Galaxy Cruise: The Maiden Voyage: A Sci-fi Comedy Adventure
Humanity needed a hero. It got a karaoke DJ.
Leo MacGavin is not the brightest specimen of humanity. But when he inadvertently rescues a flirty alien heiress, he's promoted from second-rate lounge entertainer to captain of the galaxy's most sophisticated cruise ship.
Before he can flee in terror, a human-hating executive gives Leo an ultimatum—complete the vessel's maiden voyage or mankind's last colony will be turned into a sewage dump. To make matters worse, a militant cyborg is undermining his authority, a giant spider is terrifying the passengers, and a sentient plant keeps stealing all the beer.
If Leo ever wants to see his home again, he'll have to keep the guests happy through seven days of onboard antics and madcap shore excursions. As strange malfunctions tear the ship apart, can he hold his rag-tag crew together, or will he flush the last bastion of humanity down the crapper?
Galaxy Cruise: The Maiden Voyage is a hilarious sci-fi comedy for readers who love The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Space Team. And moviegoers who love Galaxy Quest, Spaceballs, and Guardians of the Galaxy. And TV watchers who love Red Dwarf, Futurama, and The Orville. And people who basically just want to see The Love Boat on a spaceship.
Don't get left on the spacedock! Grab your copy of Galaxy Cruise now!
"Fantastic writing, funny but relatable characters in bizarre situations, and tight dialog. Sci-fi comedy at its best. Trust me on this. When this book comes out, you and I will be telling everyone, 'I read Marcus Alexander Hart before he was famous.'"
-- Julia Huni, author of Triana Moore: Space Janitor
"Witty, current, and stuffed to the tentacles with comic space adventure, there is a real glee in Hart's invention of alien races, cool space ships, and interspecies relations. [...] It's a little bit Red Dwarf, a little bit Hitchhikers, and a whole lotta rock and roll."
-- Maaja Wentz, author of Feeding Frenzy: Curse of the Necromancer
"This was a total blast to read. If asked to describe it, I'd say: The crew from Galaxy Quest on hallucinogenics taking the Star Wars cantina on a road trip. Parts were totally laugh out loud funny, causing my husband to give me odd looks."
-- Kes McDaniel, author of Call to Action
Release date: June 19, 2021
Publisher: Canaby Press, LLC
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Galaxy Cruise: The Maiden Voyage: A Sci-fi Comedy Adventure
Marcus Alexander Hart
The agonizing screech vibrated Leo’s skull like a bone saw trying to bore its way out from the inside. The aliens were torturing him. Again.
He had to get away. He had to escape.
His desperate gaze ticked to the single window. The galaxy stretched to infinity outside, cold and bleak and unforgiving. A small, circular pock-mark marred the glass from some bygone impact of ice or rock. The flaw was tiny, but critical. Leo knew if he hit the window hard enough it would shatter. He could escape. Sure, it would be into the void of space where he’d die an agonizing death by asphyxiation, but compared to the alternative, at least that would be quick.
The caustic wail pitched upward. Leo’s muscles constricted. His vision blurred. His sphincter clenched. Just when he was on the cusp of permanent detachment from his sanity…
The noise stopped.
And the audience burst into wild applause.
Leo’s brain pulled back from the edge of fatal hemorrhaging, letting his eyes slowly return to focus. A hulking alien strutted across the tarnished deck plating, waving his hands at the crowd as he sponged up their praise. Eight beefy tentacles sprouted from his head, each ending in a round, leech-like mouth the size and shape of a trombone bell. Leo leaned into the microphone of his karaoke console and cleared his throat.
“Okay, so… let’s hear it for Grund’lax, for that rendition of what was allegedly ‘Sweet Caroline’!” He winced at the sound of his own voice in his ringing ears. “It’s true what they say, nobody murders Neil Diamond like a Screetoro.”
The alien flung his microphone at Leo’s head, screeching out words like an angry bugle corps. “Suck it, stubble chimp!”
