The Pleasure House of Pindor

 

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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

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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

 

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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

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“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

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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!

The Curse of the Orionian Diamond

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From the Chronicles of Zartam

“And there was a great Lord who processed the biggest, most beautiful, diamond in the Milky Way solar system.

It came to pass that a warlord in the dune fields of Auroe heard about the famous diamond and lusted for it.

Rek Thronebolt, the ruler of the dunes of Auroe, gathered up other warlords from the wasted lands of Gattis and the forests of Turon. He promised them riches and slaves from the wealthy kingdom of Zan, whose king Zartam was rumoured to be getting old and weak.

The great war that followed ended in a deadly draw, as most of the participants were killed. Only a few stragglers from each side survived. Among them was King Zartam’s daughter, Zetrina, who pocessed the Orionian diamond.

She was a high priestess of Parek, a magical cult that worshipped truth and honesty. As such, she put a curse upon the diamond if a cheat or a liar tried to take it. Zetrina and three other priestess died a year later.

Hundreds of years passed, erasing the site of King Zartam’s castle under the shifting sands as the dune fields expanded.”

Transcribed by Lut Nore

On the Second Day of Hatar, 33098

Dar En Sun, Hyperion – One of 62 Moons surrounding Saturn

“Be careful how you handle that Actinolite Cat’s Eye necklace. It’s made from a rare gem from Earth, you dolts!”  the Museum’s curator, Nar Feh, grumbled.

He was running out of time. The intergalatic exhibition of rare and precious gems of the Milky Way, was coming to Oberon, the second largest moon orbiting Uranus. There were only three more zorts left, and he still didn’t have the Orionion Diamond.

It was slated to be the crown jewel of the show. Backers from two solar systems were financing the exhibition. They expected to see the Orionion Diamond. As a matter of fact, it was in the contract.

Nar Feh’s collection featured a brilliant assortment of gems from Actinolite Cat’s Eyes from Earth; Yellow Geodes from Neptune; Green Amethysts from Venus; Andalusite from Mercury with it’s changing colors; Dense Cassiterite from Uranus; Golden Chrysocolla from Jupiter; Stunning Blue Sapphires from Saturn; and Purple Rubies from Mars.

But thus far, no Orionian Diamond from Hyperion. The main attraction. All of Nar Feh’s hope was resting on the team he hired to get the fabled diamond.

The team from Mercury consisted of six people. All, but one, were experts on precious gems and minerals in three solar systems. Their combined education would fill the Great Library of Hroth Hor on Jupiter.

The sixth member, Dar Ben Toca, a famous jewel thief and noted adventurer in jail, was granted amnesty when he agreed to work with the team to locate the Orionion Diamond. Someone had put up a lot of xelks to pull that off.

The mission had to be completed before 12 zorts passed.

Hyperion was windy and cold year round. No living thing appeared to be left. The team, packing pounds of equipment, trudged through wastelands that were once fertile fields, and forests of colorful hard wood for nine zorts.

If it wasn’t for the discovery of the Chronicles of Zartam by the Hyperion scribe, Lut Nore, no one would have ever known about the great diamond, or the Kingdom of Zan. The moon’s history would have remained forever lost under the shifting sands of time.

Hyperion.

Tempers were getting short in the main tent one night. The five experts were busy blaming each other for their failure to locate the lost kingdom of Zan. Each had a vision of glory. Each dreamt of untold wealth and fame.

Alone, in his small tent, Dar Ben Toca took another hit off his pipe. The ingredient was a plant from Pluto, a weed with the wonderful power to ease a person’s mind from daily struggles.

Setting the long pipe down, he crawled out of the tent and stood up. The night sky was filled with stars glittering like diamonds. A shooting star streaked across the heavens. He walked away from the camp’s bright lights coming from the main tent.

It took a few moments to adjust his eyes to the difference in lighting. When he did, he was surprised to see what appeared to be a square rock sticking out from a sandy mound.

As he got closer he realized the mound was higher than he thought. Getting down on his knees, Dar Ben Toca started digging with his hands. In a short time it became obvious that he had discovered something important.

He had mixed reactions about his discovery. On one hand, he still had to go back to prison. His reward was getting 52 zorts off his 499 zort sentence. On the other hand, he could take his chances and grab some supplies and take off.

He might not survive long, but at least he would die free. The problem was he did swear an oath that he would return. He went back to his tent and curled up with his pipe. He’d sleep on it.

The next day, Dar Ben Toca led the team to the spot he’d discovered. After setting up the extraction loaders, and activating two robot diggers, they all watched as the fabled castle wall was slowly revealed!

Within a short time the diggers had made it to the ground floor of the castle and were clearing out rooms. The team watched the process until it got dark. When they got up the next day a path had been cleared for exploration.

It was the team leader, Kor Kar, who discovered the Orionian Diamond in a great tomb in the castle’s bowels. It sat on a stand designed to display it. The stand was next to alabaster coffin containing the body of the high preistess Zetrina.

