Strangers from the Sky: A Medlow Staur adventure
by Andres Diaz
The planet Vreegan
Messier 87 Galaxy
Mid-Thirty First Century C.E.
It was just meant to be a quick delivery. Bring some luxury items to one of the large cities in the planet’s northern hemisphere, collect my pay and move on to the next system. The traffic patterns in and over the city I needed to go to were just ridiculous, so I decided to make a different approach. I flew into the planet’s atmosphere over one of the planet’s many, southern continents. I planned to skim the planet’s surface all the way past the equator and then connect up with the normal sky paths.
That was the plan until some ships came up behind me and started shooting. They were shooting to kill too. The ship’s systems were going crazy as I tried to steer. Not finding the volume control on the alarm, I shut the whole warning system down entirely. Another jolt and my stabilizer was gone. It was going to be tough, but if I wanted to survive, I had to make a controlled crash. I managed to avoid some of the large cliffs, that seemed to be ubiquitous on this continent, and smashed through an abandoned barn. Thankfully the barn slowed me down, as did the red sand I plowed into.
Looking out the window I noticed everything on this planet was as red as Mars. It was kind of weird how so many planets and moons throughout the universe look like Mars.
I looked up and saw three ships coming out of the sky towards my location. As I turned the ship’s guns towards them, the power kicks out. I punch and kick the console, but to no avail. I run to the armory, grab some extra powerpacks for my guns and a large blaster rifle and move towards the exit. As I look out the portal, I see that the ships have landed and robots dressed like Prohibition era gangsters are heading towards my ship. Every robot had what appeared to be a Tommy gun; which was an old style machine gun popular in the early part of Earth’s Twentieth Century. I managed to squeeze out enough juice from the batteries to activate the external scanners. The scanners confirmed that the robots were wielding actually machine guns. I knew then that I needed to get off the ship without them noticing me. One of my friends was on some backwater world and they unloaded on his ship with a machine gun. It cost him almost a hundred thousand credits just to fix the ship. To make matters worse, he was still finding bullets in the hull and bulkheads for months afterwards!
From one of the auxiliary panels in the engine room, I manually released the outside fire retardant foam and vented the internal atmosphere at the same time. Combined with the red sand outside, it kicked up quite the little storm. I jumped out of one of the escape hatches I had built into my ship and right into the storm. Thankfully the mask I was wearing not only filtered out the sand, but also showed me the quickest and safest way away from my ship. I got about a quarter mile away before turning around. Using the zoom feature on the mask I could see the gangster bots going in and out of my ship. It didn’t look like they were taking anything out of my ship, which confused me because I had assumed they were pirates. Once they were all out of the ship, the bots all lined up in a neat row. I counted twelve of them. They broke up into three groups of four before one bot from each group went into a ship. It looked like they were breaking up into search parties with aerial support. I knew I needed to get out of here, pronto. I spotted what looked like a cave in a nearby cliff and decided to make that my hiding spot. I made it as far as the base of the cliff when I came upon a herd of four legged animals. They had long legs like deer, long necks and short heads. The heads and backs were covered in armor plates. They stunk like hell but I figured if they were tracking me with infrared they’d get confused with so many heat signatures in the way. It must have worked cause the bots gave up and left the area. It was still night and I didn’t know where I was, so I headed to the cave. It was a little climb but I made it in there.
The mask illuminated the cave without external light, which was great if those bots decided to come back. I was trying to find a place to set down when my foot hit something. It was an old style covered clipboard. I opened it up and found a notebook and a map of the area. The map showed me that there was a small town nearby. On the cover of the notebook, it said, “Property of Doctor Hasema Amari”. There was also a return to address on the cover. It was an address in the city of East Jerusalem, in the Palestinian Republic, on Earth. Even though everything was written in Arabic, the translator in my mask allowed me to read what was written. Apparently the Town of Yma was a mining town that mined various valuable minerals and gemstones. All the equipment and the entire town was run on solar power and natural gas. One day they came across a deposit of zort. Zort was a fossil fuel similar to Earth’s coal, that this continent had forbidden use of, hundreds of years ago. Zort was banned because it increased carbon emissions and helped fuel climate change. The mining company froze operations until they could get a grasp of how big of a zort deposit they were dealing with. Further exploration showed that the entire town was sitting right on top of a massive deposit. Somehow, a few days later, the entire zort deposit ignited and the whole town had to be evacuated. The cause of the ignition was never discovered. It kind of reminded me of what happened to Centralia, Pennsylvania in Earth’s Twentieth Century.
