Of Love and War
By Brandon Victorian
The galaxy was indeed filled with wonders and terrors, as everyone knew. And as everyone knew, in recent years, a new addition put new weight to the terror side.
Monster Minds. This race of hideous mutant plants struck fear in the hearts of every sentient in the galaxy. At the mere mention of their names, hairs would stand on end. And to those systems, whose inhabitants lacked magical or technological skill enough to stop them, seeing the approach of their immense, putrid green vines meant either slavery or doomsday.
Woe to those who scoffed at their power, for they realized, when it was too late, that their forces and sheer numbers were no laughing matter-- especially when they would see one. For they knew that few had seen them and lived to tell the tale.
Perhaps if the planetary governments had been more centralized, working towards a common goal, the Monster Mind onslaught would have been reduced, and the galaxy would have been safer. But unfortunately, it was not the way of things. And though travel from planet to planet was still a daily thing (as life had to go on), the threat of Monster Minds made every space pilot just a bit more wary.
Arxoxa was no fool. He'd been piloting his ship, the Sky Bolt for over twenty years, ferrying weapons to those worlds which would benefit most from their use, preferably war. In a way, he made his living off of suffering, and did a pretty fine job at it, if he did say so himself. But it was not that he didn't care. If anyone knew him for a while, they would know. It was all he could do, or at least do a good job at. For he'd come from a family of small-market, variety space merchants, who were just as good at what they did as he was trained by them to be. And being independent like they were, were not part of some gigantic cosmic corporations. Its advantages were that they attracted very little attention from the dregs of the galaxy who were looking for raids, and attracted more attention from those looking for lucrative deals with a personal touch. "If you want it, we've got it," was their family motto. And as his trade in weapons went, it held just as true.
But this day, he wasn't exactly expecting clientele such as he'd found.
It started out simple enough. He'd been en route to Balinar VII for an special order delivery: a set of Phoenix photon mortars for the colonial wars in that sector, when the buzzing on his ship's proximity detector woke him from his dream of a pile of platinum bars, and early retirement on the shores of the planet Tralala.
He groaned, and reached for the screen switch. Flipping it, the buzzing stopped, and the image of space before him immediately vanished into a view of a vine satellite, poised on the outskirts of the Balinar system. His heavy eyes threw off their weights at this sight, as he'd never had the opportunity to see one of these up close. He'd been doing his business on the outskirts of the galaxy, and so, he'd never actually seen a Monster Mind either. So naturally, this aroused his curiosity. He'd heard that they were very powerful creatures, and had perfected the science of alchemy, being able to mix biological with synthetic almost seamlessly, resulting in the weird vehicles he'd heard so much about. Looking at this thing made him realize what all those folks had meant. From a distance, it looked like any ordinary satellite, but as the sensors magnified the image, he saw the distinct telltale green vines which literally coursed across the satellite's metallic surface. Or was that metal at all?
His curiosity now melted into greed. He rubbed his hand across his stubbled chin, and smiled.
"This merits some looking into," He thought aloud, as he ran his fingers over the ship's controls. After all, it seemed to be the only one around, and the full sensor sweep of the immediate area revealed no other anomalies. A quick look at it up close couldn't hurt. After all, if the Monster Minds were so powerful, he'd surely be able to find some useful weapons on board.
He then guided the ship into docking mode, and extended the linking tube to the cylindrical, plant-covered device. The computers revealed no breathable atmosphere inside, and so he donned a space suit and a mid-level blaster before boarding.
But unbeknownst to him, invisible to his ship's sensors, and very nearby, there was something else out there. It didn't even need to be so near to one of its satellites to know that it was being violated by a human, and so it sent a small regiment of its troops to investigate.
"Go!" This being that was Saw Boss shouted, in his deep, powerful, commanding voice. "Fetch me that man who dares to pry in my affairs!"
"I will see to it personally, Excellency," A nasal, almost Igor-ish voice sounded from far below, in the womb-like chamber. And in the half-light, an ugly, vaguely humanoid figure with olive green skin, and what appeared to be a deformed yellow mushroom on his head, and a vestigial Venus' flytrap for a hand, lumbered off.
