Captain Quirk and the Penguin of Greatness
By M.P. Solo
Based on The Captain Quirk Logs by M.P. Solo
Enjoy, but don't copy
Never had the Blokonian Council Hall echoed with the sound of crying men as it did one sweltering summer afternoon in July. The councilmen – old by tradition, senile by profession – foamed at the mouths as they surveyed the damage of the latest catastrophe to befall their world. The people of Blokonia rarely dealt with disease, poverty, war or anything else like that, but this afternoon…they still didn't. It was more a matter of the reason why…or rather, the sudden lack of the reason's source.
"The Penguin of Greatness has graced our hall for ages," one councilman proclaimed, his voice wavering with fear. "Our people only knew doom before it, and now we face it again!"
Cries of despair went up all throughout the room. The council's presiding official, a gray-bearded sage in robes of blue and violet, stood behind a podium at the center of the room, watching the councilmen react to their crisis.
"My friends," he said, his voice resounding against the gel-fortified walls of the massive chamber. "This matter is resolvable–"
"There's no choice other than for it to be so, Mr. Mayor!" cried another councilman. "We cannot survive without the Penguin! We have always depended on its presence!"
"Agreed!" exclaimed a third, gesturing wildly to his fellow councilmen. "Already we face crisis! Our own council hall has turned into a sweltering inferno!"
The Mayor's brow furrowed. "That's because the air conditioning broke last week."
"Yes, but still…"
"Gentlemen, please." The Mayor waved his staff in the air, demanding the attention of his men. "I understand the reason for panic, but let's not do so. The matter is being taken care of."
"But how?" the councilmen cried, eyes wild with fear and confusion. "We have no army. We have no means to fight enemies from space. Who can help us?"
"A space captain." The Mayor smiled and pointed to the door. "Gentlemen, I present to you our savior."
Before any member of the council could respond, the chamber's wooden doors flew open, slamming against the interior walls with a tenacious splat. The councilmen turned to the entrance where a lone silhouette stood, striking a triumphant pose against the blinding summer sun. Stunned silence hung in the air like mildew in a poorly-ventilated cabin, and the silhouette soon gave way to the human figure providing it. The man adjusted the collar of his blue jumpsuit, inhaled, and regarded the councilmen with an embellished smile.
"Captain Quirk of the P.B.S. Dinero!" The man grinned as he straightened his short blonde locks. "Reporting in style, on the ball, and where the money's at!"
"Welcome to the planet Blokonia, Captain," the Mayor replied, stepping out from behind his podium. "I am the Mayor of Ryterz, our capital city."
"Pleasure to be here." Quirk cocked his head in curiosity. "Ryterz, you say?"
The Mayor nodded. "Yes. Ryterz."
"Of the planet Blokonia."
The captain smirked. "Ryterz, Blokonia."
"Is there a point to this line of questioning, Captain?"
Quirk regarded the Mayor with one last chortle before putting on his business face. "Nothing at all, sir," he replied. "Thank you for having me in your wonderful city."
"Thank you, Captain." The Mayor shook hands with Quirk before returning to his podium. "I understand how important your time is to you, and rest assured, we will do everything in our power to accommodate you."
Quirk gave the Mayor a grateful smile. "That's very thoughtful of you," the captain replied, placing a hand over his heart. He withdrew it an instant later, pulling a notebook from his pocket. "Let's see here…I'll need 500,000 universal credits, 125,000 local credits, free service in all local bars and steakhouses, a hot girl, a case of spaceship polish – industrial strength, lemon-scented – three-weeks paid vacation at the tropical resort of my choice, and a turtle named Artemis J. Livingstone. The Third."
The Mayor blinked. "That's a rather…steep request, Captain," he answered finally, hesitating as he tried to absorb the Quirk's order. "However, the passing of material wealth shouldn't be given a second thought when considering what we have to gain from this transaction. I'll approve."
"Excellent!" Quirk licked his thumb and turned to the next page. "Now, for my fee–"
"I thought we just agreed to your fee," the Mayor countered, cutting Quirk off. The captain smiled in response.
"Those were just things I wanted in general." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a calculator. "Now, my starting rates go for about–"
"How about I tell you the objectives of your mission first?" the Mayor interjected. "We can discuss financial arrangements later."
"Sure." Quirk put his notebook away. "Now, I understand you lost something very important to your people…something very dear to your way of life."
"Indeed we have," the Mayor concurred. Quirk sighed and placed a hand on the older man's shoulder.
"I have women problems, too," he replied, staring up at the sky. "They're never around when you need em, and yet when payday comes, it's like you've become some kind of magnet."
A puzzled look crossed the Mayor's face. "Er…"
"Now, there's this place called Kitsinivosh…one trip and you'll solve all your problems. When I get bored with the wife-"
"That…wasn't what I meant, Captain." The Mayor backed up, allowing himself to gesture to the councilmen. "I'll uh, let the Council brief you."