I made a plan to go to the town in the morning. It was a bad idea to try to cross unfamiliar, open terrain, in the middle of the night, especially with those gangster bots patrolling the area. With nowhere to go until daylight, I fell asleep on the floor of the cave. When I woke up, I could vaguely remember waking up in the middle of the night and seeing an old, human woman looking down at me. I imagined it was only a dream. I started to stand up only to find I was surrounded by the creatures I had hidden behind the night before. They were all curled up as they lay on the ground around me. I didn’t think they could climb and I didn’t think my nostrils could take much more of the stench.
Without even checking to make sure the coast was clear, I grabbed the notebook and map and climbed out of the cave. I made my way quickly back to the ground and opened up the map. I noticed one of the houses on the map was circled in red. I didn’t remember seeing anything circled on the map the night before, but it was dark so I may have missed it. I looked around and seeing that the coast was clear, I made my move. It didn’t take long for me to get to the town. As I approached the town, I found myself heading towards a more run down part of it. If the robots are in the town, they’re probably not going to be hanging around the decrepit sections. Even though this part of town was beat, every building had solar panels connected to them. The panels appeared to be in good shape and probably still worked.
I needed someplace to hide out until dark and plan my next move. Unlike the open areas outside the town, the buildings and abandoned vehicles provided prime cover for me to sneak around. I also needed to get some fresh clothes and take a shower. I needed to get the stench of those beasts off of me! Seeing a house that had a sign that said, “Rooms for rent”, I snuck over to it and peered inside. Checking the map again, I found that this house was the same as the circled house I saw just minutes before. By the dust it looked like it had been abandoned for some time.
I slipped behind the building and broke into the back door. I did a quick sweep of the building and found what I had hoped for. There was a sign over a door in seven languages. I was able to translate one of the languages as “Property Room”.
I opened the door and expected to find a closet. Instead I found stairs leading down into a basement. Thankfully my mask was still working so it was able to see perfectly clear. There was close to one hundred boxes of items. I went through everything. Most of the boxes were stuff that belonged to humans, but some stuff was just so weird I couldn’t describe it. Each box had a sheet of paper on it with the amount of money the person, or persons, had to pay the landlord to get their stuff back. I grabbed a duffel bag I found and stuffed it with clothes, boots, toiletries and other supplies I thought I’d need. I even threw in some repair kits for various types of electronics. Those alone cost several hundred credits each! Last things I grabbed were a long, brown duster coat and a wide brimmed hat. Once I grabbed everything I needed, I headed upstairs to the second floor. I stripped off everything I was wearing in the hallway and threw the smelly clothes into one of the bedrooms. It was the best shower I had taken in a long time. I was amazed that the equipment, after who knows how many years of disuse, was able to keep the water hot the entire time too! It was amazing that the equipment in this house was still functioning so well. I put on my borrowed clothing before going into one of the rooms on the front side of the building.
It was several hours before noon so I sat down in one of the chairs and had breakfast. Those emergency rations I found in the basement were still good for another fifty years. Those things always taste the same, no matter who makes them. I would love to know how they can make a cube so geometrically flawless, with the most sickly gray color and absolutely no flavor at all.
