Joey Cifelli ’23
Toper sat on the warm sands of a craggy rock alcove in the Tumult Ward of the Grenesill District of the Ocean Moon Calaris, leaning his head against one hand and sifting through clutches of grains with the other. He sighed. It was shaping up to be one of those days. Frothy waves rolled up and down the beach slope close by, sucking in sand and spitting it out on the other side of the ocean. If he felt like looking up, Toper would see the spindly mountains marking the coastline in the far distance, stuck lopsided in the ground like old toothpicks. Calaris was a small moon, a chip of a grain of sand in a galaxy-sized desert. Nothing much happened. Toper wished violently that something would happen. He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth, willing his moon or something beyond to conjure a spark of adventure. 9.2/10.
Light years away from Calaris the legendary space pilot Sehlezho Verillion also had his eyes closed and teeth clenched. If he felt like opening them, Sehl would see the unfortunate and all-too-common sight of a Miser Fungus in the process of sawing through his jump jet. He was wishing that he had bothered to read more than the inside flap of the Spacefaring Academy’s guide to quickstops. A quickstop was the Academy term for a forced landing at speed and a delightful way to avoid using the word crash. After allowing himself a second of regret, Sehl undid the straps holding him in the flight pit and reached around the chair for his vacuum breathing apparatus. He had just done so when a spiked tentacle of the Miser Fungus, having slid around the back of the ship into the abyssal substate engine block, crushed the fluctuational warp limiter crystal. Sehl, the Miser, and the ship flashed and winked out of space. 8.8/10.
On Calaris, a certain Toper was delighted to have his wish answered when the next wave washed up a corked bottle containing a scroll. He popped the cork gleefully and unwrapped the scroll. It read: go away. “Heck,” said Toper, “I know that much. Thanks Calaris.” Toper crumpled up the message and walked away with his hands in his pockets. Three seconds later, Sehlezho Verillion, Sehlezho Verillion’s ship, and the Miser Fungus currently attempting to destroy Sehlezho Verillion and his ship appeared over the spot Toper had been just three seconds ago. The three fell to the sand with a massive thud accompanied by the wet crunch of exploding Miser Fungus. A thick purple slurry burst from the fungus and splattered the alcove walls and Toper. “Woah,” said Toper.
“Sorry, did I interrupt?” said Sehlezho Verillion, flashing his wolfish grin. Then the blood drained from his face. “Excuse me, I do believe I have broken both my legs.” And the legendary pilot toppled face-first into the sand. 8.4/10.
Toper found himself in a little bit of a shock. “Woah,” he said again, “woah hey, okay.” He walked over to Sehlezho Verillion and flipped him over so he wouldn’t suffocate. He ventured a look at the pilot’s legs, and true to his word, they were snapped in more places than a pool cue in a barfight. Toper cringed. Legs like these were beyond his expertise. Another bottle washed up next to him. Toper unfurled the message with slow hands: “in the ship,” it read. Toper spoke to no one, “I believe you now. Um, sorry for crumpling it earlier.” He crawled inside the wreckage of the ship, where a medic bot was folded up under an emergency beacon signal. Toper followed the instructions to activate both. Soon he was back on the sand next to Sehlezho, staring at the sky and listening to the whirs of the medical robot. Toper didn’t know who would come for them, or when, but that didn’t matter so much. The spark had taken hold, all he had to do now was keep it fed. 9.6/10.
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