Leo yelped and ducked the projectile as a roar of laughter erupted from the crowd of gathered… things. A few blue lizards in Hawaiian shirts slurped up cocktails with their stubby snouts. A party of animate plants devoured a rack of barbecue, spattering sauce on their leafy faces. In a darkened corner, a couple of humanoid felines mewled and pawed at each other like no one was watching. They’d be coughing up hairballs of each other’s fur by last call.
Leo sighed as he picked up the microphone and checked the list of names on his console. “All right, the next singer is… oh man, I know I’m gonna butcher this pronunciation. It’s like…” He squinted at the screen. “Kind of a square thing, then two squiggles and what looks like a pregnant seahorse?”
A dark mass the size of a small shuttlecraft slid out of the shadows. It was a rigid and slightly translucent blob filled with a mottled, curry-type substance. Leo didn’t recognize the species, but thought it looked exactly like a glacier made of vomit. The alien reached out a short, blobby tendril and accepted the mic.
The deck vibrated as a thunderous sound rumbled from deep inside the creature like a didgeridoo mating with a foghorn. Leo flinched and backed away.
“Uh… are you all right?”
Leo blinked. “Suck?”
“Ah. Okay. I see where you’re going with this.”
“It. Suck it. Hilarious. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s see what song—”
“Oh for crying out loud.” Leo crossed his arms and tipped his head back on his shoulders as the glacier droned through its speciest slur. A series of thick, rusty pipes crisscrossed the lounge’s ceiling above, each printed with warning labels in every alien language he could identify and several he could not, like the Rosetta Stone of toxic waste. He wondered how hard it would be to take a drink from one and put himself out of his misery.
Leo side-eyed the glacier as he leaned into his console microphone. “Yes, thank you. Now let’s see what you’ll be singing for us tonight.” Please be short, he silently prayed. Please be short, please be short. He tapped a pad and the bar’s holoscreens displayed the song. His shoulders slumped. “Ah. Every KJ’s favorite eight-and-a-half-minute epic, ‘I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).’” He gave the crowd a wave. “Well, I’d encourage you to sign up to sing next, but I have realistic expectations about our average lifespans. I hope you all finished those bucket lists!”
The music started and two full verses of lyrics scrolled across the screens before the glacier had worked its way through the first word. Leo muttered to himself as he abandoned his console and dragged himself across the room. “Just get through it, Leo. This is your last night in space. Tomorrow you go home.”
He sidled up to the bar and grabbed a stool. Its smooth plastic seat was funnel shaped, sloped toward a large hole in the back. He pulled himself up and perched uncomfortably on its rim.
The bartender noticed him and scuttled over. He was a Krubb—an insectoid alien with a cylindrical exoskeleton and domed head with a broad mouth. He looked like a trash can with crab legs. In the places where you’d expect handles were two long, skinny arms that nearly reached the ground before hinging at the elbow and coming back up to end in clawed pincers he held curled at his shoulders.
“Whaddya want, hairbag?”
Leo frowned and ran a hand through his shaggy black coif. “Gimme a beer.”
The Krubb grunted and pulled a pint of something blue and grainy from the tap. He plunged a claw into a large glass fishbowl on the bar, plucked out a wriggling purple slug, and impaled it on a toothpick. With a flourish of his spindly arms, he dropped the garnish in the drink and slid it to Leo. Leo stared down into the glass, watching a trickle of yellow goop leak out of the bug and swirl into the beverage like an oil slick.
“This is not a beer,” he said. “This is not even the same genre as a beer.”
The Krubb scowled. “If you don’t like it you can…”
“Suck it, stubble chimp,” Leo grumbled. “I know.”
He frowned and slouched back in his chair. His butt slid into the funnel and one cheek fell through the hole at the rear, forcing his knee to jerk up and slam into the bottom of the bar. He hissed and grimaced and awkwardly crossed that leg over the other as if it had all been part of some master plan.
A female voice giggled. “Those stools are usually reserved for beings with tails.”
Leo glanced over to see a woman leaning against the bar to his side. She was humanoid in form, right down to the shape of her skull. He could tell, because her head was basically just an oversized human skull. Her orange skin seemed to lay flat on the bone, pierced by five short, claw-shaped horns sprouting upward from her scalp like a tiara. A garland of colorful flowers was woven between them. Leo looked away. He didn’t know a lot about aliens, but he knew enough to steer clear of the Ba’lux.
