Tag Archive: planetary


“I’ve seen some small mummies in my day, but this Planet of the Miniature Mummies easily blows away all of my previous bandaged-corpse experiences,” intoned Anthropology Specialist Letitia Stone-Stone, looking over the sandy Ulgan Plain.

            Commander Hendricksen turned and narrowed his eyes, looking at Stone-Stone with the piercing, authoritative stare that had made him a favorite with the public speaking instructors at Space Academy.  “How small do you expect these mummies to be, Specialist?”

            Stone-Stone made a size indication with one hand, as though holding a small pebble between her thumb and forefinger.

            “That’s pretty small,” Hendricksen agreed.  He was trying to hide his immense bitterness, the nearly palpable rage boiling underneath his stolid, bronzed exterior, at being assigned to this childish mini-mummy mission, when his fellow commanders were taking on major, regular-sized assignments, like exploring the vast mammoth-inhabited ice-tundra of Velcron 6 or tracking down the insidiously obscure hideout of the marauding, bloodthirsty space pirate known only as Deathbeard.  “Tell me something, Specialist Stone-Stone.  Don’t you ever feel the urge to investigate a life-size mummy?”  Hendricksen couldn’t keep the sneer out of his voice as he gazed at the lithe and well-complected Stone-Stone and her thematically-appropriate mummy earrings.

            “These mummies are life-size, to themselves,” she responded with anthropological rectitude.  “Look!  A mummy has fallen into my trap!”

            Stone-Stone knelt down and extracted a test tube she had buried earlier that afternoon in the dry earth of the planet’s surface to form a miniature glass pit.  She held the tube up triumphantly to the eerie lime-green light of the Planet of the Miniature Mummies.  There could be no mistaking her success: at the bottom of the tube, bumping in repeated frustration against the glass walls in slow-brained bewilderment, was a mummy the size of a medium-length salted peanut.  It was covered in tiny, multi-layered mummy-like wrappings of faded beige gauze, with bandage bits hanging off of it in raggedy unravelings.  Peering through a miniscule space between two stripes of tiny head bandaging, Hendricksen could barely make out a pinprick pair of eerie, kumquat-orange mummy eyes. 

            “Ouch!” cried Hendricksen.

            Stone-Stone looked down at the Commander’s masculine, hairy and uncovered legs.  “I advised you not to wear shorts on The Planet of the Miniature Mummies,” she chided.  Hanging on to a lower portion of Hendricksen’s calf were two angry, remarkably tiny mummies, sinking their centuries-old teeth into his unprotected leg flesh. 

            “I thought you were just concerned about being attracted to my abundant leg hair!” snapped the resolutely masculine Henricksen, who always wore shorts on his missions, as long as the atmospheric make-up of the planet allowed it.

Hendricksen shook his leg vigorously, but the mummies, who were nothing if not resilient after centuries of patient survival in the arid, miniature deserts of the Planet of the Miniature Mummies, maintained their dental grip, sending waves of curse-inflicting pain up Hendricksen’s leg.

            “Where’s your mummy repellent?” barked Hendricksen.

            Stone-Stone rummaged through her Space Command-issued Space Purse.  “Repellent will do you no good now.  Mummies are impervious to chemically induced nausea when they’re avenging a captured fellow mummy.  I will have to vanquish them with a recitation of the Ancient Curse of Tumkin Rah.”

            “They’re impervious to repellent but they’ll listen to a creaky old curse?”

            “Hold still, damn it!  We don’t have much time.”  Stone-Stone was not exaggerating.  She looked behind Hendricksen, who was hopping in a painful, hairy-legged fit.  On the supermarket-sized desert plain, an entire brigade of miniature mummies was approaching them, with the characteristic extended-arm, somnolent-stepping march of mummies on the move.

            Stone-Stone took from her Space Purse a life-sized sandstone replica of the tablet of Tumkin Rah, which was actually extremely small since Rah was himself a long-dead ruler of tiny mummies, who was tall for his ethnic group but still extremely short from a human perspective, and began to intone the curse.  “Saw saw zembo.   Zembo kin saw saw.”

