Morgan's Bar (from Imago: Ace on the Table, c.1994)

Morgan's was supposed to be a retreat for the Sangterre character, but eventually the universe found him again. He's the brother of a major character, Ollevarius Sin, but has less of  a part to play, mainly in supporting roles. A bit of a shame, really, and something I might work on in the future to rectify.

The Corsairs are piratical detritus from the recently fallen Serangian Empire.  Which, like the Korse Empire before it, had a faith system based on a Trinity of demonic/god-like powers (yes, I know there's another Trinity, but I chose three because it seemed to fit in with another concept in the Multiverse, that of ternion law.) This excerpt, and the Imago stories in general, were the first real explaination into the structure of the Multiverses.

Crisa, a Nakora horse-form, is a Usera, and therefore not a horse unless someone he's pissed off calls him that. The Usera are dimensional beings, the Nakora being only one race from out of their homeworld of Caanu Canara.

The saga of the palm tree does not end here ...





There was a certain mystique about Morgan’s Bar.

Despite other, less educated rumours (that the mystique was that patch of Janeqella Orsh that spilled sometime during the last major by-pass of the Great Space rock, due in another ten centuries, and that as no one bothered to mop it up, it improved itself and is currently headlighting as the stage singer at the bar of the same name twelve parsecs away), there was an atmosphere. A difference. Something intangible, and hopefully not contagious, that set Morgan’s aside from other bars.

For one thing, it had a palm tree.

Not one of your plastex jobs. You all know the kind. Wander into any joint, any kind of joint whatsoever (with the very real exception of the Desert Room, at Solitaire, on Gelfarnar) and you think you’ve wandered into an I.D.key factory that’s decided to go for broke and be completely crazy.  Instead of just marginally so.  Plastex foliage everywhere. Complete with little plastex bugs for effect. Probably with plastex bug spray, and …

No. Morgan’s had a real, living, thriving palm tree.  It tastefully overshadowed the prow of the sea galleon sticking out of the wall just behind it and usually shadowed the cleavage of the prow’s figurehead. To the chagrin of the Corsairs, who put the prow there in the first place, but not the tree. The tree belonged to a Usera named Crisa, who is at this time running for the office of the Whatever of the Ytrella System.

 More on the palm tree later.

Then, there was the physically impossible fact that the Ytrellas straddled the Edge of Forever. Physically impossible to legions of physicists who make their mint getting onto morning chat shows, declaiming such absurdities and then flashing the latest vid-disc copy of their tome 500 Ways to Love Your Universe. Entirely possible if you were an extremely intrepid and innocent soul, the kind that view black holes as undiscovered territory, rather than a molecular mincer. Or if you were a Corsair, the brand new, soon-to-be-patented moniker of the Serangian Space Pirates, Inc. Or, if you were a palm tree-owning, politically-inclined Usera. Or,  if you were Sangterre.

"Makes perfect sense:," Kallagi said once. Kallagi, before the Fall of Empire, was a professor at the Blue City Nashif. Then, he discovered Freedom, and had given it a full-body hug ever since. But, to the admiration of the Corsairs, he knew Stuff, and so was always listened to after the first three kegs of Nangoon, or two kegs of Screwneck. Or one keg of a mixture of the two.

"See, the Great Existence is really Three Universes."

Why three?" came a slurred question.

"Because that’s the way the rules went down, I suppose. Why’d we have a Trinity when the Korse were running the show?" Kallagi waited for any more dissension, then continued with a satisfied nod.

 “Okay. Now, I reckon the Universes are diamond-shaped …” He raised a warning  finger at the sea of opened mouths and indrawn breaths. "Don’t ask, just listen. It comes under the category of I Don’t Know, got it? Right. Anyway, these diamonds all meet at one single point —"

"The Single Point ? Ain’t that that pleasure house over on -- ?

Kallagi sighed dramatically, reached behind himself and drew out a wickedly sharp and glinting scimitar. "Right. Next smartass question gets a swack across the jugular. Got it ?”

''Jugular? What jugular? This bar ain’t never had entertainment before. Sides, what's he goin’ to juggle —?"

Swooshing sound, and a pained exclamation. "Hey! That was my brand new ear hoop, man! I had to pillage five temples to save up for it!

The rest all shushed the aggrieved victim, and waited for the professor to continue.

"All right. Now, this point, see, isn’t really a point —"

"Hold it.," said one of the audience. "This is getting complicated. Let's all have another keg." There was a few minutes of concerted gulping, a generalised "Aaahh!" sound, along with lip­smacking and the rasp of mouths wiped on sleeves and/or bare arms, then Kallagi continued.

