Swimming With Sharks On Saturn

23831UNILAD-imageoptim-shark-fb-thumb

Saturn – Newil Intergalactic Air and Space Center

“Be careful you clumsy idiots! If you drop that tank I’ll have your hairy hides for lunch!” the loading dock foreman shouted.

The four giant Ujit laborers from Uranus growled to themselves as they slowly walked down the ramp. The glass cage was covered with a black tarp. Inside, a Great White shark slept, dreaming of easy prey.

The Ujit’s were met by a lifter robot. It took the cage with ease and rolled off to a special receiving area for earth’s sharks.

Newil City – The Temple Of Meat 

“And I say to you my children, there are many pathways to Heaven. Swimming with sharks is one of them,” the preacher said.

The congregation of 500 worshippers all tapped their feet in unison and chanted, “We are meat! We are meat! We are God’s chosen elite.”

As they chanted, a line formed next to a massive aquarium. A ladder led to a small platform at the top where worshippers jumped off and swam for their lives. A school of sharks instantly descended upon the first swimmer.

The water quickly turned red as they tore the worshipper apart. Meanwhile, more worshippers were jumping in and swimming for a safe platform set up on the north side of the giant aquarium.

The congregation watched in fascination as the sharks mauled, mutilated, and ate their fellow worshippers. On this particular day, one worshipper actually made it to the safe platform unharmed.

A roar of approval went up as he raised his arms in triumph. He was a saint now, joining the others who successfully made it before him.

Newil City Hall

The city elders were having a special meeting to decide what to do about some of the religious cults that were luring innocent Saturnians away from their civilized society and beliefs.

Some, like The Temple of Meat, slaughtered their own parishioners, but were able to get away with it because all religions were allowed to practice their faith in any way they saw fit.

It was the law.

The city elders argued for hours about possible solutions to stop the dangerous trend. Cults were popping up in the city like poisonous mushrooms. Something had to be done. They had no way of knowing that an answer was coming soon.

It started when the earthlings decided the declining population of sharks demanded an answer. An international, and intergalactic, message was sent out by authorities, “Earth’s sharks can no longer be hunted, or imported.”

The House of Meat maintained an enormous underground habitat for it’s sharks. A dedicated staff fed and took care of them. Despite their best efforts, all attempts to breed them failed. So, they did their best to keep them alive for as long as possible.

When the first quake hit, it was like an atomic bomb had gone off beneath the city of Newil. Huge fissures opened in seconds. Then a pause. Then a series of lesser quakes that shook domes, bridges, and towers for minutes.

Among the devastation was the shark habitat. The waters had drained away leaving broken glass and slowly dying sharks.

Among the survivors were three “saints” from the Temple Of Meat. They realized that they could no longer practice their religion on Saturn. With heavy hearts, but with hope, they took the next commercial flight to earth.

After reading all they could about earth, they decided to go to the United States of America where everyone was guaranteed the right to practice their own religion.

As It Stands, this piece is an off-beat comment on religions, and people’s rights.

Days of Discovery, Nights of Terror

untitled

Alternate Earth, Andromeda

Plex was an adventurer, amateur archeologist, assassin, and lone wolf.

Since being abandoned at six-years old, Plex had always been on his own. His remarkable survival skills were legendary.

His adventures over the course of two decades, were chronicled in every planet in the solar system. His very name became synonymous with fantastic discoveries and daring deeds.

The mountains of Moibus, Ceres IV

Plex could barely see through his goggles. The snow storm was turning into a full-on blizzard when he spotted the building. A round granite tower with one door and no windows.

When he drew near, he saw an old man open the door and gesture for him to enter. Once inside, they descended down a flight of stone stairs and emerged into a great cavern. Candles were burning in little alcoves cut into the native stone.

Shadows danced along the rugged rock walls and the lava stalagmites that rose as high as a hundred feet in the air. The light from the candles reflected off the eyes of little creatures peering out from jagged rock formations.

They walked for a while in silence as the guide led Plex into a network of twisting tunnels. Finally they came to a large room where a throne sat. It’s inhabitant was a tall gangly man with white hair and beard. He wore an ornate helmet.

