugick crossed his long arms. “So, am I to understand that this alleged pleasure cruiser is actually a thinly veiled weapon of aggression?”
“No! No. Not at all. Burlock may be a little, uh… zealous about self-defense, but I assure you everyone on my crew is dedicated to one mission and one mission only: making sure our guests enjoy a relaxing cruise in the safest, most comfortable—” A crash of dishes and shriek of terror pierced the air. Leo winced and raised a finger. “Will you excuse me for a moment?”
Sugick eagerly clicked his stylus. “No, I don’t think I will.”
Leo dashed toward the source of the commotion, hopping over another reeking brown puddle that had pooled on the deck. Red and gold canopies of medieval-style tapestry extended from the ship, covering a themed café’s outdoor dining area. An insectile Krubb in a rustic peasant dress greeted him at the entrance with an awkward bow.
“Well met, my good lord,” she droned in a weary monotone. “Welcome to Sword in the Scone. Wouldst thou like seating for a royal teatime?”
“I heard a scream!” Leo yelped. “What happened?”
The hostess rolled her eyes and sighed. “We’re having some… staffing issues.”
Leo looked over her shoulder into the restaurant. A few alien guests were gathered around a table covered with iron kettles and tiny quiches, but none of them were eating. They just sat, wide-eyed and trembling. One man openly sobbed. Leo approached them with Sugick right behind.
“Uh, hello there,” Leo said warily. “Is everybody okay? Can I get you anything?”
“No!” the sobbing guest hissed. “Don’t talk about food or it’ll come back!”
The diners shrieked as the kitchen doors blasted open, revealing an enormous spider beast. It crouched to fit through the opening then reared up, raising to its full ceiling-scraping height. The mottled gray flesh of its face folded back as it spread its mandibles and let out a screech, but the sound was replaced by a clear, androgynous voice emanating from a metal collar around its neck. “Dost anyone require food or hot water beverage?”
It lifted its four upper arms, each holding a tray loaded with plates of tiny sandwiches and oversized turkey legs. The diners recoiled and screamed. Sugick gasped and lurched back, tripping over a chair and crashing to the floor.
“Do not move. It will help you,” the spider’s collar announced. It scuttled forward and reached for Sugick with six long, bladelike fingers. The critic curled into a screaming ball.
“No! Get away from me!”
Leo jumped between the man and beast and held out his hands. “Whoa whoa… Dilly, what are you doing here?”
“Restaurant is short staffed.” The spider spread its forelimbs, revealing the tattered remains of a serving wench dress stretched around its armored body. “Is working shift to help.”
Sugick scrambled up against a wall. “You… you know this monster?”
“It’s not a monster.” Leo considered it and shrugged. “It’s not a dangerous monster. This is my chief of security, Lieutenant Commander Marshmallow Hug Dilly Dilly.”
“I don’t care what it is!” the sobbing alien diner cried from the table. “Get it out of here!”
Dilly glared with eight pitted, glowing red eyes. Drool dripped from its misshapen jaw. “Are you dissatisfied with its service?”
“Yes! Er, no! I don’t know!” The man turned to Leo, sweaty and desperate. “Just make it go away!”
Leo snatched a tray out of Dilly’s spindly hands. “Hey buddy, why don’t you go help in the back for a while? I’ll take care of this.”
“As you wish, Captain.”
Dilly dropped the rest of its trays into Leo’s outstretched arms and scuttled into the kitchen. As soon as it was gone, the sound of screams and cookware hitting floor tile rang through the swinging doors. Leo teetered under the weight of four rough-hewn wooden trays loaded with impractical iron dishes. He glanced to the diners and smiled. “So, who ordered the Black Death by Chocolate?”
Before anyone could speak, a high-pitched electric whine sliced through the dining room. Leo nearly dropped his trays as he tried to cram his elbows in his ears. Sugick slapped his narrow hands over the hearing slits in his neck. “Agh! What is that terrible—”
“MacGavin!” Burlock shouted. “Where in blazes are you?”
The color flushed from Leo’s face. “Gah! Capacitors!”
He darted out of the restaurant, still loaded down with trays of food and drink. Burlock was atop the railgun’s tower, desperately trying to keep control of the sparking machinery. “Cut the power! Now! Before it overloads and—”
A bubbling scream rang out from above. On the upper sundeck, twelve angry children in fat suits pummeled against Doctor Waverlee. “Stop it!” she glubbed. “Back off you snotty little—waagh!”
She tumbled through the gap of missing safety rail and plunged over the edge.
“Waverlee!” Leo cried. “No!”
The doctor landed on the barrel of Burlock’s makeshift weapon, and her inflatable suit wedged itself between the sparking rails with a comical fraaap of rubber on metal.
“Damn it, woman!” Burlock roared. “Get your soggy arze out of my railgun!”
“I’m trying!” Waverlee thrashed her stubby arms and legs, but remained stuck in the rails like a fat dumpling pinched between chopsticks.
Hot sparks erupted from the overloaded capacitors as the shrill electrical squeal turned deafening. Leo sprinted toward the power console, but one of his boots landed in the slick brown puddle on the deck, flinging his legs out from under him.
He pitched forward, hurling his trays in the air. Everything went into horrible slow motion as their contents arced across the sky and came down between the rails. In an instant too fast to be seen with the naked eye, the thrumming electromagnetic force grabbed the iron dishes and launched them down the railgun’s barrel. Waverlee cursed and flailed helplessly as plates and goblets bounced off her thick rubber belly and ricocheted in random directions.
Leo’s boots slipped, leaving brown skid marks on the deck as he scrambled to the console. But before he could turn it off, the power dial was cleaved in half by a flying plate.
“Well, that can’t be good,” he mumbled.
