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.

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.

Marooned on Mars

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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.

The Lone Wolf and the Space Cruiser

renderfin_by_adamkop-d9c9jw1The first company to offer public Space Cruises was Skyliner Corporation, in 2103.

The privately owned company was known for its innovations in space travel as a contractor for the U.S. military since 2078.

Space travel was becoming routine when the company’s first public space cruiser took its maiden flight in 2099. The 230 passengers consisted of family members of the entire team that built the giant luxury cruiser, and celebrities who paid top dollar to be on the historic flight into outer space.

The Captain, Joseph Van deMare, was a veteran space traveler who set numerous flight records during his career with the military. Skyliner’s CEO, Todd Knight, lured him out of retirement with the offer to make history, and a lot of money.

The two passenger levels offered a 360-degree view of the wonders of space. Every modern convenience was available to make passengers comfortable. The food, offered up by a 5-star chef was, as the company literature boasted, out of this world!

After the three-day cruise was over, passengers raved about their experiences. They made appearances on popular TV shows and shared their stories of awe and wonder. Some even claimed it was like a religious experience.

Afterwards, the designers and engineers went over the giant ship to see how it held up. One of the many computer techs found something in the software that troubled him. He went to his boss and explained his concern.

There were a couple of minor failures in the re-entry system software, and if not for the fail-safe system backup there could have been a disaster. All those happy passengers could have been roasted like chestnuts in a fire.

The board of directors agreed more work needed to be done before the next public flight. They also made sure no word got out about how close they’d come to a catastrophic event.

A year later the designers, the engineers, and the computer techs, patched the problems and added another back-up, to the first back-up system. Throughout this time controversy sprang up on social media platforms, and television, about man’s need to leave the planet.

Most agreed it was a good thing. Space travel for the masses might someday save mankind. Others thought it was blasphemy that people would want to leave the planet God made for them. Even for a short time.

Captain Van deMare stood on a platform next to the Space Cruiser, christened The Arc by the press, and the Milky Way Express by the owners, and patiently answered questions.

“Is it true there’s going to six weddings during this cruise?” a reporter from CNN asked.

“Yes. And I’ll be marrying them.”

“Any safety concerns?” another reporter from a local news station asked.

“If there were, I wouldn’t be going. This big bird (he slapped the side of the space cruiser’s hull) is indestructible,” he assured the reporter.

Watch it!” another reporter joked, “Isn’t that what the owners said about The Titanic?” 

“Well, that’s about all. I have to get ready now, we’re leaving in six hours. Thank you all for coming. I’ll see you again when we get back,” Captain Van deMare said.

DAY ONE

All of the passengers are having the time of their lives with the exception of one man, Abraham Klein. He’s sitting quietly at a table for two. Before him, an Autumn Vegetable Salad with Beetroot Dressing has hardly been touched.

He waits for God to speak to him. He’s ready.

DAY TWO

Alone in his room, Abraham pulls out the leather pouch from beneath his shirt. He carefully pulls the leather string and peeks inside – the miniature bomb’s shiny surface picks up the overhead light and he sees his face.

But no word from God.

DAY THREE

Abraham continues avoiding conversations with people. It’s lonely being God’s servant. He has a moment of guilt when he sees a new bride kiss her husband on the big screen. Their joy almost seems heavenly he thought, then caught himself.

No. He was the heavenly one. Soon to be one of God’s angels.

DAY FOUR

When the captain offered a tour of the massive space cruiser, Abraham joined in with the other passengers. His heart sped up. Was this going to be his opportunity?

Two levels below the second passenger level, there were three fusion reactors that powered the behemoth. As the curious passengers stepped out of the elevators, Abraham felt his chest, and the leather bag underneath his shirt burned.

Then God spoke.

Back on Earth

Press from around the world surrounded Skyliner Corporations headquarters.

The Milky Way Express had gone dark two days ago. Phone calls to, and from, the space cruiser suddenly stopped. Military space ships searched the route the space cruiser took, but found nothing.

As It Stands, this is my nod to the terrorists we face today. Especially to “Lone Wolfs.” 

 

Beware the Treacherous Tides of Titan

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Surfers from the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy are drawn to the tides of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, like moths.

Considered the most treacherous tides in two galaxies, it is a must ride for any surfer who had aspirations of making a name for himself (or herself) to shoot the tube on Titan’s Tides.

In a recent issue of Solar Surfers, some of the dangers were described in chilling details. For those unaware of the challenges, Titan’s oceans are full of carnivorous creatures ranging in size from an inch to four-hundred feet long.

The article, a first-hand account from a Mercurian surfer who survived a full ride, warned that lone predators, like the foot-long Teethers, wait until they see a surfer waiting a long time for a clean-up set to attack.

Decisiveness was crucial, the article emphasized.

Buzz, considered one of the three best surfers on Earth, set his copy of Solar Surfers down and checked the official drone provided by The Inter-Space Surfing Federation for validation.

Without the drone recording him it didn’t matter what he did…no one would ever know if he put on a spectacular show.

After registering his DNA with the drone he picked up his long board and walked towards the distant waves. The golden sand beneath his feet glittered beneath the blue Titan sky. A small patch of purple clouds gathered in the north.

Buzz looked up at the clouds and thought about the article he just read. It pointed out his best chances for avoiding sea creatures was during the short light cycle – a period of three hours of daylight.

He checked his waterproof wrist computer. Everything looked good. The water was pleasantly warm as he paddled out.

The waves were jacking as he rose with each swell. The hallow and intense waves grew higher as he paddled on. Then he was beyond the waves and paddling on a calm sea. The water around him shimmered with all the colors of a rainbow on Venus.

But he knew he had to make a move soon. He paddled back and forth impatiently trying to spot a clean-up set. Waves so immense they had no equal in two solar systems. Then he saw what he wanted.

