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© by Jim Dove w/a Danlen James
All Rights Reserved
May not be used without the author's permission.
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AUTHOR'S NOTE:
     This is a little story I finally wrote, after thinking about it over 4 or 5 years.  Just never sat down and started it.
     So, I was sitting one day, had writers block for the main story I was writing, and decided it was time to try "Force". 
     I needed a change of "scenery" as it were.

     I warn you, you REALLY don't want to read this one.

     OK, but don't say you weren't warned!

Danlen


Force Of Habit
© by Jim Dove w/a Danlen James
All Rights Reserved

     Jake is my best friend. 
     That probably says a lot about me, but. . . . . . . 

     Tall, lanky, deep blue eyes, red hair that stood straight up most of the time, and always a smile on his face.  He definitely stood out in a crowd, especially among the Quarstuniums, who were only about 3 feet tall, on average, and a very light lavender color.  But really nice, as aliens go. 
     Me, I'm just your better-than-average galactic gambler.  Usually pretty good at it.  I'm 5'8", 210 lbs, and gray hair with a lot of head poking through.  And, I tend to like wearing bright colored jump suits, or Synthalon tops and bell bottoms.
     People usually underestimate my potential.
     Anyway, we beat around the Aquarius galaxy together for quite a few years.  We ended up settling down on Quarstun purely by accident. 
     OK, not quite by accident. 

     I'm not sure how we came to be friends, and really don't even remember how we met the first time.  Jake kinda grew on you.  He was just that kinda guy. 
     Actually, I do seem to remember us meeting at a Ploystot table on Sardonium 4. 

     Now Sardonia is known as the gambling empire of the 5th quadrant in the Blavistorian sector of space.  I had gone there to play 12 card Ploystot. 
     Strange card game, using a deck of 127 cards, it was nevertheless an interesting one.   Never did quite figure out what some of the symbols were on the cards though, but I just 'knew' what needed to be played. 
     'Course, the fact that the Blavistors were a bit slow in the mental department helped a lot.  Strange, though, they never got tired of losing! But then, they lived on a world rich in carbon based clear crystals.  You could pick them up just lying on the ground anywhere. 
     Let me rephrase that - THEY could pick them up just lying on the ground anywhere!
     But, YOU had best have paperwork indicating you came about them fair and square, or their equivalent of a customs agent was quick to lop off your nose!! 
     Mind you now, I actually only saw one or two individuals with no noses, but that was all it took to convince me to keep it honest.  After all, strangers ALWAYS won at the Ploystot tables!

     Sorry, I got sidetracked. 
     Jake was also playing Ploystot when I sat down across from him.  Usually I was pretty good at it, but Jake just beat the pants off me! I simply could not win playing against him. 
     Game after game, he would come up with the winning strategy at the very last minute of play.  I just couldn't win. 
     I ended up losing 35 kg of carbon based clear crystals - all I could afford to lose, and still have enough to take me to the next destination in this galaxy.  Wasn't sure yet where that would be, but I had to have enough to get there. 
     I finally gave up, since it was just the two of us left playing anyway (except for the 12 Blavistors still trying to win).  I knew when I was beaten. 

     Jake scooped up his 430 kg of carbon based clear crystals, and, being the friendly type, invited me to have a drink with him. 
     Me, being the thirsty, and hungry type, gladly accepted.  After all, if I had to buy food, and drink, I wouldn't have enough left to get me to the next destination - wherever that was going to be. 
     We sat down at a table next to the briffle bar.  Briffle was the Blavistors' equivalent of alcohol on any other world. 
     Jake ordered a purple Briffle, and a well done 453g wassosr steak.  Ordered me a purple Briffle too. 
     He got his steak, and proceeded to cut into it.  It started to slither across his plate. 
     He immediately called his waiter, who instantly rolled into a ball (did I mention that the Blavistors' had no legs) and rolled over to us.  Jake told it that the wassosr was still moving, but that he had ordered it WELL DONE, not medium rare!
     The waiter apologized profusely, took the plate, and, rolling itself into a ball while holding the plate out to the side, rolled itself into the kitchen - all without dropping anything!  (Did I mention that they had these amazing arms that could rotate because of their hyper articulated shoulder joints?)