His guide backed out of the room, bowing with respect.

Are you the one they call Plex?” the man on the throne asked in a shrill voice.

“I am, lord,” he replied.

“It’s said that you accept any challenge, as long as it makes for a good adventure and pays well.” 

“That’s true.”

“Well then, I have a challenge for you that should be irresistible.”

 “I’m listening, lord of Moibus.”

“I want you to go to Hell and get my wife who should not be there. It’s me, Satan has a problem with. He cannot hurt me in my kingdom, but he had his minions capture her when she was taking a nap in the courtyard one day.

How can I enter hell? I’m still alive, and the devil hasn’t come for me yet?”

“My necromancer has a spell that will allow you to enter hell, and return with my wife.”

“I’m intrigued, but I’m still curious what kind of bounty  you’re offering? The rumors I heard suggested a person’s weight in the rarest gems in the galaxy.”

“It’s true. Look behind me at the open chests with gems spilling out onto the ground,” the Lord of Moibus assured him.

Plex walked over to them and studied the glittering mass, buying time before giving an answer.

“Where’s your necromancer?”

Hell.

To Plex’s surprise, Hell was darker than a coal mine during a full eclipse of the two suns that surrounded Ceres IV. The spell transported him instantly.

If not for the occasional fire accompanied with screams, he was blind. The thought of finding anyone seemed like a dark joke. He didn’t know which way to go. He steadied himself from panicking and tried to remember everything the necromancer told him.

He counted one hundred steps and stopped. Turning to his right he knocked on the obsidian wall and it swung inward, exposing a dimly lit, sparely decorated room. A woman sat on a small bed and watched him with curiosity as he entered.

“Have you come to free me from eternal nightmares?” she asked with tears in her eyes.

Yes. Come here, and let me hold your hands.”

As she approached the necromancer’s words came to him;

“Hand-in-hand. Hand-in-hand. Let go, to save a soul.”

As they grasped hands he realized the mistake he made, after repeating the chant. Save a soul. One soul. Not two souls!

He didn’t have time to blink his eye before she disappeared, and the lights went out!

As It Stands, a price is often paid for those bold adventurers who go where no one else has gone before.

The Pleasure House of Pindor

 

henry4palace_cantseethepleasurepalaceforthebushes

Pindor, Venus – circa 2339

Entry into the Pleasure House of Pindor was based upon a point system.

It was the goal of every Venusian to someday go to a Pleasure House. Every city had one.

They accumulated points by serving the government. Depending upon their position in the government, some added points faster than others.

For instance, gardeners were highly prized. Only the best were hired to take care of the planet’s greatest national treasure – the Passion bush, which bloomed year-round.

Venusians weren’t allowed to enter the point system until they were of age and actively serving the government.

Dorin was only months away from being qualified to serve the government. All of his life he listened to his elders sing the praises of the Pleasure Palaces. Going to one meant an eternity of peace and joy.

For years, Dorin walked past the Pindor Pleasure Palace on his way to school. He memorized the beautiful towers and golden domes, often dreaming of them. His curiosity was so great about what happened in the Pleasure Palaces, he often plotted ways of sneaking inside one.

With two weeks to go before Dorin could work for the government, he found a way to get inside.

After carefully casing out the front door from behind a lush Passion Plant (known throughout the solar system for their beauty) that surrounded the building, Dorin saw three people approach.

Two government officials in their pale green uniforms escorting a man in white robes.

One of the officials held up a small metal disk and the door slide open. Without thinking, Dorin followed the group before the door closed. Once inside he dropped down to all fours and stayed as far behind the small group as he could.

Still, if one of the officials had turned around he would have been spotted in the bright light of the lavish entryway. Murals with Mindor Birds flying over green hills graced the opulent room.

Rare Venusian artifacts were displayed on tables and shelves on one side. Soothing celestial melody came from hidden speakers. The whole effect was encouraging to Dorin.

