The Great Whodini Aka Malgog

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Roaring 20s – America

It was a Golden Age for magic in America, thanks to escape artist and magician Harry Houdini, and his contemporaries.

The competition among magic acts was fierce with performers like George The Supreme Master of Magic, Chang and Fak-Hong, Thurston The World Famous Magician, Alexander, The Man Who Knows, and the Black Houdini.

Some may argue that it was a time of naivety and gullibility. One thing was for sure, people were always looking for the next great trick, or escape. This story is about one of those magicians.

Pima, Arizona – The Valley of the Gila River

It was just breaking light when the Martian space ship crashed into a copse of trees near the Gila River. Two, of the crew of three, were killed on impact. The survivor was still inside an escape pod that was never launched.

When Malgog woke up hours later, he felt like every bone in his body was broken. His head ached and his vision was blurred. Somehow he got out of the pod that was partially pinned down by a massive bank of computers that shifted on impact.

Instinct told him to get clear of the crippled craft. Once outside he looked around at his surroundings. No cities. No people. That was a good. He crawled back inside of the ship and gathered some supplies.

While inside, he activated two plasma bombs. He was almost a mile away when they went off, disintegrating the ship. The glow competed with the rising sun.

Malgog was stranded. Marooned on Earth. He knew full well he’d never see the underground oceans of Mars again. If nothing else, Malgog was logical. He was also thankful that he could live in Earth’s environment.

The tunnels and caverns of Mars provided an atmosphere much like Earth’s.

As he walked through the rough countryside, he began mentally preparing himself for contact with earthlings. He had a language app on his wristband that sent translations directly into the receiver implanted in the back of his skull.

He reviewed what he learned in the Galaxy Guide To The Planets. There was a summary of mankind’s evolution and history that left off somewhere after the Civil War in America.

Malgog had two very positive things going for him; like all Martians he could read minds, and his strength was that of five men.

When he reached the little town of Pima, founded by the Mormons in 1879, he walked down the wooden sidewalk peering inside of windows. He passed the bat doors of the town saloon, and approached a man sitting on a wooden chair precariously balanced on two legs.

He had a bottle of whiskey in one hand and was mumbling to himself when Malgog said “Hello.”

It startled him enough to bring his chair down on all fours as the man looked up at the speaker. He was a tall man with a good tan and a bald head. He was also wearing an outfit like the drunk had never seen before.

It was a black one-piece affair that fit like a second skin. He wore a belt with metal pouches. The drunk, whose name was Arron, looked at the wall near where Malgog was standing and the poster on it.

The poster featured a colorfully clad magician waving a wand and wearing a cape.

“Hello, right back at you,” he replied. “Who are you? A magician? The next Whodini?” he laughed heartedly at his own joke.

An inspiration came to Malgog, and he said “Yes. I’m the Great Malgog!”

That seemed to sober Arron up a bit and he took a long look at him.

“Where’s you cape?” he demanded.

“Lost. I could use your help. I’m stranded here without any means due to unfortunate circumstances.”

“I like the name Whodini better,” he mused. “All right then friend, follow me. You can sleep on the floor in my rented room. I might even have an extra blanket. Been getting cold at night. It’s almost winter.”

Two Year’s Later.

Arron still couldn’t believe his luck. Malgog turned out to be an instant hit on the magic circuit, and he was his manager. No more Podunk towns like Pima. They had a grand house in Boulder, Colorado. Servants and all.

Malgog was so popular in the Midwest that he and Arron only picked the best venues. Their partnership was solid, and served them both well. In the main room of their elegant house there were photographs of him lifting impossibly heavy objects.

Theatre posters with examples of The Great Malgog’s magic tricks also adorned the lavishly decorated room.

His success did not rob him of his logic. He purposely stayed away from the West and East coast magic circuits. The one thing he didn’t want to do was to become so famous that people demanded to know about his background.

He could invent one, but it could eventually be debunked. Instead he preferred to be a man of mystery in real life. He never granted interviews with the press and always left by back exits after his performances.

Arron was his connection to the world. After six years Malgog retired, and they bought a ranch near Billings, Montana. Before Malgog died 15 years later of natural causes, he confessed his true identity to Arron…his one friend on Earth. He creamated the stranded Martian and threw his personal things into a lake.

