How dabney got his hat, p.1
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       How Dabney Got His Hat, p.1

           Caitlan Burns
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How Dabney Got His Hat
ey Got His Hat

  Written by Caitlan Burns.

  Cover design Caitlan Burns.

  Copyright©2013Caitlan Burns

  Published by Nine Tails Story Crafting

  How Dabney Got His Hat

  There was a cold wind on Quiltain Seven. It whipped through the colorful sashes on and stretching between the rounded buildings of Breeleighly. Breeleighly had been a port town for centuries and still was; a space port, an airport and a sea port. The cool wind was probably coming off the murky green waters or from the wind whipped up by a world transport or a space transport. Still, there was talk of global cooling from the locals, a people called the Quints whose rounded bodies were draped in sashes, the lower part usually covered by a sarong. They had one eye and seven tentacles that fanned out from the base of the stalk the eye was perched on like bizarre lashes. Each one also had two hands which could be compared fairly closely to those of the human race though the Quints themselves, including their hands, were lime sherbet green.

  Ports are refuges for weary travelers and so they have bars. This one had several and in one with a dim interior which catered to those species who required such mood lighting and to those who merely preferred it, there were several occupants. A group of Roasan took up the plate sized rounded tables at the center of the room. They were, rather uncharacteristically, wearing black robes over their green fur which hung down nearly covering their small bent legs, just shy of obscuring their clawed hind paws. The robes were slit down each side and held together with a black sash. Each robe had a Roman numeral on both the front and back. These uniformed Roasan had their long snouts together over their cups, their eyes glued on the screen over the bar which was showing some sort of sport. To one corner three grub creatures, Grousan, sat, their rear ends on the little capes they wore to minimize the spill of slime which they often produced when stuck in a dryer environment than they were accustomed to. One screeched and a couple of Roasan dragged their eyes away from the screen to glare before pointing their long rodent-like heads back to the sport on the screen which looked from the robes the participants were wearing to be the same one they were dressed for.

  There were three more occupants of the bar other than the bartender and the bouncer who stood behind the bar and beside it respectively. One was an adult Roasan who stood a good five inches taller than the juveniles which made up the sports team. The second occupant was an ashy grey Septapus and the last was a human named Dabney Indiana.

  The three occupants of the corner booth had been chatting over their drinks.

  “What does that sports team play?” asked Dabney. He shrugged his shoulder at the adolescent Roasan who took up most of the bar, not only with their great number but with the miasma that accompanied them as maintained their morose focus on the screen.

  The Roasan growled, as close to a chuckle as their throats would allow without sounding like a hyena. “Those are Wobble Ball players. I think that team lost a few hours ago. There was something on the screen then about a team member trying to eat the Grousan acting as a ball and the Grousan putting that one in the hospital with the little bit of venom it managed to spurt past the gland plugs.”

  Dabney chuckled along with the Roasan. Ah, the idiocy of youth in organized sports.

  “So that’s why the Grousan are muttering at them so much. I’ve never heard of Wobble Ball, though.”

  “It’s time has come,” said the Roasan with a series of growled words and a few squeaks for punctuation as was customary in one of the three major Roasan languages, the one with which most Roasan used outside their world as it was both fairly simple and more formal than the other languages which had a tendency to develop slang and odd uses for old words every few years, so much so that the youth was normally speaking something completely different than their only slightly older contemporaries. It was as much for the benefit of aliens as it was for the Roasan population as a whole. The Roasan switched back to standard, handling its vowels with a sharp sputtering. “Now that other planets, including the Quiltain system, have caught the bug for it, you will soon be hearing of it more. It’s a strategy game with a live ball and the goal being to collect as many balls that try to avoid you as possible. It’s from the time when my people scavenged and hunted for numerous creatures that were about the size and shape of the Grousan.” The Roasan indicated the shape of a ball the size of a musk melon with its clawed hands.

  “For some reason that people has decided that they wish to play the balls as if it was a third side. They seem to hate the game, but yet, most of the balls are Grousan, with their venom glands plugged, of course that is a basic requirement for them when they encounter and interact with most species.” The Roasan tapped its short claws on the table. They’d recently been filed and were quite dull. “As it is with those of us who still have environmental protection from our species’ more feral times.”

  The Septapus gargled and the Roasan stiffened and turned to it. “You are growing impatient?”

  Dabney sighed. The tensions of earlier had returned stronger than ever. “Where’s the deck? Let’s get this game started.”

  He shuffled and dealt and they began a game of Breeleighly Poker. It was poker in that there were hands dealt and the cards were assigned different ranks but this kind of poker had six wild cards, six suits and fifteen cards to a suit. Other than that, it was exactly like poker, if poker had the option of one opponent allowing another to win by having all five wild cards and assigning values to them that would allow someone else at the table to win. This was further complicated by the fact that having five of the lowest card or five of the highest card reversed the value of everything.

  Dabney knew the rules, alright. He even understood them, mostly, but, as this was poker, he focused on his opponents instead of on the cards. He wanted to know the other players in every game and if he had to lose or win a few hands to do so, he did, though often he didn’t have too much choice in the matter. There were several species who operated so much faster than the human race and to play with them he just had to plunk cards down and hope. Still, he managed to read them pretty well, especially with the dumbest hands imaginable. He’d even once been called cute.

  The game began. The Septapus played first; sliding across a small plastic bead, as gambling for money within the port was prohibited. This was a marker for cash to be paid later. They’d purchased a necklace from a small barefoot Quint child on the way in and cut the string. Like nearly everything in the port, the necklace was brightly colored. Orange was one mark, neon blue was three and green was seven marks.

  The Roasan pushed forward one orange and three green beads. Dabney stared at him. That was a pretty decent raise. It was an aggressive move and it made him just a little uneasy. His turn was next and Dabney matched the Roasan. The Septapus gurgled in what might have been displeasure and did the same. The Roasan won the hand with two jokers played

  By the third win, the Septapus was making loud splat noises any time the Roasan moved. Dabney flinched. This would not do. Something had to change. He cleared his throat. “Um, comrades. How about we change the stakes a little?” The other two turned to him with glittering eyes. “No, nothing like that,” said Dabney with his hands up in front of him. “I was thinking we could stop playing for money and start playing for something more…near and dear to us, if you get my meaning?”

  He flicked the collar of his jacket and the Roasan looked down at its sashes in understanding. “You want us to play for adornments?”

  The Septapus stuttered and Dabney was reminded of why they were called Septapus’s. When the human race had first met the Septapus, the fashion had been to go completely naked. As the race had six arms and another…appendage located midway down
their bodies and neither species had been particularly good at first at figuring out the others’ language, the first secretary for the ambassador had written down what the human ambassador had decided to call them, just so that the record would be less convoluted. It had taken another seven years of using this name before the Septapus ambassador had realized what they were referring to and mentioned it politely. Unfortunately, the news had been broadcasting information about this species we were developing a relationship for the whole seven years under the name Septapus and so the name hadn’t gone anywhere in the thirty years since then.

  Since then, Septapus fashion had clamped down on nudity with full body suits and tutus but the species wide discomfort had finally dissolved almost completely and the
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