Written and Read by Montgomery Thompson
Purple light made the steam glow, drifting sluggishly in the hot air as the entrepreneur’s claws wrapped around his cool beverage. He brushed aside the little umbrella, his flicking tongue searching for the straw. Languishing in a hammock next to him was a five-foot long slug. Two shiny black orbs, perched on wobbly stalks and adorned with a thin strip of hair that passed as eyebrows, scowled in disagreement. It was a relationship almost as old as microbial life: lawyer and client consulting in the security of a private sauna.
“No,” the slug drawled.
“What do you mean no?” His client, Sitasti, flicked his tongue in irritation; he didn’t care for the word ‘no’.
“There’s no way, Sitasti, the law is clear. You can’t develop any planet inhabited by intelligent life.” The bulk of the lawyer’s slugness shifted in the hammock leaving a disturbing grill-like pattern on his gelatinous skin.
“Drom, you know as well as I do that those primitives on Thun are nowhere near intelligent. Besides, none of the locals even knows they have company.”
“Sitasti, I’m tired of this. Just because you stumble on an uncharted planet doesn’t mean you get to enslave the natives. It’s just not cost effective.”
“You’re right on that,” he slurped from his umbrella drink, “the fines alone would put me out of business. Come on, you’re my attorney. Don’t you know any loop holes?”
“No, Sitasti, the only way you’re going to make a claim on that planet is if the inhabitants disappear and that’s impossible, so just forget it.”
Sitasti stood and began to pace. The seven-and-a-half-foot tall reptile scratched his scaly head and thought. Thun was his ticket to the big leagues. He had found it and named it. By rights, it was his, but he wasn’t allowed to touch it.
“I don’t like the concept of impossible, Drom. We’re talking about an entire planet here! If I can work that claim, you and me will be rich beyond our wildest dreams. Think about it, your own private jungle, salt free! I might even be able to buy you a consulate seat.” Sitasti leaned in close to the lawyer. “Imagine the look on Judge Blarck’s face. You, taking your seat as an esteemed member of the Galactic Council.”
“Blarck. That dahjkak. Putting his face in it would be worth a planet.” The giant slug rippled with fury.
“That’s what I’m talking about here. C’mon, Drom, an entire resource-rich planet is ours for the taking. The only thing that stands between us and our destiny is a few pesky natives.”
Drom deflated. “But it’s an impossible obstacle. If you touch them, and I mean if they even see you, the Council will lock you away. Section Ten lays it out as clear as drool.” Drom cleared his throat. “And I paraphrase: ‘There is only one instance where a non-native is even allowed on an undeveloped planet and that would be to protect the natives from deliberate harm by a non-native intelligence’. Even then, you’re not allowed to be detected by the natives. Oh, and here’s the important part, Sitasti—upon penalty of life imprisonment!”
But Sitasti wasn’t listening. He was staring at a faraway place, his synapses firing like bubbles in a boiling pot of oatmeal. He whirled around and looked at Drom wild-eyed and salivating; he had an idea. A toothy grin broadened on his face as he raised himself up and waggled a stubby finger.
“There’s one thing I’ve learned, Drom, my old friend: Impossible is the only thing that’s impossible. If I can’t enslave the primitives, I’ll get rid of them or…” From the bubbling oatmeal of his brain another idea surfaced. “…better yet, I’ll make it so they get rid of themselves. Remember that guy we hired to take care of those protesters?”
“You mean the guy I hired for you. Yeah his name was Ilgut.” Drom chuckled. “He really made a mess of those punks. I can’t believe he didn’t get caught.”
“Ilgut, right, find him and tell him we’ve got another job for him. And tell him to pack for a short jump across the sector.”
Across the galactic sector on a planet with two moons called Thun, in the country of Fremia, in the province of Rucksuit, in the county of Vangs, in a little town called Legly that looked remarkably similar to a small 1960’s English village but wasn’t, a little girl named Maksey tried to shove her head into the street drain.
“Did you see that?” She pushed and kicked as water cascaded around her head. On the street, her older sister Shaley pulled on her feet to keep her from falling in.
“Are you crazy? You can’t go in there! Maksey, stop it, I swear I’ll tell Mom!”
“It was a huge snake man! He had a packsack on with a big gun. He went that way through the sewer!”
Their older brother Spence had been sent to round them up for dinner. The rain began to fall heavier, pelting them with large drops as dusk receded into evening.
“You dapes. It’s getting dark and we’re getting soaked. Get out of there and come home, now!
Maksey gave one last push to try and fit into the drain but it was no use. Whatever she had seen was long gone. She sat up, her dark hair was dripping wet and covered in leaves and dirt.
“You saw him didn’t you?” she asked her siblings.
Spence just rolled his eyes.
“There was nothing to see, Maksey, just you trying to drown yourself. Mom’s gonna ground you for a year!” Shaley picked her bike up from the pavement.
“He was real! I saw him look at me. He was black and green and kinda yellow all over, and had a pack-sack on his back—”
“Yeah yeah, with a big gun, we know, Maksey, you told us already.” Spence stood her up and flopped her hood over her head. “Now let’s go!”
Maksey stomped back home, following her brother. The snake-man was real, she’d seen it. Mom would be mad that she was crawling in the mud and water, but when she heard about the incredible thing Maksey had seen, she couldn’t stay mad for long.
Maksey marched on behind Spence and Shaley, her face set in scowling determination.