I wasn’t tired, so I opened the bag and read some of the books I grabbed. The first one was a poetry collection called, “Otronaut”. It had a lot of poems about politics, societal issues, horror, humor and other things. It was actually pretty good. The second one was a novella called “Carmilla”, about a vampire who shows up at a chateau and tries to turn a young girl into a vampire too. I really enjoyed that one too. After I finished reading both I started to get sleepy. I settled into a deep sleep on the bed and when I woke up, had another delicious meal of disgusting emergency rations. By this time, the sun was setting and I was out the back door and scouring the streets for wherever those robots were based out of. I didn’t get far before I heard a hovercar with a bad motor nearby. I ducked into an alley and waited. A few minutes later an extremely old model hovercar that was flying slightly tilted drove past. It was driven and filled with the same kind of gangster bots that had shot me down. On the running boards on the sides were more bots clinging to the car’s chassis. The car took the corner too fast and one of the bots fell off, hitting a lamp post hard enough to snap him in half. Hearing the hovercar disappear in the distance I grabbed the bot and dragged him inside the nearest building. I opened up the back of his head and connected the robotics repair kit I appropriated earlier.
The display showed very simple coding. I used to do the same coding when I was in grade school! I found the robots had limited autonomy and were controlled by a central computer in the middle of the town. I read the notebook to find out where the underground zort fire was the worst. Using the captured bot, I sent a signal to the main computer that the robot I had was going to that area to find an intruder and that it requested back up of all active robots. I sent instructions for them to commandeer the heaviest vehicles they could find and to drive there in unison. I managed to use the system to patch through to one of the responding robot’s optic sensors. I saw it and the other robots getting into some of the heavy mining vehicles the miners had to leave behind. With the sound of thunder, the mining vehicles started and began their trek. It was extremely amusing seeing the robots knocking off parts of buildings and crushing vehicles as they headed towards my trap. As the first truck hit the weak point in the road, the road broke away under it and sent it plummeting through the thin soil, into the fiery pit below.
Truck after truck filled with robots fell into the hole.
Satisfied with my work, I disconnected the kit and shot apart the robot’s head. From the data I captured from the bot, I located where the main control computer was based. It was odd that I found an old bicycle with solid rubber tires, sitting in front of the building I just came out of. Not one to question a good thing, I took the bike and rode through empty streets until I got to my destination. It was a mansion with high walls and a lawn that had seen better days. I scaled the wall and snuck across the property and into an open window. As I explored the mansion, I noticed that it was actually well maintained inside. Hardly any dust and the bannisters and cabinet hardware in the kitchen were newly polished. I heard someone shouting in anger so I followed the voice and found myself in a room filled with a massive supercomputer.
Banging on a keyboard and swearing was a man that looked exactly like Al Capone. He must of caught me out the corner of his eye, cause he turned and tried to pull a gun on me. Fortunately, I’m a fast draw and I shot the gun out of his hand.
“Step away from the computer,” I said as I unslung the rifle from across my back. The guy tried to step out of the room but stopped when I pulled the gat on my right and shot at his feet. He stopped moving and held his hands up facing me. I leveled the rifle at the computer and blew it to bits.
“That should take care of your robots,” I said. “By the way, anyone ever tell you that you look like Al Capone?”
“What’d ya mean looks like, pally?” the man said. I could tell by his tone of voice that he was highly insulted. “I am Al Capone, you dope!”
“Al Capone’s been dead for twelve hundred years,” I counter.
“Yeah, so? That don’t mean nothing.”
“How are you still alive?” I asked. I still wasn’t totally convinced this was really Al Capone.
“Listen; I may be dead, but ain’t no stool pigeon,” he said pointing his finger at me. I’m about to ask him something else when a couple of robots come marching into the room. I point my rifle at them while trying to keep an eye on the guy that claims he’s Capone.
“So you survived the crash, whoever you are. Unfortunately, you won’t be surviving what’s next,” came a voice from the hallway. Following the voice was a man dressed in greasy, mechanics coveralls. The left side of his head was mechanical. He had a bright, yellow, round lense over the left side of his face. There was a small satellite dish above that. His right hand was missing, replaced with some kind of a tool set.