"Okay. It isn't really a point. It is an infinite grid, with infinite points of reference.  There are dozens of places, maybe millions, maybe quadruheptabillions of places. All like this one. All straddling the Edge of Forever. That’s what the Single Point is also called."

 "Must be painful," mumbled one Corsair, smaller than his colleagues in star crime. "Straddling so many places like that. Should be a law against it."

 "So, we're one universe," came the comment. "And there’s two more?"

 “Uh, huh. Remember that time that big brown-and -white horse turned up here? Just popped up, looked around, said ‘Whoops!’ then flicked out again? I reckon," and Kallagi paused for effect. He always had fancied himself as a thespian, but there was little chance of that now. Unless he raided an acting school, next time out. "I reckon that the horse came from the Other Side."

As one, his audience nodded their heads.

Completely,  and utterly, mystified.

Sangterre had listened with half-an-ear to that lecture, and left them all alone. After all, they were drinking his hooch while they were doing it. And that would help rekindle the vital heartfires in his bank account. Which. after he’d plunged years’ worth of unused creds into this place, was on the verge of applying for financial famine relief. He did think, at one point, of sticking up some prominently positioned signs. Saying things like ‘Give to the Innkeeper’s Fund, or Drink Water!’

However, most of the really good spaces had already been taken up. By election posters.

They showed a very handsome,  god-like man, with a suspiciously wayward twinkle in his eye, and proclaimed: 'Vote for Crisa, the One Who Knows’.

 It was one of the drawbacks of the Ytrella system.

At some point in the history of this wacko collection of worlds, worldlets, moons, moonlets and escaped lunatics, someone had had the brilliant idea of holding an election. According to the local stories, it was around two hundred years, and fifteen owners of Morgan’s, ago. They reckoned (and no, no one knows who ''they” are. Does anyone?) that it might add Class to a classless junkyard of kitsch if there was an election. Maybe help start up a Chamber of Commerce. Bring Civilisation. Maybe even Fast Food.

So, they held their election.

And, they’re still holding it.

There have been thirty different sets of candidates since then. Whenever one dies or retires or gets a better offer from the roving Tannerostra talent scouts, some mug always comes up to take their shot at stupidity. Or, in Crisa’s case, insanity.

Sangterre was certain the Nakora warlord was insane. Why else would the horse spend time polling and canvassing with all the alacrity of a feeding frenzy in the shark tanks at Almeda Aquariums? Anyone want to know the reason why the election had surpassed all records for madness? Basically, because the ones who made the rules at the time were chem-frizzed out of their little numbskulls. They decreed that the election could be held only once all electors were canvassed and signed over as either voting for one psychex-case or another.

And, in the Charter’s small print, “elector” is defined as:

"...anyone who is resident of the Ytrella system for three minutes. "

You see, typos have a lot to answer for, in the field of historic and hysteric bungles. It was supposed to be three months , not three minutes.

Crisa, for his part, was looking for fun. It was his way of relaxation. The Canara system, while it was home, was not fun. Besides, the mare he was interested in on the Seragar, one Zozaika, had the unfortunate drawback of also being the lifemate of Nakora-ta. Rather than stay and do something potentially hazardous to his energy fields if Nakora-ta  found out, and also to avoid the laughter of Triezarg, he came here. And found a familiar face was running the place.

He made himself perfectly at home at Morgan's, occasionally giving the client s cause to wonder why their pink elephants looked more like albino horses with weird blue or red eyes. Then, he decided Morgan’s looked a little bare. It needed a tree.

One morning, as Sangterre rose from sleep, and entered the bar during one of the rare times the population was down to around three (him, Crisa, and the Retainer), he walked straight into the palm tree, as it grew merrily in its own circle of sandy soil. A coconut jolted loose and hit him on the top of the head.

When he regained consciousness, he heard Crisa say, “Whoops! Made the little beggars a tad too dense. Don't worry, soon have that fixed in a jiffy."

"It’s a palm tree,'' the partially-concussed man murmured,  looking up. Crisa’s head then filled his vision as he lay there prone at the base of the trunk.

"You certainly know your trees, Sangterre. Good looking tree, huh?"

"Why's it here?"

"Because I like it. Gives the place some style. Grace. Balance. Panache.”

Sangterre groaned, sat up, and checked his scalp for anything damp and sticky. Like blood. Or similar. All he found was coconut milk.

"Crisa, Morqan's doesn’t need a frigging palm tree. Get rid of it."


Right then, the quandary was struck. Probably the same way the wreck was struck, wherever the Corsairs got that damned prow from. (“Hey! they said. “This here’s Morgan' s Bar, right? Well, this is Captain Henry Morgan’s ship! Mascot, like!” Reminding them that Capt. H. Morgan, privateer, governor and overall dirtbag had passed the mortal coil some 1200 years before then, and that there was a suspiciously new look to the thing plugged straight into the wallboards didn’t faze the Corsairs. They were all in love with the figurehead. Go figure. )

If Sangterre decided to act tough, he had the good-natured but firm reminder of a set of gleaming Nakora teeth to put him off any thoughts of arboricide.  It was Crisas tree. Crisa liked the tree. Therefore the tree stayed.

