There was a micro-galaxy called The Dozens near the Attlinger system. The planets in The Dozens circled each other so closely they looked like a colorful bag of marbles from just a hundred thousand miles away. They were so masterfully situated gravitationally that they sheared tiny bits of atmosphere from each other as they passed. For this reason, each of the planets in The Dozens had exactly the same atmospheric mix.
The Dozens were surrounded loosely by
ten small suns which kept them in near perpetual light and warmth,
aside from the frequent eclipses caused by the planets rotations. Each
world in The Dozens system was named for an Earth English month.
Despite their shared atmosphere only one of these planets held life
beyond bacteria, that planet was April.
specialist first class Bartolemeu Day was employed by the BigHeart
Corporation. It was BigHeart's modus operandi to seek out unclaimed
planets, drill a hole and bomb the hell out of them, and then thoroughly
catalog and patent whatever was found both on and below their planetary
surfaces. This hit and miss style of patenting had been highly
lucrative for BigHeart. The corporation held patents on a number of
popular interstellar building materials as well as a few thousand small
alien creatures and bacteria. While their exploratory explosions
generally left these planets in tatters, this was highly convenient for
the pilot fish companies that relied on BigHeart to point them towards
money makers. A BigHeart patent contract fee was a small price for
these scavengers to pay in order to escape the cost of doing their own
exploratory drilling, bombing, and cataloging. They could get right
down to business purchasing land paperwork and stripping a planet's
value without concern that it may be a risky investment. BigHeart's
unofficial motto was "We Drill It, You Kill It".
had been pretty average for Bartolemeu before a broken lavatory seal
ripped the ship wall apart and sucked half of the crew into space and
the other half of the crew died in a simultaneously occurring break room
fire. The fire, which began in and around a drunk employee's deep
fryer during his birthday celebration, would have been easily put out
were it not for the ship overcompensating oxygen dramatically due to the
ten foot lavatory wall hole. The ship was an older model and the crew
were all equipped with breather bugs, they had no need for the oxygen
that was being provided them. If they hadn't had been wearing breather
bugs some of them may have noticed how thick and delicious and oxygeny
the air had become. The entire cafeteria and most of the ship's
interior went up with a loud whoosh and then all was still, aside from a
few dozen blaring alarms. Bartolemeu Day had never been a fan of
parties, he'd been sleeping in his hyperbaric chamber when all of this
occurred. The alarms woke him seconds after the danger had passed.
ship sealed the lavatory area automatically, slowly but surely.
Bartolemeu Day was left wandering in a broken ship with a couple dozen
blackened corpses melted to the floors and walls, their bodies and faces
trapped in a macabre pantomime of their final seconds. Bartolemeu
rarely left the comfort of his hyperbaric chamber for the first several
days. Finally he became too hungry to wait any longer and was forced to
brave the still circus in the cafeteria for as much peanut butter
powder and bottled water as he could carry back to his room.
two months Bartolemeu's boredom and recurring need for sustenance had
overcome his fear. He began posing with the black statues, going from
one to the next to mimic and share in their pantomimes. The lone
survivor started to spend all of his time in the cafeteria. Bartolemeu
had identified all of the bodies but one, a poor charred creature who
sat with its head down on the table nearest the blast center. The quiet
payload specialist hadn't interacted with the staff very much while
they lived. He was not the type of man to use two words where one would
do, and he didn't engage in banter. Bartolemeu appreciated the exact
nature of his work, he preferred equations to conversations. And so
when this quiet and serious man began to feel deeply and irrevocably
lonely for the first time in his life, he didn't recognize it right
away. He named the unknown corpse that leaned against the table like a
child asleep in class "Sandy".
Three months later when
the ship neared The Dozens and the few remaining sensors alerted
Bartolemeu that a habitable planet was nearby, he had a difficult time
deciding whether or not to leave. He turned to Sandy for guidance.
Sandy had become his confidante, his lunch partner, his best and first
friend. Sandy's empty eyes and curled screaming lips implored him to
get the hell off the ship if he could. "Get out! Get out! Get out!",
Sandy screamed silently. In the months since they'd met Sandy had never
steered Bartolemeu wrong. He packed up what little food was left, all
of the ship's radio rescue flares, a solar tent, the emergency medical
kit, and pointed the escape hatch towards planet April.
for Bartolemeu and April, with nobody alive to steer the ship away it
remained on a slow and steady inertia driven path towards the planet
after the escape hatch launch. The ship would arrive along with its
payload of charred bodies and nuclear missiles just two months after
Bartolemeu with a devastating boom on the other side of the planet. The
former BigHeart Corp. payload specialist had no idea that Sandy and the
rest of his friends were following him through the gloom of space.