But, Arron couldn’t just let Malgog’s story go untold. When he went to the press he was greeted with skepticism and laughter. Finally, his brother appeared and put the now frail old man in a home.

So, now you know the story of the greatest magician there ever was – and it wasn’t Harry Houdini.

As It Stands, this tale of a marooned Martian was a fun way to revive the Golden Age of magic.

Comes An Asteroid On A Starry, Starry Night

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Nolis, Neptune

The mass exodus had begun.

When the scientists said that a giant asteroid was going to hit the planet and there would be no survivors, panic ensued.

The wealthy and elite were the first to fill the space buses to Jupiter – a longtime trading partner.

When the space buses returned to get more passengers they were hijacked by armed and desperate inhabitants. Only the strong and armed made the second wave to Jupiter. Then the space buses were grounded.

The remaining Neptunians had no way to leave the planet.

They clustered together in like-minded groups. Neltics gravitated to their kind, and Ulrians did the same. Some groups were new cults that sprang up a month earlier when the word about the impending asteroid became public.

Only two people on the planet were not worried about the imminent asteroid.

The wizard, Na-En Ree, and his young Neltic apprentice, Pit, knew a secret. Because they were outcasts from Neptunian society, they lived far from the big cities. In the frozen tundra near the Kper Mountain range.

Once wizards were universally respected and no civilized city went without at least a dozen offering good advise. They were respected. That changed however with the rise of the scientific elite.

At the turn of the new millennium, a scientific cult became increasingly popular. The inventions they came up with awed the masses. Advances in weaponry and space travel opened up their world. Then trade with Jupiter was established, forever cementing their leadership.

The old ways were soon forbidden. The power of the wizards was broken. They were hunted down all over the planet in one day of terrible reckoning. There was only one survivor… Na-En Ree.

He escaped the terrible purge with the help of a young Neltic runaway. He led Na-En Ree to his crude cave in the frozen tundra near the Kper Mountain range. The boy had been on his own for months, and missed having company.

The boy, Pit, was a clever lad and Na-En Ree soon made him his apprentice. He took Pit outside every night to observe the stars and planets in the starry, starry skies. The wizard read the stars just like a Neptunian could read a book.

One night he took the boy outside as usual, but this time he told him to record what he saw. Pit saw the planet Jupiter, its brightness like a thousand stars in its weekly orbit. Hours went by when suddenly a giant flaming asteroid slammed into Jupiter instantly pulverizing the planet and lighting up the galaxy.

The boy recorded the time and duration of the brightness until the growing dawn brought light to Neptune’s clear blue skies.

“As I told you Pit, the scientists were wrong about which planet was going to be destroyed by the great asteroid. This is important for people to understand. The old ways are best.

Go now, to Nolis, and spread the word my son, that someday I may return and share my wisdom until my last days in peace.”

The Chronicles of Pit and the Wizard tell us they succeeded in restoring harmony among the remaining Neptunians within two short years.

As It Stands, the conflict between science and magic is eternal.

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!

The Martians Last Stand

 

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The underground city of Atoish, Mars – circa 3088.

A group of top Martian scientists and elders are gathered for one purpose; to save the planet.

For eons, their scientists tracked movements in the Milky Way. They observed strange spacecraft coming from the solar systems other planets.

Most explorers avoided Mars rugged desert landscape, but some came near enough to make close-up observations.

It was only a matter of time before someone discovered the artfully disguised tunnels leading underground.

When the first space craft landed on Mars in 3091, it was from Earth. Two earthlings exploring the terrain stumbled upon a tunnel entrance surrounded by boulders. The Martians greeted them warmly, and took them to their capital City of Atoish.

The earthlings told the Grand Council that they came in peace and were explorers from the planet Earth. It amused the Martians that the earthlings were so awed by the gems and precious metals they mined for ceremonial purposes.

Martian history books noted that one of the men, Major John Wayne Connors, was very greedy and lusted for Martian riches. He was caught stealing a bag of precious gems and the Grand Council immediately banned the earthlings from Mars for life.

Most historians agreed that letting them leave was the beginning of the end for Mar’s future. Historians that recorded the contact wrote that they should have killed them, and protected the secret of their presence on Mars. But that would have gone against their beliefs. Lives were more precious than riches.

Mars, unlike every other planet in the solar system, had never suffered the ravages of warfare. There were no warlords or armies. It’s inhabitants were peaceful and highly intelligent. It had always been so.

