The ship materialized in deep space with no stars nearby. Testicleeze used the hop-junger’s primitive scanner to map the star density.
“Looks like we’ve slid between spiral arms,” he said.
She looked alarmed. “Does that mean we left the galaxy?”
“That’s a gnarly question. We’re still in the galactic plane, and there are stars distant in several directions. I’d say we’re still in the galaxy. But I’d have to give this area a no-star rating for sightseeing and accommodations.”
She laughed. If he could joke about it like that, she wouldn’t worry. “I’ll set a course for the nearest stars.”
Testicleeze found the relative direction they needed from the crude map, and they slid into an arm of the galaxy.
While Testicleeze scanned the nearby star systems for something to do, Damitol used the ship’s systems to replenish its trizortium from the storage bin. They’d used about 1% of their energy supply.
“Hmm,” he said. “I’ve got something. Slide to this star.”
“I don’t know about that. It’s got activity in the cognitive spectrum.”
“A colony?” She thought about asking him the odds, but figured he’d know, and she really didn’t care. She accepted his coordinates and they slid.
“These patterns don’t match our thought waves. But they’re in the right part of the continuum.”
The star had three planets, and the one that he’d identified had three moons. With no traffic out here, she was able to slip to orbit in three easy steps.
“I’m getting low levels of cognitive emissions all over the planet, but I’m registering a spike in one particular place.”
Damitol had never tried to synchronize without a parking beacon, so it took her a few tries to find the right place for the junger to orbit above the spike. They examined the planet with all the ship’s devices, plus several Testicleeze had brought to enhance their visualizers.
“What a mug-ugly planet.” Her aura muddied in chortzel and brown tones. “No water.”
“It’s all subsurface. Not deep, though.”
“C’n you find anything alive?”
“No. No plants. No material beings. Could be energy only, but there’s no familiar signatures.” His aura turned a clear blue. When he turned blue, it meant he was intrigued.
“Show me the spike,” she said.
The air had no particulates over the region of the spike, so Testicleeze super-magged an imager.
It looked like a rockslide.
Damitol sang her disdain. “Bo-ring. Who cares from rocks? Lotta shizgat. Let’s go.”
“There’s gotta be something there.” The blue of his aura became more intense, and his tentacles flipped around the cockpit.
Damitol knew him well enough to understand they’d be visiting the surface to check it out.
She sighed. “OK. We’ll go down.”
“We’ll need portacont. The air’s OK, but there’s not much of it, and it’s a bit sulfur rich.”
Her aura rolled back into the chortzel and brown muddiness. “I . . . am . . . not . . . I repeat, not . . . staying long. You know the portacont lets traces in.”
They hooked their portaconts onto utility belts. They each carried a gloxflit with one button: plart me up.
The ship could only plart one at a time, and had to recycle before the other could go, so Testicleeze went to the surface first. When Damitol transported to his side, she found him in a clear space uphill from the rocky field. Thousands of boulders varied in size from a tenth up to about half their height, roughly seventy tentips at their tallest. Oddly, they were all roughly conical in shape with a large bottom tapering to a narrow top. They were arrayed all across the hillside in no particular order.
“They’re all the same shape,” she said.
“Yeah. Something with intellect did that. Prob’ly not primo smarts, but some.” He continued to fiddle with his visualization enhancers, trying to find the intelligent beings.
Damitol’s aura detected a disturbance in the surroundings. She scanned around them, then touched Testicleeze with her tentacle and spoke to him quietly.
“This area was clear of boulders when we came, wasn’t it?”
He pulled his attention away from his technotoys. A dozen of the conical rocks encircled them. One of them raised an appendage and pointed, and then each boulder opened an orifice near the rounded top of the cone.
They barked a unison chant.
Stay tuned for the next stop in the joy rides of Damitol and Testicleeze.
Image of Martian boulder field from NASA.
Mark has another free story that you can get by clicking here. What happens when the ship that Merlin the magician stowed away on runs into a hurricane? Can he make it through the storm to Texas? Find out by by clicking here.
You can find a glossary of gonzo terms here.