"Oh, alright." Quirk pulled his arm away and looked towards the men lining the chamber's perimeter. One of them rose to address him.
"The Penguin of Greatness is our most treasured asset," the councilman explained, his voice trembling. "It has provided our world with countless millennia of prosperity and prestige, allowing us to go beyond our limits and seek new challenges."
"Without the Penguin of Greatness, we cannot begin to perceive the fate that awaits us," added another councilman. "I can wager a guess, however, that it will most certainly be doom."
"Wait wait wait." Quirk paused as he placed a hand on the Mayor's podium. "A penguin?"
"Yes, Captain," the Mayor replied, motioning to the pedestal beside him. "The Penguin of Greatness. It once stood right here, offering its good fortune to our people's leaders."
Quirk stared blankly at the empty stone base. "A penguin stood on that thing?"
"Of course!" cried one of the councilmen. "What better place to display the very source of our prosperity?"
Quirk stared at the Mayor a moment, the latter's face stone-serious in defense of the Council's claims. A wry grin crossed his face, and he turned to the sky.
"I can't get a cut of a penguin." He allowed himself a moment before giving the Mayor his attention again. "So, where do you think it went? South?"
"The people of Blokonia have many envious neighbors," the Mayor replied, pulling some papers from the podium. "There are five or six groups I'd suspect of such treachery."
"Throw me some names."
"I have one in particular." The mayor held up a document from the pile. "The Thapokysians have been the most problematic in their dealings with us."
Quirk nodded. "And what's their weaponry like?"
"Oh, the fiercest." The Mayor pulled out a chart. "Just take a look at some of their heavy artillery here. It would take a true expert such as yourself to take on a challenge like this."
"I see." Quirk leaned over the podium to check the Mayor's list. "So, who else you got on there? Somebody a little more…passive?"
The Mayor ran his finger down the paper. "The Kitethapians have been known to show mercy to opposition on occasion. They only execute mercenaries."
"Uh huh." Quirk skimmed the list. "You…don't do the whole pain and death thing much, do you?"
The Mayor nodded. "Aggression is left to those with whom it comes naturally."
"Well, that's why you called me!" Quirk handed the Mayor his own list. "Look at that! I've rescued damsels from the towers Lotimad-3, fought jellywhales in the depths of the Yellow Sea, and even rescued Penguin of Greatness for the people of Blokonia!"
The Mayor regarded Quirk curiously. "You haven't actually done the last one yet."
"Oh!" Quirk smiled and shook his head. "Look at me, getting ahead of myself. Why, if I wasn't so ambitious, what kind of reputation would I have?"
The Mayor's brow rose as he continued looking over the list. "Captain, how many of these missions have you actually completed?"
"You seem a little insecure as far as my reliability." Quirk snapped his fingers. "You know what? I should probably rack up some more credentials before I go taking on challenges like these. I don't want to get in over my head, you know?"
The Mayor shook his head. "I'm sorry?"
"I don't want you folks thinking you're getting the raw deal, here." Quirk pointed toward the door. "I'll just be on my way then, bag myself a couple big jobs, and then you'll be proud to call me your savior."
"But, Captain!" the Mayor cried. "We need our source of Greatness now! You said you'd recover the Penguin!"
"I did, didn't I?" Quirk scratched his chin. "Well, you never actually said when I had to bring it back, so as long as I bring it eventually, we're still squared away. I'm happy, you're happy…we're all happy, right?"
"I'm not happy, Captain!" the Mayor retorted. "I believe I speak for the entire Council – and the populace of Blokonia – as well!"
Quirk stood silent as he held the Mayor's angry glare. After a moment, he smiled and shrugged. "Well, one out of three's good enough," he replied. He turned to leave again, then stopped and snapped his fingers. "Wait…I forgot one thing."
The councilmen remained silent as Quirk walked back towards the Mayor. Stopping before the podium, the captain placed a hand on each side of the wooden base and, with one swift motion, tore it from the ground. He lifted it up over his head, a smug grin on his face as he turned back to the baffled Mayor.
"Souvenir. Kids'll kill me if I don't bring anything home again." He steadied the long podium on his shoulder before giving the Mayor a nod. "Well, thank you, Mr. Mayor, you have a lovely place of delegation. The jelly walls give it that real…something. Anyway, adios!"
His prize in tow, Quirk strode out of the chamber, wooden doors swinging shut behind him. The Mayor stared at the entranceway for a moment before turning back to his councilmen, all as stunned and unable to speak as their leader. The old man regarded them with tired eyes, then slumped down in his chair.
"Well," he muttered, glancing at the empty pedestal beside him. "That's just great."