Con artist. Interdimensional traveler. Keanu Reeves fanboy. These are the things that describe Lazlo Alcon. But when he finds himself stranded in space and about to be eaten, his whole life is flipped upside down. Follow the story of this unlikely “hero” as he figures out his place in the world, longs for the place he once called home, and wonders why giant space piranhas are such a big deal in the world of politics.
My bogus story started on some monorail in space. Yeah. You heard me right. And no, I don’t mean I was actually on a train. I was quite literally dangling from a monorail, holding on for dear life. How did I get there? Excellent question. Personally, I don’t know the answer to that. Prior to that moment, I was in Sector 6 of the planet formerly known as Teragross, sipping on gin and juice. I think I blacked out, because I can’t remember anything after that. I just remember grasping the silver-plated monorail, holding on for dear life.
You’d think that because of zero gravity in outer space that there was no need to hold on, right? Well, you’d only be half right about that. The reason I was holding onto the monorail is because all around me were Lazgons, or in layman’s terms, space piranhas. One might imagine the little fish in the seas of Eoineous 69 back on the Hungover Giant Galaxy, but these suckers were the size of dreadnoughts with the appetites of sixty seven megachickens from the planet Poulterscolter. The monorails in space are coated with saran wrap, which are deadly for Lazgons to even touch. Once their prey touches the saran wrap, Lazgons are wholeheartedly convinced that the prey is now poisonous until they are away from the plastic coating. As such, I was safe.
Until I felt the rail begin to vibrate. My eyes darted towards my left, where I saw the blinding lights of a train heading right in my direction on the monorail. Naturally, I panicked. My gaze shifted towards the Lazgons surrounding me on all sides, particularly one that was getting a little too close for comfort despite being so close to saran wrap.
The sound of a woman’s voice came in through the comm device I was wearing in my helmet. I looked upward to see a beautiful woman with a dark brown complexion, short, curly black hair, rounded spectacles, and an armored blue suit with a jet propulsion pack on her back. She was looking right at me, floating with nothing but a box of saran wrap in her hand as she floated in my direction. Once again, her voice came up in my comm device.
“Give me your hand!” it said, but when I looked at her, her mouth hadn’t moved, nor did she have her hand out.
The train was too close at that point. I let go of the monorail, to which I was immediately greeted by the maw of a Lazgon. I caught one last glimpse of the woman in the blue suit before the maw closed around my entire body.
Surprisingly, death wasn’t as painful as one might expect. I slid down the Lazgon’s throat with ease. At that point, my day was already spoiled, so I didn’t really care what happened after. Though upon realizing that digestion and excretion were both things creatures did, I started getting a little more nervous. I grasped the oddly metallic tongue of the Lazgon before I fell too far and began to pull myself up as quickly as I could. Unfortunately, I was never the athletic type, so that was not exactly a task one may call “easy.” But to my surprise, the woman’s voice came up on my comm device again, sounding a little annoyed.
“Let go of my damn tongue,” the voice said. “Just come down here and we can talk.”
I lifted an eyebrow, frozen for a moment. Finally, I spoke. “Uh… is this the piranha talking?”
“Just let go,” the voice replied. “You’ll see soon enough.”
“Rich, coming from something that just ate me.”
“Relax for once and let go, okay? You’re not gonna die or anything. At least, not here.”
Of course, I was suspicious. I had no idea what was going on nor why I was missing from my home, but—well, I guess I didn’t have much of a hole back on Teragross. I was a drifter and con artist, but don’t tell anyone I said so. The point remains though. The streets of Magis were like a home in some way, and I had no idea where in the universe I’d been thrown into.
“Hey. Space to Dweeb,” the woman’s voice said from my comm device. “You wanna hang up there for the rest of the trip, or do you actually want to let go?”
“I’m very much content with not taking risks,” I replied, knowing full well it was a lie considering my career of choice, but still. At least as a con artist, I usually had the upper hand, so there was littler to no risk. There was plenty of risk here, and I was not about it.
“Then stay up there,” the woman’s voice remarked.
“Maybe I will,” I said.
And I sure did, and regretted it. A few billion years passed before my arms gave way and my eyes gave into the exhaustion that came from dealing with the stress of the day. Finally, I closed my eyes and let go of the metallic tongue, sliding into its throat. But instead of finding myself inside the stomach of a monster, I landed on an old school swivel chair in a large, empty room.
