Author: Rick Tobin

All lounge tables were separated far from the hideous Braxel’s corner booth. A cleared semi-circle void reeked of rampant terror regarding the infamous diner now surrounded by nervous alien species, some tentacled, slurping preferred living or semi-living fare while keeping watch on the notorious pirate. No being dared complain that this amphibious fiend shared their crowded eatery…or hideout space station. Station Zentoboro was a haven for low-life scoundrel litter that scummed the quadrant. Braxel, the Toad Demon, was peerless among this denizen driftwood. Braxel tilted his slimy shoulders forward, slathering black ramle ale across a squat platter provided by robotic waiters. Braxel’s hunger resisted metallic reflections flittering across his giant yellow eyes as nictitating membranes flopped up and down, sloshing protective fluids.

Crowd noises interrupted his thirst as remaining clients groaned, hissed, cursed, and sputtered at a nine-foot-tall reptoid pushing through tightly layered patrons. One customer spat at slithering Yant. A slash from Yant’s sharp tail removed its limbs. Others then skittered, opening a wide berth for the Velociraptor mercenary as he strode toward Braxel.

“Bright skies, friend of Braxel,” the pirate welcomed. His massive swollen arms with webbed fingers stretched, offering Yant a place to rest nearby in his semi-circular stall.

“I’ll stand by habit. Bright skies to you. How propitious finding you on this station. We haven’t reconnected after escaping U11.” Yant pulled a glass vial from his metal vest, draining a red liquid while Braxel continued slobbering away at his drink. Braxel didn’t interrupt Yant’s small talk. “Great blood. I need that to wash away memories from prison planet uranium ore…yellow dust…and old inmates rotting from the inside out. What luck we met, escaping together. I see your reputation precedes you.” Yant turned, analyzing throngs backing further away from two despised creatures. “They’re panicking. We represent patrons that eat them whole or in pieces. They cower.”

“None with memories that amphibious Trinians once were exalted,” Braxel interrupted. “We were cosmic peacemakers, endlessly mediating wars, saving millions of worlds, and beloved through the stars, except by greedy warlords.”

“What changed?” Yant twisted about on his haunches with his elongated talons forward, resting upright on his red, broad scaly tail.

“Mmm,” Braxel grunted, slurping his ale. “An undetected supernova no one predicted. Trinian’s worlds were instantly vaporized—survivors massacred, enslaved, or worse by our enemies seeking retribution. Some were eaten, some placed in zoos…and worst, some, while still alive, were sealed in resin. I’ve consumed most of those responsible until recently. Now, these growths quench my vengeful hunger.”

Yant stared as creeping black carbuncles near Braxel’s maw split in two. The original halves entered Braxel’s jaws to be munched and swallowed. Yant winced.

“You are shocked, my old reptile companion? I acquired these delightful parasites on unexplored asteroids. They’re harmless. They divide, sacrificing half of themselves for me, after reproducing following strong emotions from others nearby…especially horror. Your walkthrough created a wonderful dessert.”

“Incredible,” Yant shuddered. “I recently heard a clerihew about you. You’re legendary.”

He always eats more than his share,
And who he eats, he doesn’t care.
He draws black flies, and lives in bogs—
That toady demon’s just a frog.

“Don’t ever repeat that near me. Frogs be damned along with those accursed humanoid poets! They always struggled when eaten, as if it mattered. Only our history, Yant, and my new biology keep you from joining skeleton cairns in my stomachs after quoting that filthy litany. Instead, let us celebrate our freedom. Go stir up those quivering idiots. Take another coward’s leg. I’m still hungry. Bring on the fear, it’s feeding time!”