But, when Crisa wasn’t around, Sangterre would tip haIf a keg of Kamo Judders into the soil, and spend the next day smiling as he polished tanuks and watched the tree wilt and drop fronds. The Corsairs would cheer as their favourite girl came back into view.

But, while Sangterre slept, Crisa would rejuvenate the tree. And next morning the tables would be littered with coconut shells, bearing the legend, “Touch the Tree And Die, Mortals”.

"Would I say such a thing?" Crisa protested volubly. "How could I? I’m running for election as the Whatever.”

"Oh, yeah, “ Sangterre rounded on him one day. “What’s this jark about you being the One Who Knows,  then, hey? ‘Bout the only thing you know is not to step off the asteroid belt when the iceball’s on its way.”

"It's a slogan, and I like it." There was that tone again. The same one he’d used in defending the damned tree. Only slogans were harder to poison.

"I catch you politicking in this bar, you’re dead meat!”' Sangterre threatened futilely. What the hell? It made him feel better. Helped with the ulcers. ‘Sides, he managed to make it over the bar’s edge in an award-winning vault and down to a defensive crouch on the floor before the teeth could click over his head.

That was,  as far as Sangterre knew, the end of that particular debate. The tree was another matter, but: Sangterre was waiting for the shipment of palm tree-loving termites to come in on the freighter any day now. One quick, sneaky guerrilla attack, maybe in full camouflage gear, and let's see what Whitey says to that! Hah!

But, it wasn’t the end. Not by a long chalk. Or a long anything, for that matter.

Crisa was out to have fun. If that also involved making a monkey out of this particular primate-descended mortal, then so be it.

Sangterre wore a black eye patch. Partly to fit into the theme of the bar (Cap’n Morgan, that goddamned prow, the Corsairs, yo ho ho and a tanuk of Hammerslam before intensive care), and partly to effect a pretty-feeble attempt at disguise. In case any Blue Spires he used to know ever made it this far, and past the street vendors outside who've been known to pick a man clean down to the skin with barter deals in thirty seconds flat. They didn’t call ‘em the ‘Cudas for nothing, he reflected.

Okay, okay, back to the eye patch. Ever since he chose to denigrate Crisa’s nifty slogan, The One Who Knows chose to do some interesting sleights-of-eye with Sangterre's new trademark. A new slogan for every day. Some of them backwards, others in an assortment of galactic languages. All of them vanishing every time Sangterre looked up at the mirror over the bar.

The Corsairs ran what was a normal accoutrement of any self-respecting bar,  a sweepstake. The object was to guess the day when Sangterre would look in the mirror, and Quickdraw Crisa wasn’t fast enough in the erasure department. This little endeavour was ably assisted by the Corsairs who would engineer excuses for Sangterre to look in the mirror. Crisa knew this. Some of the Samaritans left the bar soon after with very bizarre nervous tics to various parts of their unwashed anatomies.

So, now you have a touch of the (un)natural history of Morgan’s Bar, a unique sub-environment of multi-species Corsairs, fake historic souvenirs jammed into the walls, and a palm tree,

The two newcomers paused at the doorway. Almost alarmed. Probably intrigued. Definitely wandering if they’d need butterfly nets.

Dionyza, accompanied by her faithful Chamberlain, stepped inside. The floor creaked, and a herd of guzzling Corsairs stopped guzzling to raise their heads en masse. A coconut fell. The victim swore, cussed out about Useras and their damned trees, and promptly vanished, to reappear on top of the local statue of St Ukrana the Boring.

The High Conserla wore spacer leathers and carried a qrell across her back, and sundry small devices across her chest. She’d heard the Ytrellas was rough, and she decided to take no chances. Neither had the Chamberlain, who carried a tarv as if it were a message platter from Colonial 1. The Corsair's summed him up, figured he was too much near oxygen deprivation level height-wise. and focussed on the broad.

"My lady?" The Chamberlain murmured.

"Yes, Chamberlain?"

"Permission to expound a view, my lady."

"Go for it., Chamberlain."

"This establishment is a dump, my lady. "

"You got that right. "

One of the Corsairs, braver than the rest and reasonably more inebriated pound for pound, staggered up and withdrew a scimitar, flashily letting it catch several stray glints of light,  before holding it in a meaty fist and flicking fingers towards Dionyza. Beckoning fingers. He was a Borallan, and spoke only patchy Serangian, but Dionyza caught the drift.