            “It’s not working!” screamed Hendricksen, who was increasingly surprised at the amount of pain that could be caused by mummies no larger than the fingernail on one of his pinkies.  He lifted his hands to the green sky in a spasm of desperation, his mouth open in a panoramic scream, and then fell to the ground.

            “Silly me,” said Stone-Stone.  “They can’t hear the nuances of the curse because I’m reading it in my normal, large voice.  I have to miniaturize my pronunciation.  It’s one of the first things we learned in my Small-Scaled Civilizations seminar.”  Stone-Stone began to carefully reshape her lips to create a tiny, miniature-curse-appropriate opening, but failed to notice, with her mind intent on bringing her mouth down to size, that four inconspicuous mummies had climbed up her jumpsuit and were clambering over her lips to assault her throat.

            “Saw saw zembo,” Stone-Stone said again, this time in a mouse-like, carefully shaped whisper.  But she was barely able to enunciate the first part of the curse when she went into a harsh choking fit.  The small squadron of mummies, small both in size and number, were choking the anthropologist from inside, blocking her esophagus.

            Hendricksen looked up in exquisite pain at the mottled face of the asphyxiated Stone-Stone.  He gaped in horror as she tottered, his final moments filled with a realization of her horrible fate.     

             The last thing she tasted was the musty, rust-tinged flavor of decaying mummy bandages as she gagged fruitlessly, her body tumbling to the dry and ruthless ground where lay next to the similarly lifeless body of her shorts-garbed colleague on the Planet of the Miniature Mummies.

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The Putrid Moon

“I hate living on the Putrid Moon,” said Commander O’Flaherty. 

He stared out at the deeply pockmarked surface of the unsightly moon over his cup of breakfast powder.

“Think about future generations.”  Second Officer Haifa Al-Rashid stored the packaging of her futuristic space meal for recycling.  As the first one-armed female Arab-American astronaut on the Putrid Moon, she was full of inspiring, optimistic ideas on the future of space exploration.  “One day, our children’s descendants will look back on us as moon pioneers.”

“I’m not having any children with you,” protested O’Flaherty.

“I was using the royal ‘our’,” explained Al-Rashid.

Just then, Ensign Bradley burst into the dining pod.

“Commander O’Flaherty, we’ve detected suspicious movement in the Crimble Zone!”

“You see what I mean!”  O’Flaherty seethed.  “Not a day goes by without some annoyance cropping up on the Putrid Moon.”

Second Officer Al-Rashid faced O’Flaherty with determination.  “You need to show grit, Commander!  The Crimbles could completely destroy our insulated, technologically advanced yet structurally fragile moon base with one well-organized attack!”

“Give me one reason I should care!” cried O’Flaherty.  “This moon is Putrid!  Why are we even here?  Have you taken a look around?  The Great Rundible Cleft is filled with half-solid gray slime that gives off the stench of burnt rubber.  The Wallinger Geyser shoots out burning plumes of orange-brown muck every hour that reeks of rotten potato. Last week, I fell into a gaping pit filled with decaying Crimble carcasses and I still haven’t been able to remove the stains from my uniform!”  O’Flaherty pointed to the seat of his silver moon-colonist radiation-deflecting pants.  “We can’t even invite any galactic dignitaries to visit our colony because the whole place is too goddamn smelly.  Face it people, this moon is putrid!”

Al-Rashid threw a saltshaker to the floor in fury.  “I can’t listen to this!  As the first one-armed female Arab-American astronaut on the Putrid Moon, I must set an example for all the space daughters who’ll follow my example.  This mission is not about nasal aesthetics!  This mission is about claiming a world for human habitation that on the surface is completely hostile and inappropriate for settlement and putting up with endless sacrifices, hardships and unpleasant odors to make that possible!”

