Treasure Island as a planetary voyage in search of pirate gold:
Meeting Flash Tik Argent:
But there was another reason for Jarret’s loitering. From the commissioner’s first mention, Jarret had in the back of his head the question of whether Tik Argent might be the one-legged space-sailor the captain had been so fearful of. He stood outside the gray granite-block building still worried. Then he steeled his nerve and stepped through the open door.
Another open door was on the far side of the room but neither let in much light through the fog. The room was made bright by lamps spaced along the walls. The lamps meant Tik Argent had the means for a personal generator. Panels of decorative wood covered the granite walls, another sign of means. Noisy grip-soaked space-sailors filled the room. Most had hair braided into ropetails. Nearly as many had gold-ring earrings. Grim tattoos covered forearms and necks. A few had red bandanas tied over their heads. Fewer had the wrinkled skin and yellow eyes of too much time spent in the hibernation baths of deep-space flight. A bar along one wall was crowded with men sitting and standing, jostling with others reaching in to get their drinks. The seats around the tables were full. Men stood and knelt to be in on what was going on at each of them. The buzz was loud, with an occasional voice rising above the din to make a point.
A man came out of a side room and Jarret knew he was Flash Tik Argent. He was a large man, broad and durable, and he walked with a slight limp. His face was the size of a melon, spongey but split open by a wide jovial grin. He looked nothing like the pirates Jarret had confronted so far so he relaxed. He went to the man and stood before him. “Mr. Argent?” he asked.
“Aye, lad,” the man said, “so I’m often called to be sure. And who might you be?”
“Jarret Owlin, sir. Commissioner Coxsun sent me to you with this note,” Jarret said holding out the note the commissioner had given him.
“Commissioner Coxsun, hey,” Flash Tik said surprisingly loudly. He took the note with his large left hand then held out his large right hand to shake Jarret’s. Jarret raised his and Flash Tik swallowed it in his own with an energetic grip. Just then Jarret saw a man get up and head for the opposite door and Jarret recognized Mad Dog.
“Stop that man,” Jarret yelled. “It’s Mad Dog, one of the pirates!”
‘Whoever he is, he’s a pirate to me, leavin’ like that without payin’ his fare,” Flash Tik said. “Brith,” he yelled, “after ‘im!”
One of the men near the door got up and ran out to pursue. Two others followed.
“Who’d ya say he was?” Flash Tik asked. “What Dog?”
“Mad Dog, one of the pirates who came to the Commodore. Did the commissioner not tell you of them?”
“A pirate, by Jeeker, drinkin’ my grip in my inn and then skippin’ on the fare. Gestern,” Flash Tik called out, “Come over here.” The man Mad Dog had been sitting with got up slowly and came to them. “Now Gestern, don’t tell me you ever seen that man in here before.” Flash Tik said, still shaking his head.
“No sir, never,” Gestern said nearly saluting.
“Nor knew his name, nor knew he was a pirate?”
“No, sir,” Gestern said again.
“And so, Gestern, it’s good for you all that be true if ya want to keep drinkin’ under my roof. So what was you two sayin’?”
“Not much, sir.”
“Not much? You got a head, and you got ears on it. What was you two talkin’ about?”
“He seen a sailor get spaced – an accident, mind you. That was the first time he seen a red bloom. He was talkin’. I weren’t listenin’ all that hard.”
“Spacin’ huh? And that’s what I’ll do to that lout if ‘e ever shows up here agin, you can fold on that. Thank ye, Gestern. Go back and enjoy.”
Gestern went back to his seat. Flash Tik said quietly to Jarret, “An honest man, that Gestern, but he ain’t the brightest candlestick around.”
While he was talking a babazee came out of the back room and skipped to Flash Tik. He used his longer back legs more than his shorter front ones so he was walking nearly upright. He was covered with green fur, had large ears, a bulbous snout, and a long curling tail. On his way past one table he snatched a meatroll off a patron’s plate, then leaped onto a table by Flash Tik and from there to his shoulder.
Flash Tik laughed. “This here’s Captain Boulder,” he said to Jarret. “I give him that name because he’s a pirate when it comes ta stealin’ food off o’ people’s plates.” Flash Tik looked at the babazee with affection as the animal sat on his shoulder eating the stolen meatroll.
Then he snapped his fingers, “Mad Dog, huh, you know I have seen ‘im before. He used to come in leadin’ a ratty old blind man.”
“That would have been Flip,” Jarret said. “He was killed when he stepped in front of a constable’s hopper and got knocked down the hill.”
“Aye,” Flash Tik said, suddenly excited, “Flip were his name. A nasty pair to be sure. And now the swine owes me his fare. But then Brith’s a fast runner. If we can bring in that Mad Dog, that’d be news for the admiral now wouldn’t it, as well as get me my dabbles.”
Captain Boulder got caught up in Flask Tik’s excitement. He dropped what was left of the meatroll and leaped to the floor. He jumped up and down belching and shouting “Filthy lucre. Filthy lucre.” in a voice that sounded like a frog’s.
But then Blith and the other men came back and confessed that they’d lost Mad Dog in the crowds. “So now, young Jarret,” Flash Tik said, “what’s the admiral to think? I let this mongrel be sittin’ and drinkin’ in my own house. And you comes plain and tells me who he is, and here I let him give us the fold. If I had my legs I’d ‘a’ run ‘im down, but then there we are. So now, lad, I need you to do me justice with the admiral. You’re young, but I can see you’re smart as shine. I could see that when I first laid eyes on you – rattle me ribs, my fare! I forgot the thief stole my fare! The joke’s on me,” he said, “the joke’s on me.” With that Flash Tik started laughing. He laughed so hard he had to sit. Tears streamed down his cheeks. Before long Jarret couldn’t help himself. The room shook with their laughter. Others joined in without knowing the joke.
But then Flash Tik sat up and spoke, trying to stifle his laughter, “Come, lad, this ain’t right. It ain’t a laugh.” He wiped his eyes, barely able to hold more laughter back. “We gotta go tell the admiral and it don’t make neither of us look all so good that the pirate got away. Still, we surely will tell the whole truth of it.”
And so Flash Tik and Jarret set off for the Portside Inn to tell the admiral all.
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