“Thank God! Fast Phrenkie, you’re just in time! Have your bots drill this lowlife, then we’re gonna need to pack up and split,” Capone said.
“Sorry tubs, I’m done taking orders from you,” the man said.
“Tubs?” Capone asked, his face was getting red. “Who do you think you’re talking to, you crumb?!”
“I blew out the super computer. All your bots should have shut down,” I said, jumping into the conversation. I had two active robots with machine guns as my main focus. Whatever dispute these two were having could wait. The cyborg laughed and said,
“You destroyed the controls for all the bots Capone knew about. But I built my own army and they’re under my direct control; through this,” he said tapping the left side of his head. “Once I’m through with you two, I can build more! I’m turning Vreegan into my own mechanical paradise and no one will stop me!”
While the cyborg was laughing maniacally, I raised my rifle. Capone rushed towards me screaming at me not to shoot him. No one tells me what to do. I shot the cyborg and took out the bots a split second before Capone tackled me.
“Why the hell did you have to kill him?!”
Capone screamed, shaking me by the lapels on my coat.
“What the hell do you care?” I asked him as I pulled one of my guns and pressed it to Capone’s ribs. He slowly got off of me and once he put enough distance between me and him, I told him to explain himself.
“When a human dies, whether or not they were born on Earth, their soul returns to the Afterworld. The Afterworld is a dimension, among the other dimensions that are part of Earth’s energy sphere. The gods of ancient mythology live there amongst the dead. They and a select group of human souls control everything. When the Norians invaded Earth and tried to exterminate humanity, the gods opened the Afterworld and let select souls return to the world of the living in recreations of the bodies they had when they were alive. Once the war was over we returned.”
“So why are you still back in the world of the living?” I asked.
“You’re sharp, I’ll give you that,” he said moving towards me. I raised my gun a little higher and motioned for him to back up. He took a deep breath and continued his story.
“So, I didn’t exactly head home right away like I should have. I decided I liked the new world I was in and decided I would stay. During the war, the gods used my leadership, organizational skills and my knowledge of bootlegging and smuggling to help them acquire weapons and get them to Earth. I made a lot of contacts and got lots of job offers. Now a guy like me, I have to be the boss, you know? So I studied the organizations that made me offers real close. One of those offers was a very profitable organization that I could easily take over in a short amount of time. I took the offer, I took control, but of course Lady Luck decided to play hooky on me. It was like, I had everything running smooth and going my way, but then the gods found me and brought me back.”
“How’d you get caught?” I asked him, really wanting to know why he was so upset with me killing his cyborg pal.
“One of my boys was a real crumb. He wasn’t happy that I was the boss and he made sure to let everyone know his feelings. I decided he had gummed up the works enough and I needed to enforce some discipline. I confronted him; he told me what’s what and I decided to let him go. I was really good about it, you know? I personally wrote up his termination papers on a Chicago Typewriter.”
Capone stopped and smirked before continuing on.
“You see, the chump I fired squealed on me when he got to the other side. Within a few days I got caught and was down in Tartarus waiting for judgment. It was decided to place me in one of the higher levels of Hell, which I was thankful for. The deeper levels of Hell are the worst, let me tell you. They give you a tour through them when you first die.”
Capone pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and dabbed the sweat off of his forehead. I asked him how he got out this time. He put the handkerchief away and said,
“During the war, Zeus found a bunch of different living women attractive. I don’t know if you know anything about ancient Greek mythology, but Zeus is a horny bastard. Like he did in ancient times, he seduced the women and fathered children with them. Most of the boys and girls were decent folk, but some were just evil or selfish bastards.
Hera ordered that all the new children of Zeus be exterminated. The good ones were hidden away for their safety. The rest were killed except for a couple that got away. They’re still being hunted to this very day. One of them decided to hide in Hell, because no one would think to look for them there. Some stoolie was going to rat them out to the gods in order to get placed back up in Tartarus. I killed the stoolie and Zeus’ child took me back to the world of the living with them as my reward.”