Ensign Bradley pointed out the impressive picture window to a spot beyond the bubbling pits of devil-lava that lay around the compound.  “A Crimble scout!”

Bradley was undeniably correct.  In the distance, visible against an olive-ochre horizon spotted with tattered clouds, came the shambling, unappetizing shape of a three legged, large-eyed Crimble.  The Crimbles were yet another hazard of life on the Putrid Moon.  Using their sharp and pointed tusks and glinting titanium claws, a rampaging Crimble could do untold damage to the moon colony habitation with its fragile pink light funnels and architecturally renowned billowing canvas sails, reminiscent of the masts of a 19th century whaling ship.

“We’re doomed!” cried O’Flaherty.   “Doomed!  This ill-begotten mission is on a headlong collision course with a violent, smelly destruction.  All of us are going down to our putrescent unmarked graves on this godforsaken moon!”

“Perhaps the Crimble will stumble into one of the devil-lava pits,” said the inexperienced and recklessly hopeful Bradley.  He was a recent graduate of Space University and his grade point average had not been high enough to secure him a post on one of the less disgusting moon bases.

“Nonsense,” claimed Al-Rashid.  “We need simply to reach out to these misunderstood creatures.  I will go out and play the Crimble a tune of peace on my Earth-oud.  We must bridge the differences between our species if we ever hope to live in peace with the creatures of the Putrid Moon.”

O’Flaherty watched in seething frustration as Al-Rashid and Bradley set forth with the fragile oud to make peace with the Crimble.  As he could have predicted, Al-Rashid was quickly speared through the stomach by the Crimble’s tusk and Bradley fell headlong into a devil-lava pit.  O’Flaherty beat on the intercom in frustration as the Crimble lumbered ever closer to the compound.

Commander Danvers stared off stoically at the tangled forests of the Planet of the Green Monkeys, rubbing his beard stubble in satisfaction. 

            The Multi-Ethnic Galactic Intergenerational Mammalian Investigation Exploratory Squadron had spent two decades in their quest for the green monkey, usually making their space navigation decisions based on the hunches of Second Officer Luber, a bespectacled whiz kid whose instinctive understanding of galactic geography constantly amazed the crew.

            “Here it is,” piped up Luber, in his perpetually adolescent voice.  “Just like I said.  The Planet of the Green Monkeys.”

            Danvers raised his eyes to the sky, where two ugly purple moons hovered above them.  “You’re quite a kid, Luber.  I’ve been traveling with you for two decades and you still look like you’re twelve years old.”

            Luber blushed.  He hadn’t told anyone on the crew that he suffered from Janger’s Multiphasic Middle School Disease.  Every night he returned to his pod, thinking of stratagems to convince everyone on the ship he was not permanently stunted in his emotional and physical growth at the level of a pre-teen.

            Danvers lit a masculine cigar and made a surly curl with his lips.  “Now we just gotta find us some green monkeys, compadre.”

            Just then, Fourth Officer Layla Oliveros scurried up to them from a gully on their right.  Her space uniform was erotically tattered from her struggles with the promiscuous, luxuriating vines of the Planet of the Green Monkeys.  Her long flowing black hair cascaded toward her legs, making a statement of sensual Latina beauty even here on the far-flung world of the Planet of the Green Monkeys.

            “Commander Danvers,” cried Oliveros, “I’ve found a green monkey!”

            Danvers turned to her with the decisive pivot that had made him a favorite with the instructors at the Space Academy. 

            “Green monkey!  For crying out loud, woman, where?”

            Oliveros took a moment to collect herself and reapply her Passionate Pomegranate lipstick.  “Down there.  In the gully!  He was hanging from a tree branch, just like a monkey!”

            “Goddamn it, Oliveros!  If you’re right, I’m giving you a Space Star to stick on that sensually tattered uniform!  If we can capture and dissect a green monkey, we could gain clues to galactic mammal biology that will make us completely reevaluate our position in the universe.”

