December 18, 2017

Free Fiction Friday: Helium Party Part 1

On sale now…

This week, we thought we’d start in with some lighter helium-laced fare with our tale of space hi-jinks, Helium Party. Hey, it’s got  rogue gangs of space clowns, what’s not to love? Plus, we may very will be revisiting the universe of the Citizens of Silliness again, the story was that much fun to write. Remember, you can read Helium Party and other original tales of science fiction by yours truly in their entirety as well.

Helium Party

By

David Dickinson

Chapter 1

 

I knew, as Jupiter filled up our view and scuds of methane clouds whizzed by, that this was a bad idea.

“Just have those scoops ready to deploy when I tell ya’ to, Kid…” Crunchy called out from the pilot’s seat. How the three of us had fit into the tiny cabin of the Laughing Stock I have no idea. I’d done exposés on technology cults in the Oort Cloud and had taken audiences on a hard-nosed look at crime bosses of the Flying Venusian underworld, but never did I fear for my life quite like I did just now.

Hi, I’m Allie Allegra, fearless girl reporter for The Terran Solar News Miner. You might know my all too often buried byline from such stories as “The Great Hydrazine Cover-up of Enceladus Prime,” or “The True Cost of a Good Martian Education,” but when I agreed with my editor to take a look at the activities of the Cosmic Clowning Guild, well, let’s just say I found out that it was no laughing matter.

“This should be a cinch for you, A.A.,” My editor said, as he once again successfully sold me the prospect of several more months off-world. “Clowns, huh? Are they really that big a deal?”

“These guys command huge salaries for their appearances…” He continued, scrolling through their cyber-rap sheet like we had the scoop on the latest Inter-world hit. “They practically call the shots out in the outer gas giant systems…”

I told him it would be no problem, like always. Never turning down a story, no matter how bizarre, had earned me the reputation I had in the cut-throat world of solar system journalism. I wasn’t about to start now.

Those gut instincts changed once I met the Citizens of Silliness and their crew just outside of Tycho University. The Citizens had set their headquarters just outside the grounds of the Tycho Clown College, ostensibly to pick up new hires. Lanky, decked to the nines in face paint and baggy pants, met me at the airlock.  He wouldn’t look out of place at either a kid’s birthday party or a cyber-circus back planet-side.

“Howdy, Ma’am,” he said as he pulled out a bouquet of flowers from his wrist in the low lunar gravity. Clowns weren’t supposed to flirt, I learned later, but that part of the lengthy and often Byzantine Code of Clowning never stopped Lanky.

“Charmed, to say the least,” I replied, as I took the flowers and checked to make sure that a gag hand buzzer wasn’t attached. I was to learn later that the Citizens of Silliness did indeed have such outlawed devices, but it was no laughing matter to be on the receiving end of one.

My first few days at the clubhouse on the edge of Tycho University were an eye-opening experience. Oh sure, the Citizens were courteous enough, especially around a “lady reporter type,” and I got used to their tired one-liners, but their training regimen lay somewhere between hilarity and militant fanaticism.

Ever thought there was a science and technique behind getting hit with a pie? How about low-g shenanigans? These clowns practiced it all, day and night, along with a studious eye towards the Code. Crunchy would tirelessly drill them on the Code, as he rousted them from the barracks for yet another unannounced balloon-sculpturing drill. “Do you think the Killing Jokers care that you’re tired?” He would yell at them as they went through the motions, often shaping animals while one-handed or blindfolded.

Although they treated little else with reverence, the Citizens took Clowning very seriously— they seemed to always be “in character” no matter where I caught them. I probed through Tinker’s lab, followed Isotope and Asteroid Head through their rounds as they visited the zero-g infirmaries in geosync orbit and the nursing homes of the lunar farside. All seemed well, even when Crunchy threw his usual fits after conversations with the Clowning Guild, claiming “Those jokers are a disgrace to their floppy shoes,” as they levied yet another unreasonable tariff on his outfit.

“The Guild runs more of the commerce in the inner systems than you realize,” Crunchy told me one day in an interview, his oversize red shoes propped up in the low lunar gravity.

“Scarcely a ship enters or breaks orbit without their say so.” He said.

I soon came to realize the extent with which the Clowning Guild was involved with some very serious and often illicit activity. From laser-cutters to long distance quantum encrypted comms, they had the tech to get the job done for people that secretly needed it to be done. Want a clown gala for your kid’s birthday party on the protected polar caps of Mars? The Guild could make that happen. Want to fill the entire shipping yard at Copernicus crater with silly string and shut them down for a month to send a message? The Guild could send some goons to make that happen, too. In fact, I came to find out that the prime reasons the Terran Government tolerated the Clowning Guild were not only because of the number of clowns (yes, literally!) that had penetrated the upper echelons of Earth’s political system, but also the fear of the alternative; a solar system filled with wild, rogue clowns. A feral clown plague would spell disaster for civilization. The Guild kept things in line, although as I was soon to find out, even the Citizens of Silliness had to operate just a touch outside the rules on occasion.

One area of the clubhouse that had thus far eluded me ran deep down under Tinker’s Lab. Tinker the Clown was always coming up with strange and wonderful new gizmos to keep the Citizens on the leading edge of hilarity. Whether it was voice lowering stunts using sulfur hexafluoride or the latest in micro-bot tech, Tinker had the solution.  Tinker was often fond of making devices that would shame Rube Goldberg with their complexity, and he didn’t appreciate it when people barged into his office unannounced. I had broached the question of the Citizens and their convoluted supply chain before, only to be systematically stonewalled.

“We just get stuff where we can…” Crunchy would tell me. “Who’s askin’?”

To be continued…

Read Helium Party in its entirety and other original tales of sci-fi by Dave Dickinson.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] mis-adventure. Welcome to chapter 2 of our Free Fiction Friday offering of Helium Party. Be sure to start back on chapter 1, or you can simply read the tale and others like it in their [...]

  2. [...] installment of rogue Space Clowns, doing what rogue Space Clowns do. Be sure to start back on chapter 1 if you’re new to the story, or read Helium Party and other original tales of science fiction [...]

  3. [...] installment chronicling the further adventures of the Sons of Silliness. Be sure to start back on chapter 1, and read Helium Party and other works of original fiction by yours [...]

  4. [...] healthy serving of free science fiction for you, the discerning public. Be sure to start back on chapter 1, and you can read Helium Party and other tales of original sci-fi by yours [...]

  5. [...] to our on-going tale Helium Party. And as always, you know the drill: be sure to start back with Chapter 1, or you can just read Helium Party and other great tales of Sci-fi in their [...]

  6. [...] Helium Party starting with chapter [...]

Speak Your Mind

*