     Now Jake, being the observant type, noticed that I had started to drool at the sight of the wassosr steak.  Also being the understanding type, he kinda figured I couldn't afford to part with any of the carbon based clear crystals I still had, and still have enough to get to wherever I was going next, wherever that might be. 
     Also being the generous type, he smiled, called the waiter, and ordered me a 453g wassosr steak - well done.  Again being the observant type, he just knew from the way I quickly moved my chair away from the table when his steak started to wander, that I wanted one well done too. 
     Jake was a really special guy!

     While waiting, we proceeded to consume about a dozen purple Briffles before our steaks arrived. 
     Oh, don't worry.  Briffle was just slightly stronger than plain water.  Seems the Blavistor beings couldn't handle anything stronger than that! But it did taste good. 
     Then we just started talking.  I asked him "How come you could beat me every hand, when I'm normally very good at ploystot? How can you play so well, er, ah, actually, I don't know your name. "
     So Jake introduced himself.  Said "My name's Jake.  I actually don't know how come I can play so well.  It just sorta happens.  Force of habit!"

     Well, that started our friendship.  He, being the accommodating type, asked me, "Hey, ya wanna beat around the galaxy with me for a while, in my souped up '21 Star Cruiser?"
     "You're only kidding, right Jake?" to which he replied, "Nope!  Gets kinda lonely travelin' by myself.  Wouldn't mind havin' somebody aboard ship with me."
     Wow, would I! I had only heard of those ships, and to actually know someone who really had one - WOW!  And I was invited along!
     Not wanting to let him see how excited I was, I simply replied, "Sure Jake!  Ought to be fun.  Count me in as crew!"  But I'm sure the big grin on my face, and the fact that I was kinda jumpin' up and down, probably gave me away!
     So began what, to date, is a 165 year old friendship!
     In '42, Jake decided to try his luck at the races.  So we ended up at the dirt oval on Watasbro.  It was there that the late model ground hugging monocars raced.  Those little transports were a blast to watch. 
     Literally!
     Balanced on one wheel, gyros spinning, they would race around the 10 qwar track at a dizzying speed of . 02 qwar/sec.  That speed was just fast enough to force (reasonably) clean air into their hyperquafs.
     Now you gotta understand - they needed (reasonably) clean air! The slightest amount of dust or dirt or debris entering the hyperquaf, and, well, you didn't want to be too close to the action - except Jake, he liked it up close! 
     Lets just say that there was usually only one monocar left at the end of the race.  And most races lasted only about one lap! And it was usually won by whoever got out front first! 
     The current champion had only won two races! There wasn't any second place driver!
     As usual, Jake picked five winners in five races.  Asked how he did it, his standard reply was, "Force of habit!"

     His whole life he spent doing things by habit.  It worked well for him!

     Jake had developed quite a reputation by this time, as the (known) universe's most successful gambler.  In 50 years of gambling, he had only lost twice! As a result, beings sought him out to bet against. 
     He became the bet! Bookies would only accept bets that Jake would lose - never that he would win!
     The odds were staggering - 125 billion to 1! But still, there were those willing to risk all they owned on the off chance they would be THE ONE who beat Jake! In fact, whole planets went together to bet he would lose.
     Jake always took those bets.  He could afford to loose - but never did. 
     In '58, we ended up at the planet Zzzkq, in the Frzzqrm star system.  We did a little of everything there - cards, cars, and finally, Zwkqrls. 
     Zwkqrls were their world's equivalent of dogs - except they had five legs! We never quite figured out how they managed to run like they did, but they were FAST!
     So, Jake, being Jake, just had to place a bet.  He looked at the list, and picked one.
     Well, you can guess - he won as usual.  Even though he picked a long shot, 49,000 to 1, he still won!