            Oliveros pointed again.  “Hurry.  He might escape.  He’s a monkey.”

            Danvers pulled his monkey gun from his holster and ran into the gully, followed by Luber and Oliveros.

            In moments, he was face to face with a primitive, smelly green monkey.  A large-nosed, wild-eyed green monkey who probably hadn’t evolved past his current form for millions of uneventful years. 

            Just as Danvers touched the monkey, Luber pulled out his own monkey gun.

            “Hands off, Danvers!  It’s time I proved my masculinity!  I’m taking possession of this monkey!”  Without further ceremony, Luber shot Danvers at point blank range.  In a slow motion cartwheel of death, Danvers turned end over end until he lay sprawled on the floor of the gully, his mouth open wide and his eyes staring mindlessly into the off-white sky above the Planet of the Green Monkeys.

            Oliveros planted a sensual Latin kiss on Luber’s mouth. 

            “You’re my hero, Luber!  No one but you can bring to life my dual fetishes for men with crippling diseases and unique navigational abilities.”

            “I know,” said Luber.  “That’s why it’s so distressing that I saw you last night fondling Captain Matthews in the storage pod.”

            Without another word, Luber turned his monkey gun on Oliveros and shot her, also at point blank range.

            Oliveros whimpered, then fell to the dirty ground.

            Luber looked at the green monkey, a monkey he had waited years to see.  “This is just the beginning, monkey.  The beginning of a new era on the Planet of the Green Monkeys.”  
            The monkey howled, but Luber just smiled an enigmatic smile.

“Behold the palpitating near-orbs of those magnificent jellies!”

Commander Mayfield stared out at the Sea of Impatience with the ecstatic gaze of a young boy in possession of his first yo-yo.  Swimming toward the shore in disciplined ranks, he could clearly make out the pulsating domes of the famed telepathic jellyfish that gave their name to the small, gray and reasonably mysterious Planet of the Telepathic Jellyfish.

“What’s our reading on the Telepathometer, Dr. Finbone?” Mayfield brusquely asked the bewhiskered scientist.  Finbone was diligently bent over his multi-leveled, large knobbed orange instrument with the intensity borne of years of study under the great Telepathometer specialist, Cravore the Brain.  Cravore’s research into detecting telepathic activity among aquatic species had brought him nothing but ridicule, catcalls and detention during his life, but posthumously he was now the favorite scientist of several paranormal fan boys and was featured on at least one neon, mid-galactic floating billboard.

“I’ve never seen results like this.”  Finbone couldn’t take his eyes off the pulsating dots on the Mentoscreen as he replied in his clipped voice, pickled in the brine of thousands of dry and vinegary facts.  “We’re picking up over fifty telepath transmissions.  According to my best calculations, the transmissions are all coming from that direction.”  Finbone pointed with a quavering finger out to the Sea of Impatience where the rows of fifty glowing jellyfish made their eerie, inexorable way ever closer to shore.

“Then the legends are true!” Mayfield cried.  “These creatures are among the only saltwater life forms in the universe who can truly communicate with one another via mental signal.”

“Don’t be too sure,” Finbone abruptly cautioned.  He tore himself away from the busy Mentoscreen, and faced Mayfield, all of his science seriousness focused on the goggle-eyed officer from Space Command.  “The creatures could be cleverly producing a screen of telepath-transmission-like signals, deceiving our primitive human equipment and deluding us into following a false lead, while they fiendishly conduct their real operations unbeknownst to us in front of, or behind, our very eyes!”

“A shrewd insight, Finbone.  But then, wouldn’t this planet be known as The Planet of the Jellyfish Who Produce Deceptively Telepathic-Like Signals?”

“Ha, ha, ha.”  Finbone laughed a hearty space laugh and shook his head, bemused by the eternal innocence of Space Commanders in their Space Commander suits.  “That is where you’re wrong, Mayfield.  Clearly, those who came before us were too literal-minded to penetrate the ruses perpetrated by these canny sea-jellies.”