The purple clouds were now overhead. Buzz wasn’t aware of that, his eyes were riveted to a spot deep behind the peak of a massive hollow wave.  Man and board shot through the wave’s tube to the other side of the peak!

He was riding pigdog, clutching the board with both hands, when he made a powerful sweeping move that allowed him to establish even more speed and go in the direction he wanted. Towards the shore. The drone, faithfully recorded the heart-stopping ride.

He didn’t feel the first strike when he was waist deep in the water walking towards the shore. He grabbed his board feebly when the second, and third strike, took away the lower half of his body!

The drone meanwhile recorded Buzz’s last moments. It was programed to return in four hours to the Inter-Space Surfing Federation headquarters. When it arrived, the Director viewed the film – like so many others – and confirmed his death, time, and place.

Having to contact the family was the hardest part of the Director’s job. Surprisingly, most of the families said the same thing, “Well…he died doing what he loved the most.”

As It Stands, I was thinking of rock climbers here on earth when I wrote this piece.

The Drunken StormTroopers Punishment

lehmann-joerg-bacchus-roman-god-of-wine-painted-wooden-figure1 Headquarters for the 37th Solar Stormtroopers, Circa 4588, Mercury

“You stand accused of Section 2115 – Drunk on Duty,  Private Bar12 Bacc. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I hope I have a good lawyer!”

The three judge jury looked down at the squat, ungainly, figure of Private Bar12 Bacc and simultaneously wondered how he ever got into the Solar Stormtroopers. His slovenly appearance was an affront to the fleet.

He was short, even by Mercurian standards. Bar12 wasn’t recruiting poster material in anyone’s army. He enjoyed playing pranks, drinking, telling jokes, and chasing females. His ability to down great quanties of liquor made from Neptunian grapes, was legendary throughout the fleet.

So how did a slob like Bar12 Bacc get into the Imperial Star Fleet? The answer was stunningly unimpressive; his wealthy parents bribed the Supreme Commander to take their wayward son into military service for 20 years.

It was only a year into the arrangement when Bar12 was busted for drinking on duty. He was lectured, fined, and told to never do it again. The said that the second time too. And the third.

Now, as the jury of three looked at him they were faced with a tough decision, the penalty for defying the rules was death. But when the star fleet lawyer told them they couldn’t kill Bar12 because the Supreme Commander said so, they sought a creative way out of the situation.

Bar12 had to be made an example of. Military disipline demanded it. It took the judges three days to come up with a solution. They would exile Bar12 for life to another planet in the solar system.

They picked earth at the time mankind was beginning to emerge from mud huts to building great mounds. The primitive planet would be a safe place to send him. When the verdict was given to Bar12 he blinked stupidly.

He was allowed to bring a small memento with him to his new home. After the spacecraft dropped him off in a country called Italy, he pulled out his momento. A dozen seeds from his favorite Neptunian vineyards.

He quickly planted them in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace. His new earth name was Bacchus, and his vineyards soon become the stuff of legends. So did he. His ability to drink any wine and party hearty was seen as a good thing among his Roman followers.

At some point in time they called him a god.

To underscore the influence of Bar12’s amazing evolutionary leap in wine making, the techniques used to make the earliest Neptunian/Languedoc wine in the first century A.D. did not change until the 1970’s.

As It Stands, this is my myth about the creation of Bacchus, the God Of Wine.

How a Bounty Hunter Saved America

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Prologue – 2022 in Earth’s Timeline.

An Inter-Galactic Wanted Poster was displayed in two Solar Systems:

Rogue Scientist, Dr. Ki, wanted for stealing secret technology from two planets. Shoot upon contact! Proof of kill needed for reward.

2099 – Earth.

“There is no beginning and there is no end. Just the here and now.”

“How’s that sound X-249? Can you help me out with this new app message? the Director asked, already knowing the answer.

X-249, his personal robot, sat down behind a computer and went to work right away. From a distance, and if you had some sight problems, X-249 looked like a human. A silver human.

“It shouldn’t take me too long to build the construct you request Director.”

The new app was an immediate hit. They always were. It worked seamlessly with people’s personal mobile communication device implants. The Director and his political staff made sure everyone had one, and that they regularly downloaded the Director’s messages.

If they didn’t, they’d be subject to a government fine resulting in five years in solitary, on the third of the sixty-two moons of Saturn.

Americans needed to be programed once a week. The Director’s apps provided them with inspirational messages while they awaited his commands. It was just one in a variety of ways he used to control the country.

There wasn’t any need for brute force since the last rebellion in 2093. That’s when the Director employed killer Cyborgs that butchered the rebel forces. Resistance faded away. The dream of justice and freedom was turned into a nightmare again.

Despite that, every decade or two, men and women gathered secretly to oppose the draconian laws imposed by the Director. The constitution was a sacred book that gave them hope. They kept their history alive by orally sharing it with each generation.

People no longer spoke aloud. Instead they used sign language to communicate. Americans had lost their voices. Talking meant they could be recorded and subjected to some obscure law resulting in punishment.

For generations baby’s were shushed and taught basic sign language. It was the one thing about the people the Director didn’t know about. He thought they were born mute, for whatever obscure reason.

A simple blinking-eye Morris Code was also taught at an early age. The fires of resistance were hardwired into their collective DNA. Everyone looked forward to the day when they would be free.

When it happened, it was anti-climatic. No one got a message from the Director one day. Then the next. A week went by and no messages, or demands! It took a month for someone to finally find the Director’s body, sans head, in his secret headquarters.

Directly above the headless Director was a shiny photo showing a gray alien holding the Director’s head in one hand, an exotic sword in the other, and a wanted poster in his third hand.

As It Stands, a bounty-hunter saving America is the kind of irony that tickles my muse.