He saw the small group enter a doorway that glittered with rare elements. Surprising even himself, Dorin got up the courage to follow them. When he opened the door there was a hallway that ran for about fifty-feet, before splitting off left and right to two more corridors.

The trio had disappeared.

He picked the one on the right, and immediately saw a row of windows and doors. Cautiously, he peeked through the first window. He was in time to see a doctor give the man a shot in the arm.

The man sunk to the ground and died with a smile on his face. Two white-clothed orderlies threw the body on a cart and wheeled it out the door. Shocked, Dorin backed away from the window.

His heart was beating so fast, he could hear it. He wanted to run, but some perverse curiosity urged him to look into another window. He almost screamed! Inside was a meat rack with dead Venusians hanging from their feet!

A row of butchers were chopping off arms and legs and placing heads and torsos on a conveyor belt that disappeared into another room. Plastic barrels of the limbs were carted off by more workers.

Numb with shock, Dorin moved down the hallway and peeked into another window. He watched with growing horror as torsos and heads were put into large grinding machines that turned them into a lumpy pulp.

Connected to the grinding system was a belt carrying buckets of the pulp to metal containers with Plant Food written on them.

As It Stands, controlling people can only be achieved when they buy into a great lie.

The Last Ship To Saturn

363D1DB300000578-0-image-a-62_1468422438360

The crew of the Golden Geode crossed their fingers as the ship struggled through a space storm.

There was no turning back to earth. They had to get to the closest planet, Saturn.

The ship’s hull quivered as they entered Saturn’s atmosphere that was also experiencing massive turbulence and white-out blizzards.

The Planetary Federation Way Station was their destination. Relying on the ship’s automatic pilot they landed on an open strip of land near the Way Station. The ship’s three-man crew and six passengers donned protective suits and helmets and climbed down the ship’s ladder.

The space suits had built-in guidance systems so the tiny group were able to find the Way Station despite being blinded by the furious blizzard. An automatic air lock door opened as they approached.

The environment inside was exactly like earth. Lining one wall was a series of hologram fireplaces and comfy country scenes. There was a well-stocked bar offering liquors from throughout the solar system.

The supervisor at the Way Station asked the Golden Geode’s captain if the supply ship was close behind him?

No. As far as I could tell, it turned around before the space storm hit. We were lucky to even make it here. My ship has suffered some damage that will have to be taken care of.”

A look of concern passed across the supervisor’s face. He stroked his beard thoughtfully before telling the captain the bad news, “We’re almost out of food for the nine people here (counting myself), and with the addition of nine more people we have a big problem.”

The captain’s relief at landing safely and being inside a shelter slipped away like a thief in the night. Now he was faced with another life or death situation.

Just to complicate things, three of the passengers were criminals being transported to the prison planet Pluto. The other three passengers were their guards.

According to the Way Station’s weather service the blizzard wasn’t going away soon. The wind gusts were the fastest ever recorded since the station was built 50 years ago. No one was going anywhere.

The food was rationed among the eighteen people and lasted one week. Hunger was clawing at their guts after 10 days and the first fight broke out. One of the employees at the Way Station had been drinking booze on and off for two days when he assaulted the only female employee.

The attack was swift and vicious! He bit her arm and then sunk his teeth into her left breast. The woman’s screams aroused one of the guards and he ran to her rescue. He hit the attacker on his head with a billy club.

In his anger he didn’t stop hitting the attacker until he was a bloody mess and dead. By then everyone was awake and watching the gruesome scene. The captain and the supervisor pulled the guard off the dead man.

He had blood splattered all over his face and arms. They drug the body over to a corner of the main lounge and threw a rug over it. After questioning the female employee they decided not to take any action against the guard.

By day 14 everyone, but one of the guards, was so weakened they could barely walk. All they had was water, which they drank in such quantities it made them sick and spew it back up. One guard wasn’t losing weight like the rest.

Finally, one night when everyone was sleeping, but the captain and the guard, the loathsome truth came to light. The captain, who woke up from a nightmare, saw the guard lift the rug in the corner of the room.