Mayfield clenched his jaw.  Salty sweat poured profusely from his forehead.  Finbone’s rigorous analysis of jellyfish strategy had turned all of his preconceptions upside down.  If the jellyfish were not truly telepathic, the entire purpose of the mission was put into question.  What would be the point of capturing a jellyfish so that it could communicate with the unique telepathic giant squid bagged on the Planet of the Gargantuan Ocean Species if the shrewd invertebrates were not truly clairvoyant?  Yet how could he question the expert opinion of Finbone, the man who had written the definitive textbook on water-dwelling creatures who possessed thin, stinging tentacles: “Jellorama”?

“Those jellies are coming every closer,” cried Mayfield, the glowing translucent bubble-domes just yards away from the anxious commander.  Mayfield’s self-restraint was evaporating, like a spilled puddle of vodka being sucked up by a relentless desert sun.  He shouted out to his sea-borne antagonists.  “If you’re so telepathic why don’t you transmit to me, jellies?  Don’t you hear me, with your invisible ears?  Or do you ignore me to frustrate me in my land-based limitations!”  Mayfield fell to his knees on the pebbly beach, raising his fists skyward in supplication.  “Why do you torment me, ambiguous creatures of the Planet of the Telepathic Jellyfish?  Why do you mock my limited, non-telepathic human mind with your unfathomable contradictions?”

It was then that Finbone attempted to cry out, but instead could only stick his fingers anxiously in his mouth in a dry heave of fright.  Behind Mayfield a mammoth black Borfa Bear had unexpectedly appeared on the beach with all the stealth of a silent vampire creeping up to a night-blooming camellia.  With four relentless swings of his huge and effectively-clawing left paw, the Borfa pummeled Mayfield until the confused commander lay on the cold pebbles, his suit and dead flesh a messy set of intermingled, stringy ribbons.  Finbone, still silently shrieking, ran heedlessly into the ocean, fleeing the ravenous Borfa.  The scientist did not even consider that as he swam out into the chilly Sea of Impatience, he was heading straight for the deadly, stinging, pale-gray tentacles of the silent jellies, jellies that still ruled, in nearly unquestioned aquatic dominance over the waters of the Planet of the Telepathic Jellfyish.

The Planet of the Unstoppable Vines

Commander Bertrand had grown suspicious of Dr. Straylace long before they’d landed on the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines.  Not only was she the first female botanist Bertrand had worked with, but as a Marelkin she came from a storied, mysterious realm where the women were better known for their erotic waistdancing than for the study of deciduous trees and bracket fungi.  But now it was too late for suspicion.  He was on the plant surface, the strange ruby-red unstoppable vines, growing relentlessly toward them at an uncomfortably visible rate and threatening to suffocate all of the cuddly underground mammal life on the planet, such as mini-dogs and prairie mutts, with its vigorous, chunky tendrils.

“The vines are fast,” said Slogan, the data-rich mission android in his cold robotic voice.  After this contribution to the team’s efforts he jerkily turned to watch the spectacle of Dr. Straylace perform her obscure experiements.

Standing a short distance away on the cappuccino-brown surface of the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines in front of an array of arcane and inexplicable botanical devices, Dr. Straylace was a paragon of rational scientific femininity.  With her flowing, walnut-colored hair and exotic, orange Marelkin eye make-up, she held a provocative allure that even the hyper-rational, inhuman Slogan could not deny.

“Slogan, what is the exact growth rate of the vines?” barked Bertrand.

There was no answer as the bronze-garbed Slogan, his inner space-android gears whirring, stared in robot-eyed fascination at Dr. Straylace.   Bertrand whipped around, his impatient nature tiring of Slogan’s glacial response pace. 

“By the eyes of the god-fish, Slogan!  Stop gawking and give me a growth estimate on these vines.”