“Thanks for the tip,” he muttered.
The girl chuckled. “Could be worse. You could have picked one with genital stabilizer blades.” She sashayed closer, seemingly showing off her thin, reedy body, clothed in stylishly tattered jeans and a tank top. She held out a bony fist. “Varlowe.”
Leo cringed as he reluctantly met her eyes. Or what passed for eyes in Ba’lux physiology. Two copper-colored domes stared back at him, featureless and unreadable as a pair of soup spoons.
“Leo.” He bumped her knuckles. “Leo MacGavin.”
“Leo MacGavin,” Varlowe said, savoring the words. “Such an exotic name.”
“Not where I come from.”
Varlowe smiled, baring a mouth full of small, pointed teeth. “It’s a rare treat to find one of your people willing to leave the settlement.”
Leo glanced out the broad window at a gleaming, blue-green moon in the distance. Eaglehaven was the idyllic world his Earthly ancestors had created to replace the ruined one they had fled. A do-over on a planetary scale. The new cradle of humanity. He sighed longingly. “I made a poor life choice.”
“You made a bold life choice,” Varlowe said. “Most of your people will live their whole lives never daring to step off that little rock. But you did. And I think that’s worthy of a toast.” Leo flinched as she rested a hot, four-fingered hand on his arm. “Bartender! Get me your finest American champagne.”
The Krubb grabbed a bottle embossed with a picture of a mime in a beret hugging the Eiffel Tower. Leo waved it away. “Uh, no. That’s okay. I should be getting back to work.”
Varlowe glanced across the lounge. The glacier was just ramping up into the third word of the lyrics. “I think you’ll be fine. After all…” She gave Leo a knowing look. “You deserve a break today.”
She peeled the foil off the champagne bottle and began twisting the cage off the cork. Leo eyed her suspiciously. This Ba’lux didn’t belong here. There wasn’t another orange skull in the room. In the six months he’d been in self-exile on the Jaynkee Spacedock there had never been an orange skull in this room. He cleared his throat nervously.
“So, uh. What’s someone like you doing all the way down on sub-level 97-Z?”
“Someone like me?” Varlowe raised a hairless, bony eye ridge. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing!” Leo cringed. “It’s just… you’re from a prime world. You’re from the prime world.”
Varlowe set down the bottle and crossed her arms. “And?”
Leo squirmed in her empty gaze. “And, well, this bar is so close to the reactor core it needs a bartender impervious to radiation poisoning.” He waved a hand at the grungy room, with its stained walls and gurgling pipes. “Isn’t the Exhaust Port Lounge a little lowbrow for a Ba’lux?”
Varlowe pouted. “Oh. I see. You think I should be eating goosefish foie gras truffles and watching the Ba’luxi Prime Imperial Lecture Ballet Company over on the Opulera.”
She thumbed over her shoulder at the window and the rows of ships sprawling into the distance against the dock’s gangway tunnels—winged planetary shuttles, and towering cargo freighters etched with glowing thrustplates, and the long cigar-tube shapes of commuter craft glistening in the starlight. But one vessel dominated the rest, dwarfing them in both size and pure baroque arrogance.
The Opulera was the flagship of the Waylade Tour Fleet. An enormous, bulbous teardrop of gray metal swirled with gold and bristling with blade-shaped solar sails extending in flared rows from its sides and top. Leo thought it looked like a robot lionfish with ion burners stuck up its butt.
He returned his attention to his mug, but wasn’t brave enough to actually drink from it. “I don’t know. I understand your people like that stuff.”
A snort of laughter came from Varlowe’s nostril slits. “Nobody likes that stuff. Ba’lux culture is so uptight and stuffy and boooooring. We just finished a twelve-day cruise and I can’t stand it anymore. So I was excited to hear about this dock bar with authentic American karaoke.”
She nodded toward the other side of the room. Nestled between the rusted tables and decaying chairs was a dazzling karaoke setup adorned with blinking neon kanji and spinning disco lights. Images of blue-haired cartoon girls in sailor schoolgirl outfits beamed from its face, holding microphones in one hand and throwing peace signs with the other.