He watched as the guard cut away slices of dead flesh and then cover the body back up.

The next day the captain told the supervisor what he saw. They both walked over to the body and lifted up the rug. Almost half of the rotting flesh was gone. Cut to the bone.

They gathered everyone together in the center of the main lounge. Almost all had to crawl to get there. A vote was taken. Not to punish the guard, but to do the same thing. When the rest of the meat was gone they decided to hold a lottery.

The loser was the next meal.

When the supply ship arrived two months later they were surprised to see the Way Station empty. Searchers finally discovered a man hiding behind the bar.

“You look good enough to eat,” the captain said, as they helped him to his feet.

 As It Stands, I had the ill-fated Donner Party in mind when I wrote this modern version about cannibalism.

Scotties Galaxy Space Route

 

article-2255784-00B3502E00000578-53_634x409

Houston, Texas 2122

Executives at the main mail terminal watched The Milky Way Mail Express quickly disappear into the heavens.

“So, this is your first time eh?” Captain Scott “Scottie” Jorgenson asked his new co-pilot.

“It is! I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally get off the ground. I hated my earth route in Atlanta, Georgia.” 1st Class Delivery Mate, Morris Mayweather, replied.

“This solar system route takes a year to complete. Then you start all over again,” Scottie warned.

“I knew what I signed up for sir…”

“Don’t call me sir! My name is Scott. If you want, you can call me “Scottie.”

“Okay. What’s it like on Mars, our first stop?”

“Let’s put it this way, you won’t be exposed to the Martian landscape or atmosphere. We land in a company airport with a simulated earth environment. Martian Milky Way Mail Express Terminal employees will offload our cargo as we have a spicy Martian rum at the airport bar.”

“Damn!” Morris exclaimed, “it doesn’t get any better than this!”

“Remember that when we get to Neptune,” Scottie said.

“What do you mean by that?” a suddenly worried Morris asked.

“Nothing… don’t worry about it. Every planet is different is all I meant.”

Venus

“Wow! I wonder what’s going on outside?” Morris asked.

The two men were in the terminal lounge waiting for the Venusians to off-load the cargo. Neither were drinking. There wasn’t a bar at this stop. Looking out through the see-through dome they watched as thousands of Venusians were protesting something.

They angrily waved signs with images of the Milky Way Mail Express Logo on them.

“What’s going on?” Morris asked.

“Union busting. They’re former workers in this terminal who dared to organize for a more livable wages.”

Saturn

“It’s not polite to stare, didn’t your mother teach you better growing up?” Scottie scowled.

Morris blushed with embarrassment and tried not to look at the Saturnian workers. They resembled giant purple snails with arms and a long head. Watching them slowly slither over to a row of forklifts gave him the creeps.

“What’s the matter, didn’t you read all of the manual? It has photos of every alien species that you’ll meet.”

“Yea…I saw them. It’s just that seeing them in person is a lot different than seeing a photo of them.” 

“Fair enough. While I’m confirming contents of loads, would you go activate a couple of cleaner bots to get that slime off our cargo hold ramps when their done?”

Mercury

“It’s amazing watching them work! Those eight arms are so powerful they’re not even using fork lifts to off-load the cargo,” Morris marveled.

“Another thing about Mercurians is how orderly they are,”  Scottie pointed out, “I’ve never had a problem with paperwork or returned cargo with them. They’re punctual, and pleasant to talk with. Let’s go over to that bar and listen to them tell stories. They’re great story-tellers.”

Jupiter

As soon as they landed and exited the ship, Scottie and Morris were instantly surrounded by black-shelled security guards waving weapons.

“Don’t panic,” Scottie warned Morris, “this is routine on this planet. Just hand them your papers and company identification badge.”

The language translators on their wrists allowed them to understand their questions. After ten minutes, they escorted them to the dock area where they could watch the cargo come out and check it off against their manifests.

There was no lounge area.

Uranus

“Why aren’t Milky Way Mail Express employees off-loading our cargo?” Morris wondered.