Mim stood in the open door of her small council house and stared out into the rain. Out on the street, her three children walked towards the house. “What are you doing? Hurry up, you’re getting soaked!” she yelled.
The kids picked up speed and burst through the door in a tumble of wet raincoats and shoes.
“Maksey, what are you doing out there in the pouring rain?” Mim scolded. “You’ll catch cold and you know we can’t afford a doctor right now.”
Spence pulled off his overcoat. “She had a raincoat on, Mom.” The fifteen-year-old dropped his soaking coat on the floor and stomped off to the kitchen.
“Mom! Maksey was trying to climb into the sewer—”
“Shaley!” Maksey turned red at her sister’s betrayal. She should have known; Shaley was such a tattler.
“But I told her not to, and Spence was telling her that she should and—”
Mim put her finger to Shaley’s lips. “That’s enough, Shaley. I’ve told you before, no one likes a tattletale.”
“Enough, Shaley. You should have been helping Spence get Maksey back inside. You’re supposed to be looking out for her. Now,” she pointed, “to the kitchen, go.”
Shaley rolled her eyes and plodded off to the kitchen while Mim picked Spence’s coat up of the floor.
“Maksey, what were you thinking trying to climb into the sewer?” Mim asked.
Maksey stuck her tongue out at the back of her twelve-year-old sister as she tugged her coat off. “I saw a big slimy snake-man, but when he saw me he swam away.”
“A big snake, huh? You didn’t ask him his name?”
“Mom! I’m serious!” Maksey’s face screwed up in frustration. “He had a big pack-sack on his back and a gun sticking out of it and—”
“All right, all right, maybe you can draw a picture of him for me after dinner. Now dry off and get to the table.” Mim sighed. Maksey was ten and, much to Mim’s distress, seemed to have no fear of anything.
She hung up the coats and followed her children into the kitchen as evening settled over Legly.
Relieved that the youngling was gone, Ilgut pushed his large, snake-like body through the pipe with a low grunt as he made his way through the sludge to the edge of town. The lawyer, Drom, had promised an easy job, but nothing was ever easy when he worked with that dahjkak. He had been grunting his way through sewers since he arrived on this backwards planet.
After narrowly dodging the interest of that overly inquisitive young native, he had pushed through the pipes for another half an hour until finally he peered out of the drain through a small black scope and looked across a large field surrounded by woods on three sides. A small brick farmhouse stood just off the road and he could see two natives inside, both elderly.
Grey light dimmed in the evening sky; it would be fully dark soon. Ilgut slid back down into the muck and waited.
Inside the sturdy farmhouse, an old farmer and his wife settled in for an evening in front of the tele, as they did most evenings. Mortimer’s enduring frame creaked as he bent to fidget with the antennae on the television. Nearly deaf and mostly blind, he struggled to get a clear signal, which seemed to stubbornly evade his efforts, but the thin old man persevered. Finally, he straightened and returned to his faded armchair, satisfied with the picture.
His wife Aga, equally as impaired as Mortimer, carefully brought in their evening meal as she always did. Mortimer lovingly took the meal from her, and when she had settled into her seat, said a prayer of thanks.
On the TV, the news anchor intoned soberly, “The top story tonight: the Fremian Leadership Council votes fifty to two in favor of trade sanctions against Olred in response to allegations of spying. The allegations rose from what Olred claims was unauthorized aerial activity in restricted Olred airspace. Fremian military officials maintain that although they confirm that they also detected the activity in Olred airspace, it was in the outer atmosphere and too high for any Fremian planes to operate. We go now to our aeronautical correspondent for more…”
Mortimer reached over and touched his wife’s hand. Outside the humble farmhouse, at the edge of the field, the birds stirred in their sleep.
Namarin Road ran past the Townes farm and ventured further out into Vangs County. The only car on it that evening belonged to Sgt. Bemis, the head of Legly’s two-man police force. He told his wife he had taken on the added responsibility of the evening patrol because it was what a good leader did. In reality, it was an excuse to wait for his wife to go to bed. If he showed up at home before then, the woman would drown him in an unfordable river of babble.
It would start as a trickle with the women at the salon, then turn into a stream of talk about who died recently or who wore what at bingo night. Soon the stream would merge into a river as she went through every inhabitant of Legly, their questionable lifestyles and likely misdeeds. The river would swell into a flood as she assigned him police duties to spy on the rumored offenders, she might even try to get him to arrest people in their homes. The woman wasn’t right in the head.
No, he shuddered; it was best to stay on patrol. He shifted his police cap on his head and made his way back into town, happy to have an excuse to not be home. As the old police cruiser ambled towards the town center, he didn’t notice the large uncoiling shape rising in the darkness behind him.
Ilgut let the rain wash the sewage off him as he stared after the police car. “Primitives,” he snorted, and then slithered off the road and across the lawn of the small farmhouse.
His eyes pierced the dark as he scanned for native animals, but there were only grazers out in the field. Silently, he coiled next the window of the house. Inside he could see Mortimer and his wife watching television.
“Black and white,” he scoffed, “what a loser. This guy is definitely my target.”
His biological combat implant scanned and then locked onto the old man. Once a target was locked, it could go anywhere in the galactic sector and the assassin would be able to locate it.
Ilgut crept into the woods at the edge of the farm to wait until daybreak. He needed witnesses when the old guy snuffed it.
© 2015 Copyright Montgomery Thompson
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