“Your tone of voice is inappropriate,” Slogan responded, in the same emotionless tone he’d used for all five hundred years of his well-lubricated existence.  “I object to it.  As a veteran Crew Unit Ultima Mind TX Module, I request a formal apology.”  Slogan turned away from Straylace, his uncanny doughnut-shaped eyes boring into Bertrand with android annoyance. 

Straylace casually brushed a few strands of walnut hair from her face, as she looked up from her glowing diagrams of vine innards.  “Yes, Bertrand,” she said in the carefully enunciated tones of a trained botanist.  “You’ve been irascible towards Slogan since we left Space Command.  You should apologize.”

“Apologize!” Bertrand spit out the word like it was a sour green papaya he’d fished out of the crisper in the refrigerator during a moment of desperate hunger in the midst of a three-day bender.  For emphasis, he fished three stubby cigars out of his jumpsuit pocket and abruptly tossed them on the rubble-strewn surface of the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines.  “Apologize to this bucket of nuts and bolts?  This clanking tin man made from recycled space capsule parts?  This emotionless device, devoid of feeling, of poetry, of love for riding under the burning Gorban sun on a wild untamed black stallion with the blood pumping through your veins in a feverish cascade of life, of untrammeled, fierce-breathing life!  Never!”

Slogan slowly blinked his artificial, but surprisingly convincing, doughnut eyes.  “You should be cautious, Commander.  I am engineered for surprising feats of agility.”  As though to prove his point, Slogan reached up with the speed of a maniacal trout and grabbed an indigenous hummingbird that had been whirring through the air in a confused blur.  Within seconds, the hummingbird was displayed on Slogan’s toaster plate, which he’d ejected with soundless efficiency from his waist, dissected into its component parts and labeled with the proper scientific terms in a clean, easily readable font.

“Very impressive!” cried Straylace.  “Can you do the same with a zinnia?”

Betrand came two steps closer to the android, his feet moving over the beige ground with the determination of an elephant mother coming to guard her young from the rampage of a starved, psychotic python.  “I’m in charge of this mission, Slogan.  And I demand that you calculate the rate of that vine growth.”

“Very well,” said Slogan.  In a blinding spurt of robotic motion, the top of Slogan’s head popped open and a gleaming black revolver appeared above it at the end of a flexible steel rod.  With a clearly audible click, the rod pulled the trigger of the weapon, sending a bullet straight into Commander Bertrand’s forehead.  Bertrand gurgled, his mouth filling up with the wild and restless blood of a third-generation space commander, and he fell forward onto a dark-chocolate-colored stone, making the unmistakable sound of the dead.  “The rate of the vine growth,” said Slogan, “is ten centimeters per minute.”

Dr. Straylace put her fingers to her mouth in distress, her exotic green Marelkin fingernail polish contrasting nicely with the crimson tones of her generously applied lipstick.  “Slogan, what have you done?  You’ve killed the Commander!  And he was the only one with the combination to the Space Capsule door.”

“Then we are trapped on the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines for all eternity,” said Slogan, a new tone of near-homo-sapien-like triumph creeping into his voice.  “Giving me plenty of time to explore the new sensations you evoke in my android parts.”

“What are you saying, Slogan?  You are an unfeeling android.  You’re not even a true life form.  As a qualified botanist, I can state with expert assurance that you are unnatural, imperfect and a blot in the harmonious circle of life.”

“May the god-fish blast you to damnation for your impertinence,” said Slogan, his android voice now bearing unmistakable hints of emotion.  Once again, the robot’s dependable revolver popped out of the top of his head and his newfound android hatred erupted in a series of shots that left Dr. Straylace splayed on the ground, her botanist’s mouth twisted in a gape of stunned and irrevocable death moans.

“A pity,” said Slogan.  “She would have grown to admire me in time.”  The android amused himself by reviewing his video diary of the mission as he waited for the fast-growing vines to surround and destroy him, relentlessly turning him into a useless vine-permeated hunk of abandoned metallic rubble on the Planet of the Unstoppable Vines.