CHAPTER 1: MALLOY'S JUNK
By Steven Novak
As you open your eyes you notice the air is stuffier than you last remembered it. It smells worse too – like old socks and cheese – an old sock sandwich. Your head is throbbing and when you reach up to rub the sorest area you discover a lump the size of a golf ball hidden underneath your hair.
What the hell happened? You can’t recall.
Your memory is currently hazier than your eyesight – which is pretty god damn hazy. While attempting to pull your coiled limbs into something resembling a natural sitting position, you notice three haphazardly hung spacesuits dangling just above your head. Scattered in a heap across from you are matching boots, dome-shaped glass helmets, and slightly soiled undergarments.
It’s a storage locker – you’re in a storage locker.
What the hell are you doing in storage locker?
You try to recall the circumstances leading to your waking up locked in a closet next to some flyboy’s dirty laundry, and again you fail. The knot on your head is throbbing painfully on your skull and pressing it against the squishy gray matter underneath. Using the wall behind you as a brace, you eventually manage to hoist yourself into a standing position with a breathy grunt. That’s when you notice the nametag on the breast pocket of the enamel colored spacesuit directly across from you – Capt. Harper Malloy.
Not Malloy - anyone but Malloy.
What the hell are you doing in Malloy’s closet?
Again you try to remember anything – anything at all before waking up. It’s not working. There’s a memory there – a frustrating, annoying snippet of information that you just can’t seem to grab onto. If it were a person you’d punch it in the face.
Unfortunately it’s just a memory and memories have no faces to punch.
“So what’s the plan Captain?”
The voice comes from somewhere outside of your darkened locker. It’s male and it sounds vaguely familiar.
Deep, and gravelly, and beefy in a way that conjures up images of the slimy floor of some unclean slaughterhouse, the voice that responds is undeniable. It belongs to Malloy. “Well, we sure as shit didn’t come here to make any friends, did we Richardson? Those sons of bitches in Washington want us to make nice with our new gray-skinned friends? Nuts to that. I’ve got all the friends I need. Fuck the president's orders…I don’t trust those bastards as far as I can toss 'em.”
Richardson? Lt. Jack Richardson of the Mars IV project?
What are Richardson and Malloy doing together? What are they talking about?
The welt on your head throbs angrily. Wincing in pain you reach up and press back at it in frustration. This succeeds only in causing you further pain.
There’s another voice coming from outside. It’s a bit softer, a bit more feminine. A servo or a gyro, or something mechanical whirs up from behind the wall you’re leaning against and you can no longer make out what Richardson, Malloy and the yet unidentified person outside are babbling about. After carefully maneuvering past the spacesuits and over Malloy’s underpants, you press your ear against the cold steel door. The damn whirring is still too loud. The voices are muffled and confusing, running together, and not making an ounce of sense.
You need some answers.
The knot underneath your hair is pulsing in tune with your quickening heartbeat – testing not only your pain threshold, but your patience as well.
You need to know what’s going on.
Gently you wrap your hand around the door handle in front of you and press downward. The clicking of the lock is louder than you anticipated and you curse yourself silently while hoping the whirring from behind is loud enough to muffle it. Dropping to one knee in the pile of Malloy’s unmentionables you peek through the newly formed crack just in time to see a dark skinned woman you’ve never met and someone that looks vaguely like mission specialist Peter Tan disappear through a doorway on far end of the narrow room. Though Richardson is nowhere to be found, you spot Malloy standing with his back to you watching them leave. Once they’ve gone, he pushes a button on the wall next to the open door and it slides shut with a hiss.
The “room” is barely a room at all – more like a hallway really – long and narrow with a ceiling just under eight feet high. Built into either side are rows of compartments – some closed, some open, each stuffed to the brim with various tubes, boxes, levers, and other such mechanical things of which you know nothing about. Though you’ve worked at the National Outer Space Studies Administration (NOSSA) for years, you’ve spent all of those years as a low-level button masher. Numbers are your game –specifically accounting. You don’t know the difference between a Hydraulic Actuator and Self-Locking Stem-Bolt, and you have no idea what either of them does. In fact, you can’t help but think both of them look remarkably similar to something you might find adorning the walls at an adult sex shop.
“Fucking Martians…” Malloy grumbles to himself from beneath his massively bushy tuft of gray facial hair. “Alliance indeed…think again, you bastards.”
With an annoyed sigh you watch as Malloy snags the thin fabric of his slightly stained t-shirt, lifts it up and over his head, then tosses it onto a small cushioned sitting area to his right. His body is a mass of deflated old-man muscles. His skin is leathery and wrinkled – covered in coarse gray hair so thick it almost looks like he’s wearing a jacket.
The man is a bear – an enormous, sweaty disgusting bear sporting a human bodysuit three sizes too small.
Your brain whispers the word “gross,” but gross hardly does Malloy any justice.
A moment later things get even grosser as Malloy reaches down and drops his pants.
Naked and droopy in ways that are bound to haunt your dreams for years to come, Malloy and his gray-haired genitals are now lumbering in your direction. He’s looking for a fresh change of clothes and he’s heading for the storage locker – the storage locker in which you’re currently hiding. He’s less then ten feet away. Within a matter of seconds ten becomes eight, and then quickly drops to six. A few more steps and he’ll find you.
A few more steps and you’re as good as dead.
What will you do?
A. Bury yourself beneath Malloy's underpants, hold your breath and hope for the best?
B. Shove the door open with all your might and slam it into Malloy -- When he wobbles, kick him in the junk and run as fast as you can?
C. Try your best to explain the situation to Malloy while stripping naked yourself, hoping it will make him feel less intimidated?