“Because the company employees all have slaves who do their manual labor. Just like the company manual reminds us, this is a slave planet. The only way Uranusians can get manual labor done is to buy slaves on the intergalactic slave exchange.”

“They kinda remind me of kangaroos with those tiny arms and that long tail.”

“Keep it down. They also have excellent hearing and I hear they don’t appreciate being compared to an earth animal.”

Neptune

“Wait a minute! There’s nothing in the manual that says we have to carry weapons!” Morris whined when Scottie handed him a Laser gun.

“This is the part where we use common sense Morris. Don’t worry, the company wants us to stay alive. It’s hell trying to get good help these days. Here’s a belt and holster. Put it on.”

As the ship slowed down and came in for a landing they could see flashes of colored lights streaking across the Milky Way Express Terminal docks. It was the same thing every time.

The cargo they brought was food. The giant plastic crates containing the precious cargo were worth dying for. Only the wealthy could afford to pay the prices Milky Way Express charged.

The poor tried to live on the leftovers in the trash heaps of the rich, and by killing small wild mammals. Whenever there was a shipment the poor gathered their laser guns and attacked, hoping to steal some of precious cargo.

As the giant bay doors opened to allow the ship to enter the terminal hundreds of desperate men and women swarmed into the temporary opening. The Neptunian military was waiting and opened fire.

When the ship was still the bay doors opened. Scott and Morris saw a cluster of soldiers nearby and went up to them.

“Can you tell me where to find the loading supervisor? We just arrived.”

A laser beam hit one of the guards and he crumbled! The rest scattered and Scott and Morris followed one of them to an area where hundreds of troops were assembled for a big push against the attackers.

As they watched, the formation slowly moved forward, like a Roman legion, and drove the attackers back through the open bay door. The slaughter was sickening, as the ill nourished, and ill-equipped  Neptunians were mowed down like rows of wheat before a threshing machine.

Afterwards, a Milky Way Mail Express loading supervisor organized his employees and they off-loaded the rest of the cargo on the ship. Paperwork was signed and they left for home.

When they got back to earth Morris told Scottie he was going back to his old route on earth. He couldn’t hack it.

That night, over a bottle of tequila, Scottie and the owner of Milky Way Express Inc. bemoaned the fact that it was almost impossible to find good help anymore.

As It Stands, corporate evil is a theme that has many paths.

Plutonian Plans of Conquest Dashed

HEAVEN1

“Plutonians!” the court’s Master-of-Arms called out “the time to expand our influence in Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belts, is here!”   

The crowd of thousands applauded. The clapping resonated across the open courtyard of the castle and rose to the balcony where the King, and Master-of-Arms, stood with their arms crossed.

“Our scientists and engineers have built a spacecraft that will allow us to travel to the nearby dwarf planets of Haumea and Makemake. After observing them for decades the consensus is there’s life on both planets!

“I don’t have to tell you what that means. Our over-population problem is solved. But we must first explore these planets by sending an expedition to each one.

Long live the King!”   

“Long live the king!” the crowd echoed.

Later, inside the castle, the King was sitting on his throne and laughing with amusement at the life and death struggle before him. The knights were armed with short swords and they were both bleeding from numerous wounds.

Finally, the shorter one drove his knife into the open mouth of his opponent! Blood instantly gushed out as the warrior fell dead on his feet. The winner, Sir Doucet, turned to the king and bowed deeply.

“Good move!” the approving monarch gushed, “You shall lead the expedition to Haumea. Your primary job will be to pacify whatever people live there and make them our slaves. You’ll be accompanied by a team of our leading scientists who will explore the planet’s natural resources and see if they are of use to us.”

“As you say, my King. I’ll leave in the morning.”

When the Plutonian ship landed on Haumea, Sir Doucet gathered a group of knights to accompany him. They donned their space suits and went out the air-lock.

There were a lot of things they didn’t know about the planet they were going to conquer. Another team composed of scientists went the opposite way towards a mountain range.

After Sir Doucet’s team had been walking for days in the arid desert they came upon a forest. It extended as far as they could see. There was no way around it. The trees and thick underbrush hid the sun’s rays.