Leo smirked. “I’m sure you were. Everybody up here loves the karaoke booth.” He muttered under his breath. “You just can’t stand its operator.”
“That’s not true,” Varlowe said. “I personally find its operator very alluring.”
The orange woman slid her fingers down the back of Leo’s arm. A spasm ripped through his body, kicking his legs and inadvertently driving his rump deeper into the funnel of his seat. “Oh, wow. Okay. So, full disclosure. I’m not really looking for… that.” He fidgeted. “I’m actually kinda getting over a heartbreak, so…”
Varlowe smiled knowingly. “So that’s what brings you to space, eh? Running away from a girl back home?”
Leo cringed at her cutting insight. “Like I said. Poor life choice.”
Actually, “poor life choice” didn’t begin to cover it. Coming to space had been the single worst decision he’d ever made. If Leo had known then what he knew now, he never would have left Eaglehaven. He wouldn’t have subjected himself to the jeering insults of weird aliens with blue scales or purple feathers or embarrassing facial gonads. He’d be safe at home, surrounded by normal people with normal skin not more than a few degrees of saturation off his own brown-paper-bag complexion. But it didn’t matter now. Today’s paycheck would finally put enough galactic dollabux in his account to buy a ticket home.
Varlowe leaned in with a toothy grin. “Well, I think you’ll come to like living off-world. People may be a little standoffish at first, but in time you’ll see the truth. We love to see you smile.”
She nodded sagely, coaxing Leo to find her deeper meaning. Leo did not.
“Yeah, no. I don’t think so.” He kicked his bound-up legs, sending his stool into a slow rotation around its base. “Actually I’m leaving first thing in the morning, and I’m never, ever coming back to space under any circumstan—”
Varlowe put a hand on his knee, arresting his spin. “I’ve studied your people, and I’m deeply passionate about your history and spirituality.”
She moved closer, pressing her bony abdomen to Leo’s knees. Her head tipped in a way that would have been a sultry gaze through her eyelashes, had she possessed eyelashes or anything resembling eyes. Leo’s heart raced as his body completely seized. His mouth opened. No words came out. It closed. It opened again.
Varlowe grasped a fine chain at her throat and pulled a medallion out of her tank top. It was a red circle, emblazoned with a rounded, golden M. “I’m a devout follower of the teachings of the ancient American philosopher, Mickey D.” Her other hand clamped around Leo’s upper thigh. “And I’m lovin’ it.”
With a surprised yelp, his entire body spasmed hard enough to flip his chair and throw him to the floor. His nerves jangled as he sprang to his feet and righted the stool, requiring three spastic attempts to balance it on its base. He ran a tremoring hand through his hair and slowly backed away.
“Okay, so… As flattered as I am to be part of your…” He rolled his hands, searching for the words. “Alien burger cult… I should really be getting back to—”
“Varlowe!” a voice roared. “What in the name of Queen Akvens is going on here?”
Every head, eyestalk, and visual sensory organ in the room turned toward a Ba’lux elder towering in the entry arch. His broad chest and meaty biceps strained the fabric of his culture’s traditional garb, which always looked to Leo like a cross between papal robes and a prom tuxedo. He marched into the lounge, his weathered face tight with rage. Leo’s feet froze to the floor with terror.
“Nothing is going on!” he squeaked. “I was just enjoying a nice refreshing mug of blue sand and—”
He choked as the slab of orange muscle thumped a hand on his throat and hoisted him off the ground without so much as a grunt. The voids of the Ba’lux’s eyes were firmly fixed on Varlowe’s. “Why are you canoodling with this rodent?”
Varlowe smirked and crossed her arms. “Who I canoodle with is none of your business. You’re not my father.”
“Your father is rolling in his grave,” the man snarled. “This disgusting behavior is unacceptable for the heiress to the Waylade Tour Fleet.”
“That’s pronounced president of the Waylade Tour Fleet,” Varlowe said pointedly.
The man huffed. “Unlike you, I worked hard to earn my rank. And as vice president of the line, I am—”
“Subordinate to the president of the line,” Varlowe said calmly. She languidly raised a hand and pointed to the floor. The giant’s face crushed in defiant fury, yet he complied, slowly lowering Leo until his shoes touched the deck. He released his grip and Leo coughed air into his empty lungs.