“So why a gang of robots?” I asked him.
“Because you can program those bots not to talk back and not to think too much. Running an enterprise is much easier when your guys don’t talk back. Unfortunately, I don’t know nothing about bots, so I needed someone like Fast Phrenkie to build and program them for me. Too bad he went and decided to have ideas of his own.”
Capone stopped talking when the window was illuminated by headlights. We heard clanking and electronic humming outside. Then the sounds of metal footsteps running towards us filled the air like thunder. The robots were storming the mansion and I needed to go, quick. Knowing Capone would slow me down, plus I didn’t trust him as far as I could throw him, I made a decision. I turned towards him and pointed the blaster rifle at him.
“No! No!” he screamed as I pulled the trigger. It was then, that everything went into slow motion. I watched the energy blast exit the barrel and fly towards Capone. Suddenly, a petite, bald, black woman, dressed exactly like me stood between the energy blast and Capone. The blast dissipated before it made physical contact with her.
I heard Capone exclaim, “Oh, shit!”
As he turned to run, the woman swung her arm behind her and pointed at Capone, all while maintaining eye contact with me.
“You move one more inch, Capone, I’ll see to it that you spend the next two hundred years in the section of Hell where we punish rapists, pedophiles, child and animal abusers and the people that know it’s going on but don’t stop it,” she said, her voice as cold as ice.
“I’ll be good,” Capone said quickly, planting his feet firmly on the ground. I had never seen a human being turn the bright shade of white that Capone was at that moment.
“Give Capone your rifle, Medlow,” she calmly ordered me. I froze trying to figure out how she knew my name. Seeing me hesistate, she raised her hand and I felt myself lifted off the ground and pulled towards her.
“I’m not telling you twice,” she said equally calmly.
I handed Capone my rifle, and the woman put me down on the ground. I pulled out my gats and offered one to her.
“No thanks. I brought my own weapons,” she said as she held up two curved swords. I don’t know where she got them from, they just appeared out of thin air! I had seen replicas of them in some of the ancient Egyptian museums I had visited. They were called khepesh swords and were one of the favored weapons of the ancient Egyptian army. The door burst open and the gangbots came in shooting. The woman swung her sword at the furniture and computer in the room. Everything in front of the swing flew out in front of us and made a shield to block us from the bullets.
“You two, get going. I’ll catch up,” she ordered. Capone grabbed my arm and dragged me after him. We made it out a side door and headed out past the pool. By the color and smell of the water, it’d been a long time since anyone took care of it. We were running towards the woods behind the mansion when we heard wood cracking and stone splintering. We both turned around and saw an enormous scorpion tearing apart the mansion from inside out. The scorpion whipped its tail around, throwing a handful of the bots off into the distance. The claws reached through a wall crushed the bots that were setting up a heavy machine gun emplacement.
“Where did that come from?” I asked aloud.
“That’s her, that’s Serket,” Capone said. “She’s the most badass of the gods I was telling you about. She’s in charge of the Medjai and rumors are that she’s really tens of thousands of years old.”
“Medjai?” I asked.
“The Afterworld’s version of the coppers,” Capone answered. “Now, like you saw, energy blasts just disperse when you try and shoot a god. But they can be hurt by bullets. The bullets won’t kill ’em permanently, but they will send them back home. She’s one of the few that’s not afraid to go head to head against a pally with a typewriter.”
“So she’s Serket, the ancient Egyptian goddesses of medicine, magic and animals?” I asked.
“The very same,” Capone confirmed.
We watched as the scorpion began to shrink in size and disappeared from view in the ruins of the mansion. The door Capone and I escaped from opened and out came Serket, walking tall and seemingly uninjured. Before I could say anything a bright light appeared in the sky. I heard the sound of radio static and a voice came over and said,
“Lady Serket, all robots have been neutralized. A clean up team is on the way.”