“Looks like someone finally caved,” the woman’s voice said, only this time, it came from loudspeakers I couldn’t actually see anywhere.
“I didn’t cave,” I retorted, thinking that was somehow a comeback.
“Sure. Regardless, roll on over here.”
Freaked out by the fact that there was some sort of office or whatever inside a Lazgon’s body, I wasn’t sure how to react. All I could do was comply, or ignore the orders and continue being condescended by some dismembered voice. Neither option sounded fun, but the former was the lesser of two evils. I kicked the swivel chair across the metallic floor below me, the wheels spinning surprisingly fast. The darkness in front of me was parted by lights that were far too bright for my tired eyes. It took a few moments for my eyes to adjust, and even then, I could only barely make out the dark form of a person standing in front of me. They were holding some sort of clipboard like a jerk who enjoyed making themselves look smarter than they are and writing whatever the hell they felt like writing.
“Let’s see,” the dismembered woman’s voice said once more. The silhouette walked closer to me and examined me for a few moments. With the bright lights behind the figure, I could still barely make out any features, but when the voice started speaking again, I noticed that it was coming from whomever was in front of me. “Average age, less-than-ideal build, overconfidence, and a lack of political intelligence.”
“Whoa.” I felt rather taken aback by her comments. “I can deal with the rest of the remarks, but where did you get that last one? That’s just mean.”
The silhouette lifted an arm to their face, and based on the movement of their arm, I assume they adjusted a pair of glasses or something like that. “Perhaps,” she said, “but I have reasons for saying so. Regardless, despite your attempts at being rebellious, it seems you follow orders well enough. Get up.”
I was frozen for a little bit. I looked at this peculiar woman, whatever she looked like, and tilted my head. “And what if I don’t?”
She simply turned around. “Then stay here, for all I care. I’m not your mother-in-law.”
Whether it was out of spite or reflex, I waited for her to walk away before standing up and following her further into the interior of this… beast, or whatever you may call it.
“Tell me something,” I said, following behind this mystery silhouette. “Why is there some sort of facility in the belly of a freaking Lazgon?”
The silhouette had the nerve to laugh. “And that’s why I said you have a lack of political intelligence.”
“I’m gonna let that slide,” I said, walking faster to catch up with her. “But can you at least tell me that much?” Of course, she gave me nothing. I pursed my lips, but not like I was pouting or anything. I just felt like stretching the skin below my bottom lip over my teeth. “Come on, now. Don’t be like that.”
“You’ll find out soon enough,” she said.
“When is soon?”
She stopped walking, looked up, and let out a long, audible, and potentially quite exasperated sigh. “You wanna know that badly? Fine then.” For the first time since being swallowed, I finally saw her up close. She was just a little taller than I was, a little more muscular, and had black hair down to her shoulders with purple highlights. Her complexion was rather pale, and her brown eyes were brightened by dark eyeliner. She wore a white lab coat and a wristwatch on her left wrist, which also happened to be the hand she used to grab me by the shirt and pull me further along into the Lazgon.
Against my will, I walked at a pace that healthier people are probably more used to than I am. The blinding lights from before were far behind myself and the strange science lady as we made our way to a dark hallway. We climbed a set of stairs, which felt like an eternity, then into a big room full of people. The room itself was cylindrical in structure with multiple circular tables spread out across the monochromatic tiled floor. People in lab coats and vaccuum-proof suits sat at the various tables, eating food that looked far too high-quality to be in a standard space shuttle, and talking about the latest gossip spreading around the galaxies.
“People live in Lazgons?” I asked the science lady as we walked across the cylindrical room.
“Some of them,” science lady said. “Most Lazgons are indeed what you’re told of in the human galaxies, but they don’t tell you about these ones.” She held a hand up towards once of the tables to our left and waved a few of the other lab coats over. Three of them stood up from the table and walked towards us. They all had super condescending looks as they noticed me. One of them, who looked no older than sixteen, nodded towards me and spoke.
“Who’s the space case?” she asked. I opened my mouth to speak and give this kid a piece of my mind, but science lady spoke before I got the chance.
“We’re calling him Lazlo,” she said. I simply scoffed.