She shook her head, and gave him a coarsely-worded reply, that drew admiring oohs and aahs from the crowd, had the Chamberlain closing his eyes in despair at all the etiquette lessons gone to waste, and made the Borallan laugh.

"I like firehearted women, “ the Boralian rumbled, sidling closer. The Chamberlain stiffened, hand reaching for the tarv’s control but Dionyza made a slight staying movement. "Firehearted women keep me warm at night,"  the Borallan went on.

Sangterre had just stepped back into the barroom at that point, asked an assistant why the latter was stood at the bar with a frozen gape over his mug, then saw  the reason. He was just reaching for the bar’s qrell to stun the Borallan before he could move further when Dionyza's syrupy voice stalled him.

"Warm?" she murmured. She stepped up to the Borallan, smiling oh so sweetly. "How's this for warmth?” and raised her boot in a sideways kick.

Clutching at his crotch, the Boralla toppled to his knees, one almost airless thread of sound escaping his lips before he collapsed face down, writhing. Dionyza sighed, dusted off her hands, and stepped up and across the fleshy obstacle, the Chamberlain watchfully follow­ing her.

She scanned the room, and headed straight for where Sangterre still wordlessly stared. Stopping in front of him, she took a deep breath, flicked strands of hair out of her eyes with a careless hand, and said, “Sangterre, you are one of the hardest men to find in the entire galaxy, you know that? When you decide to sink into obscurity, you do a good job of it!”

Sangterre regained the power of speech, in mumbling, "Sangterre? Nah. I’m his twin brother. Sangterre’s not been here for long, long time."

"Really?" Dionyza watched his escape move to the inside of the bar, the preoccupied ratlling of tanuks. " No dice, Sangterre. I .know your one and only bro, and he's better lookin' !“

"Dionyza., what are you —?" Then, he noticed the still muted hush of the room, and the expectant ears all aimed in their direction. "Hey! What do you guys think this place is, a library? Make with the noise, or," and he found the qrell, aiming it towards the prow, "the lady gets it!"

Shocked gasps. ‘You wouldn’t' expressions.

Met by Sangterre's own: ‘You wanna bet?’

Hub-bub and bedlam resumed.

Sighing, putting the qrell away, Sangterre repeated, "What are you doing here? Since when has the Ytrellas been on the Rich-As-Hell list of 'Holes to be seen in at least once before tax time?”

"I decided to take an imprompu diplomatic tour of non-Federation areas," Dionyza replied, smiling as she watched his attempts not to establish eye-contact. “I heard some interesting things abot the Ytrellas. How was I to know the most pleasurable landmark was right here in Morgan’s Bar?" She rested her chin in the palm of one hand, her elbow on the bar top. "What’s with the patch? One too many battles, hero?"

That eye patch was interesting, she thought. Damned if it didn't say, RECYCLE YOUR USED HUMANS AND STOP LITTER! KEEP THE GALAXY CLEAN! The words kept vanishing each time Sangterre seemed about to raise his face to the mirror. Flicking her own eyes there, she saw a very suave, good-looking guy having a fit of the giggles.  Next to an incongruously ridiculous palm tree.

"My eye's fine," Sangterre mumbled. "What do you and — your friend here want to drink?"

"Whatever's on offer to close friends," Dionyza said smoothly, and sighed "I don’t know. There’s something about you in an eye patch that’s  so -- so –“

He reddened. And remembered, she thought with a small victorious grin. His breathing was accelerating, his hands trembled. Whoever Dionyza’ s mother was  in the lost mists of time, she didn’t have a daughter who believed in fighting fair. That Dionyza had vanished in the bomb blast at Colonial 1, and the wonderful days basking in Sin’s change of relationship at Solitaire

Then, straight faced,  she said, "Nice place, you have here.  Pity about the palm tree.”

Crisa jerked, rose in his human form, and strode up to the bar. "What? What do you mean, ‘Pity about the tree’? It’s a beautiful tree!”

Dionyza eyed him. “I take it you’re Crisa.”


"The politico running for the Whatever office.” She refrained from giggling.

Crisa preened. "That’s me --"

"Well it just goes to prove the old adage, doesn’t it?”

 "What adage?”

"The more posters go up in an election, the more brain cells wither away in a politico’s brainbox.” She flicked a thumb back at the tree. “The tree is an eyesore.”

Crisa would have altered back to his true shape to continue the discussion in his favour, but Sangterre  leaned over and murmured, “Uh, uh, Crisa. Dionyza’s on real close terms with Sin. Y’know who Sin really is, don’t you?”

Crisa snorted, muttering as he turned away, “I never really liked you, Loak-tha.”

 "Oh. My poor, broken old heart …”