Two years after the earthlings were banned their Martians science had advanced to the point where they could send spy drones to all the planets, to observe their actions. Their advanced software allowed them to translate conversations.

After listening to communications from Earth for a year, the Grand Council gathered to see what they could do about the imminent invasion coming from Earth. They listened to how the governments of the world agreed on a joint expedition to loot Mar’s precious gems and minerals.

There were no weapons of war, or standing armies, on Mars. It was a planet blessed with peace for eons, and that was coming to an end. There was no way to resist an invasion fleet.

The elders had no doubt that they would slaughter the people so they made a drastic proposal; using their mining experience they would create earthquakes with their seismic knowledge that would go on forever.

Of course it meant death for all Martians, and their civilized society. But wasn’t that what they were already facing with the invasion? It was better than torture or captivity.

The Grand Council took a vote. All were in favor of the idea. Then the elders went out into the cities and small towns and told the people what was happening, giving them time to prepare for the end.

Two weeks after the Martians decision, the earthquakes began.

By the time the first invaders from earth arrived, the surface of the planet was too unstable to land on.

As It Stands, this is my take on human beings as the primary predators on earth…and possibly beyond.

Treasure Hunters of the Cigar Galaxy

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Qureen Valley, Aesay

Cigar Galaxy

Otsee watched his hulking associate dig into the hard soil of Aesay.

After four hours he had barely scratched the surface, only getting down a foot.

The blazing sun overhead was burning their pale skins. Otsee pulled his floppy hat down over his three eyes. He set the map down that he was studying, and picked up a whisp pod and drank thirstily from it’s short tube.

Lurma!” he called out, “Come have a drink.”

The big Antolan dropped his shovel and slowly walked over to where Otsee had set up camp. At seven feet-tall and weighing over 500-pounds he was fearsome to look at. The tusks protruding out of his mouth added to the impression.

“Lurma thirsty” he rumbled, as Otsee handed him two whisp pods.

“Something isn’t right,” Otsee said. “This ground is much harder than we were told. It’ll take forever to dig down 30 feet. We only have 10 hours before Pike and his band of cutthroat renegades gets here.”

Lurma looked at him with his one big blue eye and asked, “Trouble?” 

Otsee looked at the giant and wondered – for the thousandth time – how the two became friends? He was only five-feet tall and slender, barely weighing 120 pounds. He was from a different planet – Jura. Otsee was from Yegoh, a dwarf moon circling Jura.

He was an accomplished archeologist who had a license to search the Cigar Galaxy for treasures. Lurma had no formal learning and was simple by most standards. He made up for it with his humor, honesty, and loyalty.

After a hundred years, the memory plays tricks, reasoned Otsee. It wasn’t important anyway when they became friends. The important thing was they were best friends now. Lurma was a gentle giant most of the time.

When Otsee bought the map from an old space pirate (a longtime enemy of Pike) he was warned there was another one just like it. His connections, he told Otsee, said that Pike had the other one, and was collecting a crew.

Pike had much further to go than Otsee. Even with a two-day start, Otsee knew he could get there first. The old space pirate said it was a matter of digging a deep hole and they’d find the stolen gems from fabled Usteria.

Now, with time running out, Otsee knew he had to come up with another plan.

“We’re going to let them find the gems!,” Otsee blurted out.

Lumar’s brow furrowed, a sign that he didn’t understand.

“We’ll let them dig that hole. When they have it, we’ll get it from them. My license also comes with the power to make a private arrest in the case of pirates like Pike.”

Lumar, seeing Ostee’s face light up with hope grinned happily.

“C’mon Lumar! We need to move our ship before they get here.”

The next day, Pike’s crew of nine were busy setting up a metal apparatus where Lumar had been digging. Pike noticed the shallow hole while his men were working. His animal instinct told him it could mean trouble.

He sent out a three-man patrol to see if anyone else was nearby. Pike was satisfied when they came back at dusk and reported that they couldn’t find anyone. The apparatus would be finished by tomorrow.

During the night, Otsee and Lumar finished hiking back to the treasure site. It was a grueling 24-hour hike and they were both tired. Otsee set the alarm on his wrist as they took shelter in the nearby hill.

The noise – a high squeal – came from the electromagnetic pulse drill as it burrowed into the hard soil. It woke Ostee and Lumar up.

