The mothership landed amongst heavy enemy fire and took a beating. Its round hull pockmarked with shrapnel and deflected laser bombs, its thick windows were blasted out, hanging in shards from their frames.
The rocket inside the mothership was in decent enough shape, however. The Smarks re-fueled it from the mothership’s emergency supply and all crammed inside. Steve’s face was mushed up against the tiny portal window, his fur was plastered in Smark slime as he perched atop a tower of bobbling soggy Smarks. The heavily laden rocket burst up through the top bay door of the mothership and out into the dark Martian sky.
Safely docked on the other side of the planet, Soldier Smark re-affixed the bungee cord collar and leash to Steve’s neck and led him, rather, dragged him out the rocket’s sliding door into a long, well-lit hallway. The chrome-like walls, ceiling, and floors reflected every photon, and Steve squinted in the brightness. He coughed up a loogie and spat. The floor magically absorbed the mucus into itself.
“What the hell?” Steve asked up at Soldier Smark. Soldier appeared to shrug, his whole body bumped up and down once, tentacles bouncing from the movement. The pair slippy-slid (Steve) and bobbed down the hallway that never seemed to end. Steve looked around, they were the only creatures present, at least that he could recognize as a creature. If that floor was sentient it was getting a hell of an upskirt view.
Finally they reached an arched opening in the wall. Soldier Smark entered, and Steve lagged back, passively protesting. A tug on the leash and a threat of a tentacle tip convinced him to cross the threshold into a bar.
A cantina-style bar.
Modeled after the bar in Star Wars.
The Smarks did love them some Wikipedia.
There were only two types of beings in this bar, however, the Smarks being one, and aardvark being the other. There were no chairs, just tall tables ringed by Smarks of various sizes, and a long metal bar lined with Smarks in various conversations. Soldier Smark swayed up to the bar and wrapped a tentacle around a tall pitcher of dark brown liquid with thick beige foam on top.
The Smark tending bar reached out to Soldier and impressed a series of light taps to its headlump. Soldier appeared to nod, and blinked slowly with all four eyes. He returned a message via his own suction cupped-tentacles upon the bartender’s head.
WE’VE HAD A SHIT DAY. FINALLY GET THE CREATURE WIKIPEDIA SAID WE NEEDED, IT STINKS AND HAS AN ATTITUDE, THEN THAT IDIOT RODNEY LANDED US IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REBEL ENCAMPMENT. DOES HE NOT HAVE GOOGLE MAPS? FOR FUCK’S SAKE. ANOTHER PITCHER WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE, PLEASE.
Soldier Smark tipped the pitcher upside down into a hole underneath the drape of tentacles. Shaking out the last drop, he returned the pitcher to the bar and let out a teensy baby burp.
“Dude, you’re turning red,” Steve nudged Soldier. Soldier blinked one eye slowly at him as he reached for his second pitcher. He dumped that into his mouthhole as well, and tapped on the bar. Another pitcher appeared shortly. By the time Soldier had downed its third pitcher, it was bright red from top to tentacle tip. It burped another baby belch, and Steve smelled something familiar.
Something he’d smelled in a human village during big football games.
He stuck out his tongue and tested the air.
He squinted at the lever the bartender pulled over and over again.
Steve pulled on a tentacle. “Dude, can I get a bowl of water or something? Or are you too busy getting shitfaced to treat your prisoner with some compassion?” The Smark waved at the bartender, pressed a message on its headlump. The bartender returned with a bowl of water and a bowl of writhing, crawling creatures that only stayed in the bowl because its chrome-ish walls were too slippery to climb.
“Thanks, man!” Steve exclaimed and settled in to nosh. The insectoid creatures were sweet and salty, and very crunchy, a little scratchy going down Steve’s throat. He wasn’t going to complain, though. He licked both bowls clean and looked up.
Soldier Smark was a deep crimson by now, his tentacles swayed one way and his gelatinous body swayed the other. He looked down at Steve, his body heaved in an alien sigh, and gave a gentle tug on the leash. They wound their way through the crowd to an exit on the opposite side of the room they’d entered.
Another chrome hallway, more narrow and with a lower ceiling than the first. As they traveled, the walls seemed to close in, until they moved in single file across the cold gleaming floor. Steve stared at the now-burgundy tentacles ahead of him. Was the Smark getting shorter?
The walls continued to close in on the pair and then Steve realized the ceiling was also lowering. Finally, the hallway was no larger than the boundaries of Steve’s body, and then smaller still, until Steve was well and truly stuck. The leash kept pulling, and he kept resisting. One lone, large, shiny Smark eye blinked back at him.
Startled, Steve squeaked. He squeaked and squealed harder as he felt a tentacle slide between his forelegs, then his back legs. Another tentacle slid over his head and down his back, two more slid down each side of him, squeezing between his body and the cold solid walls. Steve crouched silently and shivered as he felt his fur turn cold and wet with Smark slime. He dry-heaved from the smell but fought the urge to hurl because the current stench plus puke stench would have equaled certain death.
The tentacles retracted and Steve felt himself once again dragged down the hall. He gave up resisting and allowed his body to slip and slide behind his impossibly stretched-out captor.
Then, they fell.
They fell and fell, nothing but the air wooshing against them. Steve couldn’t see Soldier Smark, but the slight tug of the leash now and again let him know they were still connected.
A light below them grew bigger. Orange and red like the sun, like the very planet they were visiting, its heat escalated until Steve thought his fur would ignite. He glanced over at the Smark and his eyes grew wide. The Smark had returned to its original purplish-pink shade and was now a spherical, glistening teardrop shape not far below him. One eye opened towards Steve, blinked, and closed again.
They landed on something that slowed their descent but did not stop it. The net finally stopped stretching just as the flames of the fireball licked up toward’s Steve’s tail. The net returned to its natural state, bringing the pair upward, level with a narrow catwalk that ringed the room. There was a guardrail on the platform, Steve noted, wondering how the mushy mass of the Smarks could possibly move across it without falling into the fiery pit below.
Soldier Smark uncoiled from its protective sphere and reached three tentacles towards Steve. Stunned, Steve just laid there and allowed the Smark to pick him up and cradle him like a human baby as the rest of its tentacles pulled them across the net and climbed up to the catwalk.
Soldier Smark looked at Steve, and Steve met its gaze. The Smark put Steve down on the catwalk (oddly cold cement?) but held onto Steve’s leash. Steve didn’t really mind; he figured the Smark didn’t want to end up in the fireball any more than he did.
Soldier Smark wrapped a tentacle around the guardrail and leaned its headlump over the side. Steve stuck his head over the side, between the cement and the lower bar of the rail.
They both hurled up their lunch. The fireball popped and sputtered as it absorbed their squick.
Soldier Smark leaned back against the wall and slid down it into a gelatinous puddle. Steve echoed the movement. They both closed their eyes. Steve felt a tentacle on top of his head, petting him. He nudged another tentacle with his snout and slide his head under it.
And then he farted.