     The Zzzkq's, who up to that point had never heard of Jake, just had to ask him how he picked the winner. 
     His standard reply, "Force of habit. "
     Well, they just had to see him do his thing, so he was invited to partake of all their games of chance. 
     Cards - he won every hand. 
     Zzzsptz - a 13 sided, something, with numbers on each face.  Using 4 at a time, the goal was to beat your opponents point total.  Jake won every time. 
     Cars - Jake won.  Every time. 
     Bird races - Jake won.  Every time. 
     The Zzzkq's were finally convinced.  Jake could not be beaten!
     Asked once more how he won, his answer was always the same - "Force of habit!"

     Along the way these many years, we've both acquired wives (at least they're humanoid in appearance).  And we're quite happy with them.  The fact that they're mute helps! But, really, we are in love and happy. 

     In '61, we were approached by a being from Quarstun.  It seems that the whole planet had come together and pooled their resources to bet against Jake.  In effect, they were betting their planet that they could win against him. 
     They asked Jake to tell them what he was going to bet on. 
     Now Quarstun had a lot of things to wager on - cars, boats, air vehicles, butterflies (big as Earth pigeons), and various assorted animals, including horses (or their equivalent of them). 
     Jake had bet on most of these things in the past, but had never bet on a horse.  So, he told them he would try that. 
     It turns out that their "horse" race included animals from about 20 different star systems, come to Quarstun for the centennial "Race for the Dough". 
     What we didn't realize was that Quarstun produced a plant, the Zzrqsm plant, that, when made into flour, produced a dough like none other in the (known) universe.  And the plant had never been successfully grown on any other planet.  So Quarstun was the only planet in the (known) universe that had it.  Made it quite expensive for those who just had to have some!
     It could be made into anything: edible, or non-edible.  It took on the characteristics of anything it was mixed with, and the taste of anything it was cooked with. 
     If you wanted, say, something that tasted like Earth chicken, you only had to add about a one cm cube of chicken to a five liter container, and, when cooked,  the whole thing would come out tasting like chicken!
     If you wanted something the consistence of cement, you only had to add a pinch of cement to a bag of flour, and you had some of the hardest cement known!

     Now there were, over the years, a few unfortunate incidents.
     There were those who wanted, in spite of the black label warnings on all containers of Zzrqsm flour, to taste the raw flour.  The label stated very clearly, in Quarstunium (that might have been part of the problem) that it was only to be consumed after cooking!
     Well, that was OK, unless you happened to have something strange in your mouth, or stomach, that the raw flour would touch.
     For example, there was one being that sucked the flour in through his teeth....  Not real smart!  Turned into a pair of dentures and ended up eating himself! 
     Then there was the being that had a fangpick (equivalent to an Earth toothpick) in his mouth when he sampled the flour....  Not real smart.  Turned into a tree standing there!
     There were many other incidents, but, you get the idea.
     Most remarkable stuff!

     So it was, that once every Quarstun century (35 Earth years) the Quarstun's would offer a prize of 10 kg of flour to the winning animal's owner. 
     That's why there were so many animals from so many different places here to race for the prize. 

     Jake looked over the list of animals, and their descriptions, and, for the first time, looked puzzled.  I had never seen him sweat! But he was. 
     He read, and re-read the list, and descriptions, then looked at the planets they were from.  Once again the same thing.  He was dripping sweat. 
     Then, he smiled! 
     He picked what he perceived would be the winner. 
     The race was started, and 35 animals ran (it was hard to describe some as "running", but at least they were fast) for the dough!
     One lap later, there was a winner! The horse named "Phogqwr" had won handily by five lengths!
     Who had Jake picked? Why Phogqwr, of course!
     The Quarstuniums couldn't believe it! But, a bet was a bet. 
     Their supreme ruler, Quarste the thirty-fifth, finally handed over the deed to the planet of Quarstun. 
     That's how we finally came to settle here. 
     And Jake, being his usual magnanimous self, ordered the planet to continue as they always had, and told them he would only require . 02 percent of their annual net planetary income, which, by their calculations, wasn't much.  You see, they had their version of the creative accountant!
     Jake should have told them gross planetary income. 
     Even so, we could live very nicely on what they paid! After all, Jake was the best gambler in the (known) universe!

     Oh yes, when asked.................
 

AUTHOR'S NOTE:
     One final warning!  You really, REALLY, don't want to read farther.
     You have been warned! 

Hit "Next" at your own risk!

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