April has an incredibly limited and fragile ecosystem. Poison puff
plant grows freely everywhere. Like the name suggests, the plant is
poisonous to humans. It is not, however, poisonous to the only animals
aside from Bartolemeu to have lived on planet April, the squillers. In
this perfectly closed system the squillers eat the fast growing poison
puff plant and their poop and eventual deceased bodies nourish new
Bartolemeu didn't know any of this when he
landed. He had been living on turkey jerky and dehydrated peanut butter
for weeks since running out of everything else on the ship that had
survived the fire. The first thing he did was eat a poison puff plant
leaf. The second thing he did was projectile vomit while laying in a
fetal position clutching his stomach. This noise and activity caught
the attention of several local squillers who rushed over to see what was
happening. Squillers are squirrel like creatures with large eyes and
soft skin the same deep shade of green found in poison puff plant
stems. Because squillers have no natural enemies or prey and their food
is always plentiful, they're playful, trusting, and gentle creatures.
made it very easy for Bartolemeu to capture and cook one. The squiller
had walked right up to him and allowed him to pick it up and quickly
snap its neck. The squillers watched from the shadows of the poison
puff plant as Bartolemeu happily cooked and ate his first real meal in
months. It was delicious. When he was through, he tossed the bones
behind his tent and settled in for a nights rest under the stars. He'd
been confined for too long. Maybe the next night Bartolemeu would sleep
in the tent, but he preferred to be out in the open on his first night.
He slept so soundly he didn't hear the squillers removing the bones of
his dinner and carefully burying them in the poison puff plant field.
Bartolemeu slept so deeply that he didn't notice the squillers weighing
down his blanket and warming him against the chilly April night wind.
When he awoke, feeling refreshed for the first time in months,
Bartolemeu jammed a radio rescue flare into the soft earth beside his
tent and cooked another squiller.
He was quickly
growing fond of these little critters who were so friendly and
affectionate and who tasted so good. Bartolemeu was followed by a hoard
of playful squillers wherever he explored on this strange little
planet. Within the first several days he had become completely
accustomed to their peculiar friendly habits and obvious interest in
him. Because of this, Bartolemeu was caught completely off guard on his
fourth night when the squiller he'd selected for dinner bit him lightly
and then wriggled expertly out of his grasp. Bartolemeu's mouth was
stuck in a garishly startled grin as he watched the squiller rejoin its
chattering friends in the poison puff plant shadows. His grin fell away
when several squillers emerged from the bushes carrying an elderly
squiller to lay at Bartolemeu's feet.
And so it went
from then on. Each day the squillers would offer him two of their
number. Bartolemeu ate the elderly, lame, and sickly. The squillers
would bury the remains in their poison puff plant field, along with
Bartolemeu's own solid waste. Every night the squillers made sure their
lonely human was warm and secure. If their enthusiasm for his company
wavered they never let it show. Bartolemeu's enthusiasm for the
squillers had diminished significantly, however. He just wasn't sure
how to feel about them.
Maybe in time Bartolemeu might
have come to terms with the reality that he'd landed among a race of
creatures so without internal or external conflict they would offer
themselves up as a meal to any creature who needed to eat. He might
have shaken the fear that the squillers were planning something big,
perhaps fattening him up to turn the tables and eat him, or that they
were exercising some kind of phenomenal otherworldly condescension
through their sacrifices and concern for his well being.
truth is, Bartolemeu was really starting to resent the generous and
kind squillers by the time his former ship finally made it to the planet
two months later. When the nuclear missile payload hit April, the
explosion was enough to nudge this small and unique world just slightly
out of orbit. The Dozens had been winding and wending around each other
for millions of years with the precision of a Swiss watch. This tiny
nudge created a chain reaction that turned the entire system into a ball
of flaming dust within a week.
radio rescue flare had done the trick. A BigHeart rescue ship arrived
on the scene in time to patent several unique organic compounds that would revolutionize plastic surgery and make the corporation trillions of GovBucks.