Qureen Valley, Aesay
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.”