I participated in another writing prompt on Google+ last night, and decided to use the opportunity to fill out some of Earthian’s universe… Specifically, the sci-fi TV show that Jason’s friend, Wiley, is obsessed with. The show is Mission: Centauri, essentially Star Trek meets Apocalypse Now, following the exploits of intrepid explorers stuck on a slog through the galactic backcountry.
…and there’s a punchline.
The image prompt was this:
Here’s my story. Imagine it read in Adrian Pasdar’s voice.
Table at the Center of Forever (S106)
Space. It was once humanity’s dream, but the dream became a nightmare when the Spardians made landfall on Earth. They crossed unimaginable distances to wage war on our way of life, and now we must fight back.
These are the coded mission logs of the SB-550 Barracuda, a United Earth Navy gunboat tasked with patrolling deep behind enemy lines. We will probe the expansive wilderness of the Spardian Empire in search of a weakness, with one simple imperative to guide us: Win this war at all costs.
If we don’t, there won’t be any home to come back to.
Timestamp: October 6th, 1967
This is Lieutenant Brick Denton reporting, and if you’ll pardon my French, sirs, today was a real bucket of piss. I don’t know why you’ve got us out here in this backwater star cluster, but I sure hope it’s worth it, because it’s giving me a splitting headache.
During the past two months, our plucky little Barracuda has scouted out six planets, and you know what? They’ve been six utterly distinct piles of bullcrap. Jungles, deserts, smoking rivers of magma, and sticky fields of mud. Bullcrap.
Still, none of it compares to what transpired today. If I have many more days like today… I may just crack up. I’ll snap, and heaven help whatever’s standing in my way when I do.
The day started off as usual. Machinist’s Mate Sparks reported that the Shockley Drive was once again falling out of sync, and that we wouldn’t be able to maintain hyperlight speeds for much longer. Luckily, Ensign Smits consulted our maps and found a place to make emergency planetfall and effect repairs.
Jubruma. That name will haunt me until the end of my days. As Spaceman Bertrand brought the Barracuda down from orbit, I honestly thought Jubruma looked like an okay place. A little craggy maybe, and there was a depressing shortage of open bars, but generally okay.
It didn’t take long for all of that to turn around. Four hours into the repair cycle, Midshipman Owlsly vanished while on patrol and all we found was his jacket. Was he killed? Taken? Did he just decide to run off with the first alien he met who had boobs?
He wasn’t the first man we’ve lost, nor will he be the last. With only twelve crew left, I made the command decision to forego the search and redouble security instead.
When two more crew disappeared, I made another command decision to go on the offensive. I recruited Ensign Smits and Mr. Divalko (our alien science adviser) to my cause, and we set off with dawn’s first light. Armed with spazer rifles and destructo-tronic grenades, we trekked out over sandy soil the color of a palomino. A dry breeze blasted our faces as we went, smelling distinctly of cowpie.
As so often happens on these sorties, my team was captured some minutes later, falling prey to a cunning trap dug into the ground like a spider-hole.
There in the dank confines of Jubruma’s subterranean interior, I found the horrible truth of the planet. Once a lush world, its survivors now lived underground and fed whatever (or whoever) they caught to a sprawling fungus farm that stretched on for miles.
The natives, the Begakomen of Jubruma, lived a strange life there in the caves, feasting on stinking fungus while waiting for travelers to fall into their pits. Several men of the UEN were there, other gunboat crews like my own, but Owlsly was nowhere to be seen.
And the Begakomen? Madness filled their beady eyes, and it jiggled in the great fleshy growths atop their wicked heads.
I managed to engage their Fungus Lord, Klukezz, in conversation as he marched us to the decomposition vats. “Why do you do it?” I demanded of him.
“We must eat to survive,” he said with a strange cackle.
His distended belly and the many ruffles of his neck disgusted me, and I spat on the dirt. “So that’s it, you lily-livered cowards… you’re just gonna bury your heads in the sand while those commie Spardians conquer everything?”
Klukezz slapped me hard in the jaw. If it hadn’t been for my shackles, I’d have shown him what for.
“We are NO friends of the unnamed ones, and you will WATCH! YOUR! MONKEY! MOUTH!”
Squawky, but I could work with the sentiment. “Then free us,” I commanded, blood dribbling from my lip as I spoke. “There’s no greater threat to the Spardian Empire than mankind. We could beat them together.”
“It’s not that simple,” Klukezz said with a strange blush. He stroked his grotesque stomach and cooed, “Your man Owlsly has made me heavy with child, then run off into the night. He defiled my honor, and I will have my justice.”
How long has Owlsly been gone? I wondered.
I said, “We’ll help you find him and then be on our way. Problem solved.”
Klukezz dismissed my notion with a wave. “We will find him,” he said. “Harbor no doubts about that, Earthman. And as for freeing you…” He looked through me with blood red eyes and whispered, “My justice demands more.”
“Challenge!” I shouted thunderously. “I challenge you!” These mud-farming tribal yahoos always have some kind of challenge ritual. It works nine times out of ten.
This is one of those times.
On the way to the ceremonial chamber, Klukezz explained to me the Begakomen’s sacred responsibility to guard a weapon against the end of time. He called it the Petragrammaton, and claimed it was the final solution to the Spardian menace.
Their ancient laws required them to accept any challenger and subject him to The Trial, to determine if he’s worthy to wield the Petragrammaton against the Spardians, or else worthy to be sacrificed to the weapon’s greatness.
A staring contest.
Several blinkless minutes of torture later, Klukezz and I were sitting across from each other at the Begakomen’s ceremonial Table of Concentricity with our eyes fiercely locked. The other UEN prisoners had been brought in to watch my defeat, and the sound of their cheers filled my heart with strength.
It didn’t take long for things to go bad, though. Never does. As my chest filled with pride and my eyes filled with determination, the Begakomen’s dread overlords were wheeled in. The Domeheads. With fleshy caps like mushrooms, the Domeheads sat on their chrome toilets and noisily farted and spluttered away. Pop, pop… pop.
That endlessly burbling noise was a horror that no man should bear, like the wet and sloppy laughter of a piss-drunk hippopotamus. The pride that filled my chest now threatened to turn into something more uproarious, and I clenched hard against it. I wrestled using every fiber of my being.
I was so close to victory I could smell it. Klukezz’s right eyelid sagged and twitched, proving that even he wasn’t completely immune to this treatment, but could my stamina hold out?
Then the spell was broken. “This is all bullcrap,” I muttered.
I glanced over at the Domeheads, and could see their lips jibbering and slobbering beneath their leathery veils. I looked back to Klukezz, and saw bottomless madness burning inside of his half-lidded eyes, like someone lazily considering eating my eyeballs for dessert.
“You’re all as sane as a jock-strap full of spiders,” I groaned. “Hell, I bet you’re not even pregnant!”
Then I stood up, waved to my men, and we left.
When the Barracuda was finally able to lift-off, I ordered the expedient annihilation of the Begakomen nest. Our crew complement has unexpectedly swollen to twenty able-bodied sailors, and we were able to salvage rations, fuel and munitions from the other ships. Meanwhile, Owlsly is still missing in the field, and presumed happier than he was here on this broken down rust bucket.
Lieutenant Brick Denton of the SB-550 Barracuda, signing off.
More Earthian due out tomorrow evening. See you then!