Three more plates, two cups, and a hail of tiny spoons peppered Burlock’s tower like artillery fire, sending blazing arcs of energy across its face. The commander leapt to safety in a tight tuck and roll as the entire thing ignited into a raging pillar of flame. With a squeal of tearing metal, the two rails popped their welds and blasted apart, flinging Waverlee across the deck.
“My railgun!” Burlock howled. “You killed her!”
Waverlee crashed into the bank of capacitors like a bowling ball into pins. The barrels toppled, sending a blinding blue surge of discharge into the bundle of connecting cables. Leo watched it ripple along its length, up the stairs, through the doors, and into the ship. A moment later there was a distant bang. The lights flared then blacked out. The constant drone of the engines cut off. Everything went completely, deathly silent.
“Oh, that definitely can’t be good,” Leo mumbled.
Sugick grabbed him by the lapels, shaking him in wide-eyed hysteria. “You clumsy fool! Are you trying to kill us?”
“I’m not trying! It just comes naturally!” Leo pulled himself free. “I mean, we’re perfectly safe! There’s no need to panic!”
“Don’t just stand there, MacGavin!” Burlock stomped by with a firefoam canister in each hand. He swung one into Leo’s gut, knocking the wind out of him. “We’ve gotta put out that fire before the whole thing blows sky high!”
The commander raced off, the firelight gleaming menacingly across the metal dome of his cranial implant. Sugick backed away. “My stars. This ship is a death trap!”
“We like to think of it as more of a death resort,” Leo said weakly. A ring sounded from his arm. “Gah! What now?”
He pulled back his sleeve and a holographic sphere the size of a basketball sprang from the paper-thin tabloyd wrapped around his wrist. Inside the comm bubble was an image of a clunky-looking plastic robot with an oversized tape deck in his chest. “Hello, Captain! I just wanted to give you a quick status report from the bridge.”
“Not now, Hax!”
“The good news is, we’re only two minutes away from the Zerina Spacedock,” Hax continued. “The bad news is, some dunderhead has blown the engines and we can’t stop.”
Leo gasped and stumbled to the outer rail to see the orbital dock in the distance. The spherical, moon-sized station was like a massive beehive, honeycombed with the enormous caverns of its individual docking berths. Three intersecting rings of service docks orbited its exterior, making the whole complex look like a diagram of electrons orbiting a nucleus.
The station’s welcome beacons whizzed past the bow, each flashing warnings of excessive speed and imminent collision. Leo grabbed the band on his wrist. “Let me talk to Swooch!”
“Hold on.” Hax looked away and called out in another direction. “He wants to talk to you. No, I don’t know what it’s about. Well should I take a message?”
“Just put Swooch on!” Leo barked.
The holographic image swung and blurred as Hax handed over his tabloyd, replacing the robot’s face with a sleepy looking teenage lizard slouched behind the helm.
“Hey, duder,” she drawled. “What’s up?”
“What’s… gah!” Frustration tightened Leo’s jaw. Swooch was a damn fine pilot, but her brain was not wired for urgency. “Please tell me you have a way to stop us from crashing into that spacedock!”
“Maybe. Let’s take a look-see.” The Geiko swept back her lumpy, dreadlock-like scalp tentacles and lazily poked her console. “Engines are down, nav thrusters are down, docking boosters are down.” She shook her head. “Without some kinda propulsion, I can’t do jack squat.”
Sugick clenched the rail as a gurgling rumble trembled through the deck. “What in the worlds was that?”
Swooch squinted at her panel. “Septic system’s at critical capacity. Looks like the blackout triggered an emergency high-pressure purge sequence.” She tipped her head with a slow blink. “Hold up, I got an idea.”
She pulled up a reroute console and started swiping new system connections to the helm. Leo’s eyes went wide. “No. No, Swooch. Not that. Not that!”
“Sorry, buddy. When you gotta go you gotta go.”
She flicked a switch, and with a squelching roar, twin jets of liquefied alien excrement blasted from vents on either side of the bow. The vessel shuddered as Swooch twisted the flight yoke, swinging the streams around. Wide arcs of pressurized scat splattered across the station’s outer maintenance rings as the enormous cruise starship corrected course. It thundered toward the docking core, blasting through the creeping spaceport traffic at dizzying speed.
Sugick howled in terror and tried to run back inside, but Waverlee beat him to it. Her fat suit wedged in the doorway and Sugick bounced off her inflatable butt and stumbled back toward the railgun’s mechanical inferno.
“No!” Leo threw himself at the critic, taking them both to the ground in an awkward tackle.
In the comm bubble floating over Leo’s arm, Swooch glanced out the bridge window at the latticed surface of the station. The augmented glass drew a blinking outline around one compartment. “Ah, there’s our parking spot. Takin’ ’er in.”
She turned the sewage thrusters to aim straight ahead, blasting into the cavernous berth. As the force of the liquid jets hammered the back wall, the ship rapidly lost speed. Leo rolled off the flattened critic and gasped. “It’s working! I can’t believe it’s actually—”
The geysers of poo propellant crashed off the curved walls of the berth and crested over the deck in a noxious wave. In a single moment that would leave a lifetime of emotional scars, the downpour deluged the guests and extinguished the fire, leaving behind the putrid bouquet of a barbecued porta potty.
With a bright ping of metal-on-metal, the tip of the Americano Grande’s bow tapped the back wall of the docking berth and the ship settled to rest. Leo gingerly wiped the sludge off his face and turned to Sugick. The reedy alien lay splayed on the deck, covered head-to-toe in chunky dung dressing. He trembled with outrage and horror as he glared at Leo with wide eyes and a clenched jaw. Leo forced a smile.
“So… any chance we could have a do-over?”
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