These were the true Monster Minds: Saw Boss, Terror Tank, K.O. Kruiser, Gun Grinner, and Beast Walker. The leaders and sources of the onslaught of evil that had taken over the galaxy. Their supreme leader, Saw Boss had been watching this little planet below for some time now, and his troopers had reported that the world was perfect for them, with minerals, vast quantities of water, and strong potential slaves, with insufficient means to resist them. His satellites had to be placed just right for the attack to be made perfectly, and placement was crucial. He did not need a little man poking around inside one of them, to ruin his work. He would be disposed of.
And yet, when he looked into his mind, he could see something that he could use. Very few, whether they'd seen, or merely heard of his kind, would willingly approach any of their devices without fear. He believed he could use this man. Yes. He could use him indeed.
Inside the satellite, Arxoxa looked about in amazement at the interior. It was almost like he'd stepped into a piece of driftwood in space with all the green and brown of vines flowing every which way, and yet, he could hear the humming, droning, and pumping of machinery. Or was that a heart of some sort? It was almost as though this thing was alive!
A few twists and turns later, and he found himself in a room. Though covered in the usual ugly greenish-brown vines, resembled very distinctly, the torpedo room in a Venralian submarine. But instead of the weapons' chute being affixed to the wall, it was a clear, pulsating, glass-like tube that ran towards a hole in the wall, and was filled with clear sacs containing embryonic versions of the vines that he saw all around him.
Overcome with curiosity, he stepped closer. Were these the same vines he'd heard frightened soldiers rant and rave about? Were these the vines that were rumored to tear planets to shreds in mere weeks? Were these--Monster Minds?
If they are, he thought, then plants like these could make some pretty effective weapons on my clients' worlds. The prospect of the kind of money something like that could bring in was too much for him to resist. An after all, taking one would hardly be noticeable. Stepping up to the glass-like tube, he reached out to touch it. And almost as if it was expecting him, it gave way, like pudding!
He shrank back, momentarily shocked at what had happened. This satellite was alive! Now understanding what to expect, he reached back out into the clear stuff of the chute, through its membranous tissue, grabbed the embryo pod, and raced back through the satellite's cavernous passageways. He didn't know why he ran, but only knew that the moment he'd laid his gloved hands on that pod, he felt as though someone was watching him. He had to get away from here. Fast.
But as he rounded the last corner, he came face to face with a Tank Trooper. Cannon nozzle pointed directly at his head. Arxoxa nearly fainted as he gazed at its horrible shape, resembling a hideously twisted form of a tank, with a razor-toothed Venus' flytrap vine growing out of its top, and stretching its root-like tendrils all over its topside.
He backed off, slowly, unable to make much more than unintelligible jabber at the horrifying creature towering above him. He'd heard of them, but had no idea that they were that BIG!
He took another clumsy step backwards, and heard something whizz behind his back, just missing him. He turned around to see another trooper. A Saw Trooper, if he'd remembered right. It had made a warning sweep above his backside with a viscious steel-like blade attached to another vine growing from its black, twisted top.
"Don't even think about it!" It said in a gruff voice, indicating with its vine-saw that he stand perfectly still. On the other side, the Tank Trooper brought its claw down, and snapped at his side.
Finally finding his voice, the trader stammered out, "W--w--wha.. what do you want with me?!"
The Tank Trooper spoke in its Toading voice. "You have been invited into the company of our master! Saw Boss! He wants to talk to you personally!"
"N...n--no, please!" Arxoxa quavered, shaking from head to toe. "I--i--if its about this-" He brought the Monster Mind pod forward "-I'll put it back!"
"Too late for that now!" the Saw Trooper sneered. Come with us!"
And as the Tank Trooper reached out with his Venus flytrap mouth for him, Arxoxa, in his screaming, had forgotten all about his gun.
PART 2This story is Copyright Brandon Victorian, All Rights Reserved