Sir Doucet turned on the light mounted on his helmet and gestured for the twelve men to follow.

Strange animal shrieks and other odd noises coming from the trees made the men jumpy. Then the ground started to rumble as something large approached the team. When the beast landed in their midst the carnage was instant!

Blood soaked the forest floor and body parts flew as the initial attack survivors tried to get away from the monster’s fury. It was hairy and huge. Bigger than any living thing on Pluto.

Only Sir Doucet, and a badly wounded knight, managed to escape from the deadly forest. Both men were in shock as they slowly made their way back to the ship.

Back on Pluto

“I read your report Sir Doucet, and I can’t say I’m pleased. There’s not one good reason to inhabit Haumea!”

“Forgive me, my lord. We tried.”

“You’re going to have to try harder when you go to Makemake! I want good news this time, or I’ll use your head for a kick ball! Now, get out of here!”

The trip to Makemake took longer than the last one. Sir Doucet had plenty of time to think about his lost comrades, and the king’s dire warning. He felt trapped.

Makemake

This time the team didn’t need helmets to breath. The atmosphere was the same as their planet. A real good sign.

The scientific team was thrilled to find minerals and other usable resources. Sir Doucet’s team roved around looking to make contact with someone, or something. They walked across fertile fields of grass and saw mighty rivers flowing into the horizon.

They saw small mammals and brightly colored birds. The multi-colored trees made a beautiful backdrop to the landscape. The temperature was mild with a gentle breeze as the team trudged on.

When the team stopped to take a break, a bright light suddenly hovered over them! The light grew larger and moved around until it faced the team.

“Welcome to Heaven,” the angel said, while becoming visible to them. “Just repent your sins and you can stay.”

Back on Pluto

“I don’t care! I want another ship built!” the king roared at his court.

“But sire, we sent our best scientists on the last expedition that disappeared,” the Court Chamberlin replied.

As It Stands, I thought this was a novel way to get to Heaven!

Escape from the Slave Planet

th

Tortgur was where slaves were sent from the Urbian Empire.

The planet was inhabited by guards and slaves who were used to manufacture items to support the empire’s war machine.

No one had ever escaped from Tortgur. Slaves lived out their lives there laboring for their masters.

Most of the guards were cyborgs from Xlatam. Their supervisors were Jaltian marines from Terrauni, the Empire’s home planet. Their job was to watch over the cyborgs and the slaves.

The heat from the two suns of Tortgur was intense. If exposed to it – without protection – the slaves skin would turn black and sluff off in painful patches within an hour. Anything over eight hours meant sure death.

The workshops – and assembly lines – were housed under climate controlled domes. The slaves worked 15-hour days. It left them with little time for sleeping, and eating. The only time they had to communicate among themselves was while eating, or after the lights went out in their barracks.

Their only break from the mind-numbing routine was when new slaves arrived. They would share what was going on in the solar system.

After the last of the slaves got off the spaceship they were herded towards the domes. That brief exposure to the blazing heat gave them a taste of what they could expect if they tried running away.

Once inside the main dome the slaves were herded to one side. The base commander gave a short speech, and then they were sent off to their barracks.

Ges Yiper was captured when his planet, Ceresium, was invaded by the Urbian Empire’s star fleet. He was the only prisoner taken alive. It was a bitter fight that lasted a year, as the shape shifters of Ceresium fought against overwhelming odds.

The only reason he was alive was the empire’s scientists were interested in him. After two years of experiments and studying his shape shifting power, they turned him over to the Jaltian marines at the Incarceration and Transportation Division.

His ability to shape shift was nullified by a digital metallic ring forged around his neck. The empire never liked to waste manpower, so Ges was sent to Tortgur.

The first night.

After the barrack lights went out a voice asked Ges where he was from? He shared the fate of his planet.

“If everyone was killed why were you spared?” another voice asked.

“They wanted to study my power,” Ges replied.

An excited murmur in the room.

What power is that?” several voices echoed.

“I can look like anyone, if I want. My captors made sure I couldn’t use my power by putting this damn thing on my neck.”