“Thank you. Please land at my location so you can take, Mr. Capone, home.”
Serket looked at Capone and he walked over to me and handed over my rifle.
“You did good today, pally. Too bad I couldn’t have you on my side,” he said and turned to walk back towards Serket.
“Hey, Al,” I said. “Why’d you have me shot down in the first place?”
Capone stopped, turned around and said,
“We came down here to lie low because the Medjai were getting too close to my tail. Once your ship came towards where I was hiding out, I was afraid I’d been found out so I ordered the ship to be shot down. It was nothing personal.”
He turned and walked back towards Serket. She put a pair of handcuffs on him as a medium sized freighter arrived at our location. The boarding ramp lowered and two heavily armed soldiers, dressed in navy blue combat uniforms, came down the ramp. They had very high tech combat armor on their shins, forearms and torsos. It looked like plastic but I knew it was stronger than steel. I had smuggled armor very similar to theirs to a resistance cell on the planet, Normos. Both women had swords across her backs, whose hilts were shaped like a scorpion’s tail. They walked with purpose and looked like they could take out a whole battalion by themselves without breaking a sweat. The two soldiers grabbed Capone and brought him up the ramp. I turned to Serket and asked,
“How did you know Capone was here?” I asked.
“I didn’t come here for Capone, I came for her,” she said as she pointed up towards the hills. I looked up and saw my ship coming in for a landing. The boarding ramp lowered and down came the old woman from the cave.
“My ship!” I exclaimed. “It’s fixed! How?”
“There’s a Rohingya starship repair company on one of the many northern continents. They came quick and did a fantastic job,” the old woman said.
“Magda, why did you call me here,” Serket asked. She tried to hide the level of annoyance in her voice, but I could still tell it was there.
“I have something for you,” the woman named Magda said as she handed over a small device to Serket. “It has the location of both Hati and Skoll, the son’s of Fenrir.”
“They’re both safely locked up in Tartarus,” countered Serket.
“When was the last time you checked?” Magda asked.
Serket briefly got a nervous look on her face, before it turned to anger.
“If this is a trick, I’ll finish you for good, myself,” Serket threatened. She started to turn away and then stopped,
“Is Loki a part of this?”
“He is not, but we could use his assistance. I’ve seen Fenrir charging into battle on our side. We need Loki to keep him under control,” said Magda.
“Our side, so now it’s our side,” exclaimed Serket angrily. “You two go find Loki, I’ll bring this to the council,” Serket responded as she walked up the ramp of her ship. As the ramp lifted and took off, Magda turned to me and asked,
“So how much did Capone tell you?”
“Only a little,” I answered truthfully.
“Good, then I get to tell you the rest,” Magda said as she started walking back to my ship. I didn’t know who these people were or what was going on, but it sure beat being broke and hauling cargo across the universe.
Medlow Staur and Magda will return in “Experimental Animals”.
Dramatis Persona in the story above.
Medlow Staur: Intergalactic adventurer and entrepreneur, Medlow spends much of his time doing odd jobs just to make ends meet.
Al Capone: Twentieth century gangster based out of Chicago, Illinois. Known by the nickname “Scarface”, Capone is one of the best known gangsters from the “Roaring Twenties”.
Serket: Ancient Egyptian goddess of medicine and magick. Serket is the commander of the Medjai, the Afterworld’s police force. One of the most powerful gods, she is symbolized by the scorpion.
Doctor Hasema Amari: A scientist from the University of Palestine who travelled to Vreegan to study the Zort deposit that was discovered on one of their southern continents.
Fast Phrenkie: A human cyborg who prefers robots and technology to people. Is currently working for Al Capone, but longs for the day he can announce his true plans to the universe.
Rohingya: After facing attempted genocide and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar, the Rohingya people survived and have spread throughout the universe.
Magda: An ancient goddess of Western European descent, Magda was part of an uprising against the established order of the Afterworld. Stripped of most of her powers, she was exiled and forced to roam the universe.
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