When the whole team assembled in the room, Kor Kar made a short speech applauding their efforts. Then he turned to the diamond, which was the size of a normal earthling’s head, and reached out for it…

The team gasped in unison when Kor Kar’s face turned black, his eyes rolled back, and he made small mewling noises before dropping to the ground like a sack of Martian red roots.

The curse!” someone screamed.

“It can’t be!” someone else claimed. “There are no curses!”

“Then what was that!” another hysterical voice asked.

Finding the diamond was one challenge. Getting the diamond back to the museum was another.

What are we going to do” one of the team members asked. “Aren’t any of us honest enough to pick this diamond up?”

That’s when Dar Ben Toca saw his chance to get a better deal. Maybe even his freedom.

“I’ll do it. But I need you all to speak up for me.”

Four heads nodded up and down in agreement. Anything to complete their mission.

When Dar Ben Toca held the heavy diamond in his arms he knew his life was going to get better.

As It Stands, truth often comes in strange packages.

New Intergalactic Circus Causes Controversy

 

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Staros – Andromeda Galaxy

Stian Field Grounds

“Step right up folks! See your first circus featuring wild and exotic species from the Milky Way.”

The long line moved smoothly. Families brought their children with them to witness the amazing sights. The atmosphere was full of excitement as Staroians swapped stories about some of the creatures that were going to be on display.

Publicity for the major event was heavy with side bar stories about the species that were being featured.

Opening day was the culmination of two years of searching for specimens throughout the Milky Way. With the guidance of trainers, the collected species were taught to do amusing things.

The circus was owned by Cosmic Entertainment, the largest entertainment corporation on Staros. The ringmaster, Sen-Set Hak, was the son of one of the owners. It was his job to put the show together.

As the audience swelled under the massive Big Top tent, a group of clowns from Pluto scampered around the center ring on all five legs, to the delight of the growing audience.

Two huge, and hairy three-legged Donarts from Venus were being led around the ring by a tall thin Venusian. He snapped his whip now and then for dramatic effect. His glittering green costume reflected light like a mirror.

Sen-Set Hak stood proudly in the center of the chaos. His bulky 15-foot frame was covered in colored gems that made his jacket and trousers glitter brightly. His top hat, made from the coat of a local mammal, was black with a golden band.

After the seats were full, dramatic music blared from hundreds of speakers. Sen-Set raised all three arms, calling for silence. The music abruptly stopped. The audience followed and waited silently.

“Welcome! Today you’re going to see sights you never imagined. Rare and exotic specimens from throughout the Milky Way are here today…just for your entertainment!”

The crowd roared approvingly.

“Allow me to introduce the Saturn Marching Band, featuring the planet’s best musicians!”

A tent flap opened and tiny musicians scurried out in unison. The tallest was two-feet high, and was the band leader. The little troupe paraded around the main ring in bright yellow costumes playing catchy tunes.

Suddenly two saber-toothed tigers from Neptune’s largest forest, ran into the tent and chased the band members around for a few minutes before their trainer called them off. The terrified band members scuttled out to roars of laughter from the audience.

Another tent flap was peeled back and four circus helpers pulled out a large cage made of a see-through material found in the mines of Mercury. Inside were two Martian warriors armed with crude wooden clubs.

Sen-set gave a signal and the two combatants went at it like honey-badgers from Earth. They were evenly matched. Both were six-feet tall with long brawny arms and short thick legs.

Their heads, which looked too small in comparison with the rest of their body, were covered in black hoods so they couldn’t see. Their fierce shouts and screams of pain entranced the audience.

The fight ended suddenly when one of them could no longer stand. The victor silently stood and waited for the audience expectedly.

A voice from the seats cried out, “Kill him!” Then someone else chimed in, “Kill him!” Soon, almost half of the audience was calling for the defeated Martian’s death. The victor took his hood off and obliged by smashing his opponent’s head in.

The blood stained cage was quickly wheeled out during the pandemonium in the seats. People were crying out that it was wrong to watch two species kill each other! Others said it was entertaining.

In the midst of the chaos a tent flap was pulled aside and a group of a dozen Earthlings charged out into the center arena where they did cartwheels and other physical tricks.

“For your pleasure,” Sen-Set shouted over the loud speakers, effectively ending the momentary controversy in the stands, “…we have a group of Chinese Earthlings renown for their gymnastics and acrobatic shows!”

The group hopped around like fleas on speed. Complex routines kept the audience riveted on their act. Their graceful strength and agility was appreciated by the athletic Staroians…many of whom had already forgotten about the brutality of the prior act.

Among the audience however, was a press pool covering the historic event. A popular reporter from a major newspaper in Staro’s capitol city of Werjet, was composing his article while the Earthlings went through their routines.

“Just what defines entertainment?” he asked, in the first sentence.

As It Stands, entertainment can mean different things, in different cultures, and worlds.