They watched all morning as the drill did its work. Finally the drill came up and stayed. In its place, a recovery robot, attached by a thick cable, was lowered down the gaping hole.

Pike and his crew cheered when they brought the robot up and it was clutching a four foot wide metal box inscribed in Usterian text. The robot set it down gently next to Pike. The crew eagerly gathered around the box.

When Pike opened the box, a toxic green cloud billowed out and enveloped them. Pike and the crew staggered around until, one-by-one, each crumbled to the ground, dying.

Ostee and Lumar watched in horror. It was the last thing either expected to see. They kept watching as the bodies thrashed around in their final death throes. The green mist sunk back into the box. Then a blazing blue beacon of light shot out of the box, piercing the stars in space.

Almost instantly, two beings appeared. One put its long arms up over its head and the box rose into the air. Then the box floated over to the hole. Quicker than Lumar could blink his eye, the box descended into the hole.

The other being pointed at the drill, the camp site, the bodies, and the ship. They all crumbled into dust. Both beings stepped back into the blue light.

After they were gone Ostee looked at Lumar and shook his head. That could have been them if they had succeeded in getting to the box first.

“Lumar, my friend, I think it’s time we try another profession. Like growing whisp pods on Yegoh.” 

As It Stands, like the man says, “…you gotta know when to play, and when to fold.”

Marooned on Mars

A-lone-explorer-on-Mars-by-Alberto-Vangelista

It was a scientific mission gone wrong.

The crew of the Planet Chaser, a research ship from Venus, were supposed to spend a week on Mars to determine if there were any resources there that would benefit their planet.

The Institute of Exploration funded the mission.

But there was a problem with the ships landing software, and it crashed near the site of Olympus Mons, the largest volcano on Mars, and the second-highest known mountain in the solar system.

The only survivor, a scientist named Hei Manz, lay in the rubble for two days before he had enough strength to move around. Luckily for him, Mars thin atmosphere was very similar to Venus.

It took Hei a month to build a shelter near the wreck using salvageable materials. He saved what was left of the portable lab designed to let researchers conduct experiments in the field.

There was enough food and water for a crew of twelve for seven days. It was sealed in metal drums that he rolled over to his camp site. It got harder everyday to go back into the ship, where his comrades were rotting.

One of the challenges Hei faced was that he wasn’t an engineer or computer expert. The chances of putting together a device to seek help were as thin as the atmosphere. He was a scientist who studied the make-up of planets. Nothing more, nothing less.

His biggest challenge was that he only had 84 days worth of food and water.

One day he was testing the soil and discovered it had an alkaline pH and contained magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride. His first kernel of hope was when he found that the soil nutrients could support life.

As he studied Mar’s two moons, Phobos and Deimos, that night, he decided that his only hope was to try to find life – despite the risks that entailed. He might have a chance if there were intelligent beings living under the reddish iron oxide surface.

Forty days later he was pulling a crude cart through one of the largest canyons in the solar system; Valles Marineris, with the last of his food and supplies. It was one of the many areas Venusian scientists had mapped out on Mars prior to the mission.

It was hard trying to stay positive when he knew the odds were against him. He dreamt of home and his family. He wasn’t married, but came from a family of nine siblings who were all very close.

He was never alone growing up. Being alone was not something he ever thought about. Between family and friends, he was fortunate not to have had to experience complete isolation.

He began talking to himself out loud after two weeks of mind-numbing travel.

“What will you do if you find a dangerous species that wants to kill you?” he asked himself.

“There’s nothing I can do. I don’t have a weapon,” he petulantly answered. “Scientists don’t need weapons!” he shouted out to the craters, jagged rocks and hills surrounding him.

Eighteen days after running out of food and water, Hei was still walking. The cart was gone. He lost his hat somewhere, and his bald head was burnt to the color of the soil.

Then he saw three Venusian marines on a hill coming towards him! Rescuers! His luck held up! He couldn’t wait to get home and tell everyone his story.

It took the Venusian government weeks to get approval to send a military ship to see what happened to the crew of the Planet Chaser. When the marines landed on Mars they quickly went to the site of the wreck.

The strong winds blew away Hei’s tracks. The marines split up into groups of three and fanned out in all directions. On the 122nd day they found Hei. He was reclining on his side, and despite being exposed to the elements, there was a smile on his face.

The marines took his body home.

As It Stands, I have often wondered how I would handle being marooned on an island.