EXILED

The Beginning

Located on the planet of Pluto…

In the 42nd generation of awareness, the crew of Pluto’s Harvester III came together for a smoke the night before their next assignment. The routine had been initiated by Captain Jantusen Contextor following their first “mission” together. Since then, they’d gathered at his estate before every mission and sat around a fire for a ritual sendoff.

Tomorrow’s delivery run represented a new low by every measure imaginable. It was a lengthy trip to an inconsequential asteroid that threatened to imprison the crew in a tedium one step shy of a coma for weeks. Contemplating 20 or 30 days at 153 hours each, tonight’s ensemble was determined to indulge in the most intense party ever; a party they could talk about and savor for at least half the voyage. What happened was more fateful than any of them could have hoped for.

Some folks might say Chief Technician Engorn Tribblefawn’s discovery was more of a curse than a historic, sociological breakthrough. But no one outside the crew were facing the dreadfully dull Hyperion run. An hour into their festivities, having enjoyed a particularly awesome weed, Engorn sat next to the Physician, Scriptecoil, or rather, Scriptecoil was sitting next to her — not too close, mind you lest she sneeze — and the Captain was across the way watching the fire.

Engorn had an antique music extractor snuggled in her lap. Her head weaved in a figure eight motion with her eyes closed and she was holding her hands over her ears. She stopped moving, opened her eyes and with a flirty smile, said, “Captain. My para has picked up something I think you should hear. In fact, I think the whole crew should have a listen.”

Unable to resist her seductive invitation, all eight of them instructed their symbiotes to pair up and connect to the music extractor. Wondrous sounds began to fill their heads and soon the whole gathering was swaying and moving to the rhythms while following puzzling lyrics along kaleidoscopic visions in an amazing high that surpassed anything in their experience.

Pertecty Frowlitz, Operations, Logistics and Communications officer, called on her parasite to decipher and translate the voices conjoined to the various frequencies of the musical notes. That took some time so they indulged in another smoke while Pertecty’s para sorted out and delivered the full text of the musical poems.

The thing to understand about symbiotes is that nobody understands them. For that matter, physicians and specialists from every branch of science have determined conclusively that nobody CAN understand them. Over six centuries had passed since a parasitic symbiote first attached itself to a red-shirted crewman with a name no one could remember. Something odd like Bill or Joe — maybe Jim.

After a few hours of what seemed like an endless variety of heavenly tunes, they began to debate which were the best. Ultimately they were unable to decide between “Jimminy Hendricks” and “Pink Freud”, but they were determined to discover where they lived and if either of them had created other such masterpieces. Working with Engorn’s symbiote, Growfindel Xonfiar, the crew’s navigator, set out to determine where the sounds had come from.

So enraptured were they by the whole Experience, they completely missed their launch time. In itself, that would have been nothing more than a minor administrative adjustment. But Captain Contextor’s home was situated across a small lake from Pluto’s supreme ruler, Librarian Erudious Bibliocean. It was a serene setting, and in the still night, the sounds of their party had drifted across the lake, which amplified the volume, thus committing a gross misdemeanor. They had disturbed the Librarian’s solitude.

Penalties for gross misdemeanors were generally mild and involved a fine and some community service. But the Supreme Ruler was in a foul mood and the entire crew was plucked from the surface by an AI tractor beam and subjected to the maximum penalty.

“You have violated — scratch that. You have obliterated the sleep cycle for your entire neighborhood. (It is significant to note here that the entire neighborhood consisted of two homes, the Captains and the Librarian’s.) The evidence is overwhelming and the verdict has already been rendered. You are guilty of a gross misdemeanor and sentenced to one year exile to a planet of your choosing. You have two minutes to decide where you will spend your probationary period.”

Captain Contextor glanced at Growfindel who was working feverishly with calculations to try and determine where the musicians had come from.

“Two minutes isn’t much time,” he said to the AI. “Can we have twenty?”

“The time allocated is inviolable and non-negotiable.”

“How about fifteen?”

A sustained silence was followed by, “Ten minutes. No more!”

“Your ten minutes begins NOW!”

“That’s okay,” Growfinel said. “We’ll go to earth.”

His friends stared back at him with horrified expressions and the AI went silent. “Your response was unintelligible,” it said. “Please choose your destination for probation.”

By this time everyone in the group realized that Growfindel had determined where the wonderful music had come from and were nodding their approval. “We’ll go to earth.”

Having partied through the previous night’s sleep cycle, the group located their various sleeping quarters and settled down for a nap. However, the effects of the particular intoxicants they had enjoyed knocked them out for the entire trip and they woke in orbit around earth. Growfindel verified their location and as they moved around the globe, he tuned in the ship’s audio receptor looking for the artists they were so anxious to find.

Pertecty took up the challenge of sorting through the ocean of signals trying to locate sounds that had dropped off the mainstream quite some time ago. She paused to listen to one of the more intriguing sounds from an artist called DJ Scheme before turning her attention back to the quest.

“Looks like we’ll have to search different places,” she said. “Pink Freud is from a place called London, which we just passed over. Jimminy Hendricks was from something called Seattle. It’s coming up there.” She pointed to the viewscreen.

“Seems like as good a place as any to start,” said the Captain.

Growfindel typed coordinates into the computer and landed the craft in a place called Gorst.

“You’re sure this is the place?” asked Pertecty.

Growfindel shrugged. “Close enough.” He didn’t mention he was still feeling the after effects of their send-off.

To be continued…

Written and created by:
Knott Knowlenberger, with assistance from TheDankestAlien.

Illustrated by:
HAO

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