“Okay, I try not to get mixed up in aliens’ personal and potentially lethal business, so I’ll just excuse—”
Varlowe dropped a hand on his shoulder, pinning him down. “Leo, I’d like to introduce you to Rip Skardon.”
“Admiral Rip Skardon,” the man growled.
“Retired,” Varlowe noted. “He’s been with my family’s cruise line since he left the service.”
Leo nodded. “Hello, sir. It’s been awful to meet you. Goodbye.”
He tried to leave, but Varlowe’s grip tightened. “Stay.” She spoke to Leo, but her eyes remained locked on Skardon’s. “We value your company.”
“Well, I don’t want to be a bother,” Leo said. “Or collateral damage.”
Skardon looked Leo’s body up and down as if he were planning the best way to disassemble it. “I never thought I’d see the day when a member of the WTF executive board would be caught fraternizing with this kind of vermin.” His voice was like hot steam roiling from a furnace on the verge of explosion. “I demand you return to the Opulera before you further sully your family’s name with this hairy—”
“Oh lighten up, Skardon, before you pop a gel sac.” Varlowe plucked the champagne off the bar. “I’m sure you’ll love Leo once you get to know him. Why don’t you have a drink with us?”
“I will not,” Skardon said, eyeing the bottle. “The last time I tasted American swill it made me so sick I nearly died.”
Varlowe nodded. “Then we’ll make yours a double.” She turned to the bartender. “Hey, can we get some glasses over—”
Skardon ripped the champagne from her hand and roared, “Enough of this nonsense!”
He raised his massive arm and hurled it to the floor. In an instant too brief for any living thing to register, a number of things happened. As the bottle left Skardon’s hand, a tiny snap of his wrist caused it to flip in the air, doing a full 180 before it hit the deck. If it had impacted at an angle of just ten more degrees it would have shattered. Or five more degrees. Or one and a quarter. But the bottle landed directly on its cork, completely perpendicular to the floor. The spongy material compressed as it absorbed the entire force of Skardon’s enraged throw. In that moment, the carbonated fizz of the beverage rapidly expanded against the stopper, popping it out and launching the glass upwards like a booze-powered rocket.
The bottle blasted straight up and smashed clean through one of the rusted pipes hanging from the ceiling. With a piercing squeal, a cloud of pressurized pink gas vented into the room. Skardon looked up at the damage just in time for the falling bottle to clock him on the cranium with a comical ponk that folded him like a deck chair.
The singing glacier’s watery eyes rolled to the ruptured pipe. “Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…”
“Gas leak!” a lizard screamed. “Let’s get the huck out of here!”
Leo didn’t have to be told. He had already bolted three steps toward the exit the instant Skardon’s unconscious body hit the floor. But just as he was about to cross into the corridor, a heavy, airtight metal slab fired from the ceiling and slammed into place in the doorway.
“Gas leak detected,” a pleasant electronic voice intoned. “Compartment sealed for guest safety.”
“Safety?” Leo shrieked, pounding on the door. “How is this safe?”
Pink vapor billowed around him, burning his eyes and choking his lungs with the stench of petrochemicals and rotting fish. The sounds of various beings coughing and squealing and thrashing in agony filled the cotton-candy cloud.
“… aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas,” the glacier said.
“Help!” a voice screeched. “Gahdamn it! Somebody help me!”
Leo furiously blinked his watering eyes and spotted the Krubb bartender on top of the bar, hopping on his tiny, insectile legs. Both long, spindly arms were extended overhead, but he couldn’t quite reach the big red shutoff valve on the ruptured pipe.
“I’m on it!” Leo shouted.
He darted across the lounge and sprang onto a barstool. Unfortunately, it was the barstool designed for tails. The moment his shoe hit the slick plastic his leg plunged through the funnel, dropping one foot through the stool, one foot to the side of it, and his testicles squarely upon its edge. He howled and tried to catch his balance against the bar, but only managed to tumble forward and splash his head into the fishbowl of garnish slugs. He sucked a startled breath, and the burning in his lungs was momentarily extinguished as they filled with briny water.
“Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” the glacier said.
With a spluttering snort Leo jerked upright. The bowl caught on his skull as he lurched back, spilling its contents over his body as it settled over his head like an old-timey diving helmet. He windmilled his arms and tried to catch his balance with one leg firmly rammed through a stool that made it five inches longer than the other.
Each staggering step punched him in the groin as he clomped through the crowd. Some of the aliens were still writhing and screaming, others lay sprawled unconscious on the floor. Leo’s hands banged impotently against the fishbowl as he tried to wipe the toxins from his clenched eyes. In a desperate attempt to dislodge the stool, he raised his trapped leg and spun himself around. All he managed to do was take out two cat people and a sentient eggplant before blindly smashing the stool into the window.
With a squeal like cracking ice, the wounded glass shattered and blasted outward as the lounge’s pressurized atmosphere vented explosively into the vacuum of space. Leo cursed and tried to shield himself as bottles and pint glasses sailed through the air and pelted him on their way out.
“… eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…” the glacier said.
Leo lurched forward and grabbed a railing around a raised seating area as the howling wind lifted his feet and pulled his body parallel to the ground. With a sharp rip, the stool yanked free of his leg and flung itself through the window, taking his pants and one shoe along with it.
Before he could lament the loss of his trousers, Leo’s fishbowl helmet was peppered with a hail of mangled flowers. He twisted his head inside the clouded globe to see Varlowe clinging to the edge of the bar, screaming and thrashing as the rushing air ripped the blossoms from her horn crown. Her thumb slipped, leaving her dangling by three slender fingers. Leo gasped. Freaky alien or not, she didn’t deserve to die like this.
“Hold on!” Leo shouted. “I’m coming!”
He gritted his teeth and strained as he flexed his biceps and tried to pull himself toward the railing. He did not get closer. At all. “Dang, I gotta start working out.”
With a shriek that barely carried in the thinning atmosphere, Varlowe lost her grip and flipped end-over-end across the lounge toward the ravenous, sucking maw of outer space.
“No!” Leo screamed.
He made a desperate grab as her body whiffed past him, but only managed to lose his own grasp. His scream echoed in the fishbowl as he sailed backwards toward certain death.
Just as Varlowe was about to enter the deadly void, a heavy, airtight metal door fired from the top of the window and slammed into place in the empty frame. She hit it face-first with a grisly thwack. Half a second later Leo hit it feet-first and dropped on top of her like a pro wrestler throwing a body slam.
“Hull breach detected,” a pleasant electronic voice intoned. “Compartment sealed for guest safety.”
Leo pushed himself upright and gasped for air as overhead vents replenished the lost atmosphere. Across the room, the Krubb bartender hung limply from a claw, still gripping the closed valve in the ruptured pipe. Beings twitched and gagged on the floor, but the toxic pink gas was gone, sucked safely into space.
“… eeaaaaaaaaak,” the glacier said.
Leo coughed and rolled off the cruise boss’s bony body. “Varlowe!” He lifted her head and looked into her metallic eyes. They were cold and empty, completely bereft of any sign of life. As usual. Leo waved a hand in front of them. “Hello? Are you like… alive?”
With a sharp hiss, the emergency door sealing the archway to the corridor shot upward, vomiting five armored security troopers into the lounge. Their heads swiveled as the featureless black masks of their helmets assessed the situation. With tensed reflexes, each of them drew a stun pistol and pointed it at Leo’s head.
“Freeze, you filthy mammal!” one shouted. “Unhand that woman!”
“Wait!” Leo leapt to his feet and raised his palms as he backed away. “I can explain everything!”
The guards’ weapons squealed with building charge. “You’ve got two seconds!”
Leo was pantless and soaking wet with a cracked fishbowl over his head and confused purple slugs slowly migrating across his face. At his feet was the limp, apparently lifeless body of the heiress president of the Waylade Tour Fleet, bleeding profusely from a broken horn on her forehead. He cleared his throat.
“It’s actually going to take much longer than that.”
A sizzle of pure electric agony blazed through Leo’s body as all five guards fired their weapons.
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