“Where did that name come from?” I asked. “My name’s—”
“No one cares,” the kid lab coat said, not even looking me in the eyes. “Lazlo, huh? Did he almost die or something?”
“Yeah.” Science lady smiled and crossed her arms as she looked at me. “It was pretty pathetic, really. I found him holding onto the Interdimensional Monorail surrounded by other Lazgons. He practically begged for help.”
“That’s not how I remember it,” I said with a louder tone, but the lab coats didn’t acknowledge my existence.
“Sounds about right to me,” a tall, broad-shouldered lab coat with a shadow of facial hair across his jawline. “He doesn’t look rather tough. Why’d you save him, though?”
“Yeah,” kid lab coat added. “He doesn’t look worth joining the team.”
“I have my reasons,” science lady said with a grin. “But for now, prepare the room.”
The three lab coats saluted science lady and turned back around, completely ignoring me altogether. Once they were gone, science lady continued walking across the room. At that point, I didn’t even want to bother with her anymore. But simultaneously, the entire room was staring at me. My inner teenage social anxiety started blowing up my brain and I could practically feel the acne forming again, so I followed science lady across the cylindrical room.
“So, Lazlo.” Science lady’s voice broke the silence as we started walking through a long hallway on the other end of the room. The floor went from monochromatic tiles to being fully carpeted despite the fact that the floor below was still hard as rock, so the carpet made no difference. Wooden doors with old school windows lined the walls on both sides.
“Not my name,” I said, catching up to science lady.
“Doesn’t matter,” she said. “Tell me. What brought you to the middle of nowhere on the Interdimensional Monorail?”
“Wish I knew.” I slid my hands into my pockets, quickly realized I didn’t have pockets on my suit, and looked at my feet as I walked, feeling the acne forming on my forehead.
“Amnesia?” Science lady turned a sharp corner to the left.
“Maybe.” I followed her, nearly losing my footing as I took the turn. A door swung open right in between us and nearly hit me right in the face. “It’s more like a lapse in memory. Before hanging out in space, I remember relaxing on a beach in the planet formerly known as Teragross.”
“Teragross? Interesting.” Science lady adjusted her glasses and started scribbling on her clipboard. “Occupation?”
“Conman.” The word came out of my mouth far too easily. Even I froze as soon as I said it, but science lady didn’t seem to be bothered by it.
“Did it pay well?”
“Uh… I guess it did.” I shrugged. “It depended on the job.”
Science lady took another sharp turn. I happened to be distracted by my own words, since the moment I attempted to follow, I bumped into a door frame. My forehead took the brunt of the damage, causing my vision to go blurry for half a second. Science lady sat down at a square desk made of green mahogany from none other than the planet formerly known as Teragross and crossed her legs, turning towards an incredibly old-looking computer with a monitor the size of a small comet.
“Sit down, please,” she said, already typing away at the computer. Her fingers were flying faster than I could follow them. The screen emitted a bright blue glow, but despite seeing science lady typing, I didn’t see anything on screen. I only hesitated for a moment, but I finally sat down. The moment I did, science lady smiled. “You actually listened for once.”
My teeth clenched. I wanted to stand up and walk out of the room simply out of spite, but the angel on my shoulder told me not to. “What are we doing here?” I asked. “Why are there a bunch of people inside a giant Lazgon? And why are you asking so many questions about my life if you don’t seem to care about me?”
“Consider it a background check.” Science lady pounded her middle finger against the Enter key with such intensity I thought she had intent to kill. “What’s your last name?”
“Alcon,” I said. “Don’t you at least care what my—”
“We don’t use first names here,” science lady said. “At least, not real first names. It’s a safety measure. So, from now on…” Science lady turned around and started furiously typing away at the computer. She aggressively smashed the Enter key again, and the unmistakable sound of a laser printer filled the silence of the room. “…your name will be Lazlo Alcon.” She took a small white rectangle out of the printer and handed it towards me. It was an ID with the name she gave me, and a rather unflattering photo of me dangling from the monorail. “Welcome to the crew.”
I grabbed the ID and examined both sides. Aside from my name and the photo, I didn’t see anything else. “Hold on a sec,” I said. “Welcome to the crew? What’s this?”
“We’ve put out postings for a job opening aboard our vessel,” science lady said, crossing her arms. “We were looking for someone like you. From this day forward, you’re our Lazgon Bait.”