“Do you know what element it is?” a voice asked.

No. I’m afraid not. Whatever it’s made from we don’t have it where I come from.”

The conversation went on for nearly an hour.

From day one, Ges was determined to escape. The other slaves told him all they knew about life on Tortgur. They also told him no one had ever escaped from the planet.

He kept his escape planning to himself, not trusting anyone. It was apparent they all accepted their miserable existence and had long ago given up hope.

Ges was put to work on an assembly line making parts for the empire’s star fleet. He was on a line that produced control panels. The work was tedious. He had to slip memory cards into four places on each panel in a minute, before the next panel arrived.

At the midday meal Ges was feeling discouraged when a voice behind him asked “Would you like to get rid of that collar?” 

It was the same voice that asked him what element his collar was made out of. He turned and saw a tall Ilerian from Kuubs staring at him.

My name is Voltex,” he said. “I work in the metals department. Let’s talk more tonight.”

The lights went out.

A tap on Ges’s shoulder. “Follow me.”

Voltex led him to the end of the barracks and then opened a door.

“In here.”

Ges followed, and the door quietly closed.

“Be careful, there’s not much room in here. It’s a supply room. We must keep our voices low.” 

“Do you think you could get my collar off?” Ges asked.

“Soon enough, my friend. I want to escape from this hell hole too. If I’m able to cut through your collar, you have to return the favor and help me escape with you.”

“How do you know I’m planning to escape?”

A slight chuckle. Of course you are! Everyone who first gets here can think of nothing else. After a time that passes and hope is a ghost. Are we agreed?”

“Yes. Where do we start?”

“The plan should be for you to shape shift and look like the base commander. You saw him when you first arrived. Kill him. Then make a story up about you having to bring me to Terrauni for a special project.”

“Sounds like you really thought this through.”

It’s called survival. Let me examine you collar up close.” 

Vortex pulled out a small penlight from his overalls and held it up to Ges’s neck.

He studied the collar for several minutes. Taking a small file from another pocket, he drew it across the collar. Back and forth. Then stopped.

“I know what it’s made from. Metotriat metal from Luna II. I’ve got to figure out how to smuggle out a plasma cutter to do the job. Let’s shoot for tomorrow.”

Lights out.

“I’ve got it.”

Ges followed Vortex to the supply room.

“This will hurt like hell. Can you keep from screaming out?”

“Yes. I have a high tolerance to pain. Do it.”

Five minutes later.

The collar was off. Ges closed his eyes. When he opened them again he looked exactly like the base commander.

“Where did you say his office was again?” Ges asked.

A cyborg was startled to see Commander Gafer walking through the now silent manufacturing area in the middle of the night. He watched him head towards his office, and then lost interest.

The door was unlocked. It opened easily. Ges slipped inside silently. Then he went out the back door, and slunk along a pathway leading up to a little house. That door was also unlocked.

He found the commander asleep in his bed and strangled him. It took him two hours to find a place to dispose of the body. He settled for a room full of large metallic crates and trophies lining the walls.

Lucky for Ges, the commander’s job mainly consisted of greeting new slaves and listening to his guards report about infractions among the slaves. There was no daily duties to perform.

Following Voltex’s instructions, Ges went to the Department of Transportation to see when the next ship was leaving for Terrauni. His luck held when the Chief Transportation officer said, “…in two hours.” 

Voltex was called into the commanders office within an hour.

The assistant Chief of Transportation was surprised to see the base commander and a slave booking passage home. No one had told him the news. It was a big deal. The base commander was supposed to serve a ten-year term on Tortgur and he’d only been there five years.

It nagged at his bureaucratic mind.

Once they were in space, Ges and Voltex relaxed. Neither knew what the future held, but it had to be better than being a slave.

The attendant got to their seats and smiled.

Instead of asking them if they wanted something to eat or drink, she held out a small box and pulled two swabs out of it.

Sorry. Regulations. DNA is the only real way to confirm who you are.”

As It Stands, the best laid plans of slaves and aliens oft go astray!