Bodkins the Great
by Bill Bowler
|part 4 of 6|
An ambitious spaceship’s porter finds himself marooned on an alien planet where his every wish, nay, his every thought is fulfilled by the obliging inhabitants. Life is just splendid — until company comes...
Bodkins saw two humans coming across the square towards the palace. He descended the spiral stairway and came out to the verandah where his Bodmoids stood guard.
Smithers saluted. Dora took Bodkins’ extended hand in her own, “Hello, Baldemar.”
“Construction is progressing well, Lieutenant?”
“Very well,” said Smithers. “We’ll be quite comfortable under the circumstances. But I’ve come to tell you your cabin is ready. You can transfer your belongings any time now. The ship departs for Earth in 72 hours Terran time. You need only pack the essentials. But you must be very excited at the prospect of returning home after so many years.”
Twelve more Bodmoid guards now stood in the antechamber adjacent to the verandah. All had assumed an aggressive posture.
“You say, my cabin?” asked Bodkins. “On board the ship?”
“Yes, of course,” said Smithers. “You’ll be off this forsaken desert and on your way home in no time. We’re about to transmit a full status report to Ground Control as soon as I return to base. A small party of engineers will stay behind here to prepare the site for the arrival of the colonists.
“I’m not going,” said Baldemar.
“You heard me. I’m staying here on Bodkinia. And you’re not going anywhere, either.”
The largest of the Bodmoid palace guards wrapped its tentacles around Smithers, holding him fast.
“Let go of me, you boiled shrimp! Bodkins! Tell it to let go!”
Bodkins knit his brow. The guard dragged the struggling Smithers into the palace and down the steps towards the cellar.
“Bodkins?? Bodkins!!” Smithers’ cries faded as the guard pulled him down the steps.
Bodkins sat down and looked at Dora. Her eyes were downcast and she had not said a word throughout the entire scene with Smithers. Bodkins shook his head and took a deep breath.
“Baldemar?” Dora looked up, moved towards him, knelt at his side and put her hand on his. “What will happen to Stanley?”
“We’ll let him cool off for a while.”
“He means well, Baldemar.”
“Smithers is an idiot.”
“He’s no match for you, Baldemar. But the others...”
Baldemar nodded towards the square and Dora saw that a large troop of Bodmoid guards was heading in the direction of the pre-fab base.
Bodkins heard Dora’s velvet voice and felt her breath as she leaned closer.
“Baldemar, I don’t want to go back, either. I want to stay here with you.” Her voice trailed off.
Bodkins felt a thrill of excitement surge though his body. He looked at the lithe young woman kneeling at his side, “Of course, darling.”
He took her in his arms and they kissed long and passionately. Two Bodmoid palace guards stood passively by, awaiting orders.
By darkness, the fifty men and women of the rescue party had been rounded up and locked in small rooms in the palace cellar. Their communications equipment had been smashed and the signals to Earth cut off. From the observation deck of the palace tower, Bodkins the Great and Lady Dora watched a team of Bodmoids dig out sand from under the spaceship tail fins. The bodmoids rocked the ship back and forth until the graceful tapered cylinder tipped over and crashed to the sand, breaking in two...
* * *
Baldemar descended the dusty steps to the underground cellar, accompanied by three large Bodmoid guards. He walked the length of the narrow, dimly lit tunnel, past empty rooms, until he arrived at the last cell at the end of the tunnel. Baldemar unlatched the door and his eyes searched the room until they rested on a pile of rags sprawled on the stone floor in a dark corner.
“Smithers. Smithers! Wake up!”
The pile of rags moved.
“What? Oh, it’s you.”
“Smithers, I want to talk to you.”
Smithers rose slowly and walked to the open door.
“Smithers, you’re the last one, the last hold-out. Haven’t you noticed? There’s nobody else left down here but you. The others are all free. And they’re doing quite well. They work for me now. They’re cloning cows and pigs. There’s a hydroponic hothouse going with fruit and vegetables. They’re mining the hills. They’re staffing new research and development labs. They’re starting to pair off, get married, have children. Life goes on, Smithers. You’ve got to adjust. Just say the word and I’ll let you out of here.”
“You mean, serve you?”
“No, no, no. I mean join my government. I’ll make you Prime Minister. Come on, Smithers. You can rot down here or you can come up to the surface a free man and start to make a difference.”
“I take a loyalty oath and you let me out?”
“It’s as simple as that. But remember, you can’t lie to me. You can’t trick me or betray me. My Bodmoids would report your first thought of treachery and I would have to take appropriate measures. But there will be no need for that. You will be a great man among us, second only to me, Smithers. Bodkinville, all of Bodkinia will be at your feet.”
“The others have all joined you?”
“Of course. They couldn’t wait. They’re not as stubborn as you are. Life is good here, Smithers. Children are being born, natural born citizens of Bodkinia, the second generation. It’s all marvelous and wonderful, and you’re missing out on it. For what? You’re just being stubborn, Smithers. Get over it.”
Smithers looked down at the floor. After a moment’s silence, he looked up, straight into Bodkins’ eyes,
“OK. I’ll do it.” He extended his hand to Baldemar and they shook on it, “You’ve got a deal.”
They turned and climbed slowly back up the steps. Baldemar’s arm was around Smithers’ shoulders and they were talking animatedly.
* * *
In the newly built, spacious, rose quartz wing built solely for her use, Queen Dora lay on a deep bed of silken strands, eating cookies. She stirred six spoonfuls of synthosweet into her goblet and drank greedily. Five Boidmoid palace guards stood nearby holding trays of pastries and jugs of pod juice to refill her goblet. On a table, cakes and pies from the human quarter bakery were spread. The scientists were so clever, she thought, to have reverse engineered chocolate. They’ve got to do ice cream next, she thought. It can’t be that hard.
As she gazed at the table, one of the Bodmoids approached and held out a plate with a large slice of chocolate cake. Thank God Baldy programmed a couple of these guards for my needs, she thought. He tries to keep them all for himself but I need help, too. I can’t do it all myself. At least these four will do what I tell them!
She took the plate and dug into the slice of cake with a two pronged fork.
Baldemar entered the room. Ten years had changed them all. Gone was the spring in his step; the sparkle in his eye had faded; he was stooped and beginning to go gray at the temples.
“Dora? Sweetie Pie?”
“What do you want?”
“Dora, honey, it’s late afternoon and you’re still in bed.”
“The Smithers are coming for dinner. We’ve got to get ready.”
“The servants will take care of it.”
“Dorrie, sweetums, you know you’re not supposed to eat pastry.”
“But I like pastry. I like cake and I want cake and I’m going to eat it whether you like it or not.” She swallowed a big forkful.
“But Sweetie, we’ve been over this before. Remember? You were going to try and lose a little...”
“Get out!” Dora burst into tears. “Get out, you evil little man!” and she buried her head in the pillows, sobbing.
Bodkins was nonplussed.
“I’m sorry, Dora. Please. You’re right. You stay here and rest. I’ll come back later when the guests have arrived. You relax.” And Baldemar backed out the door.
* * *
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Bowler