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Five Planets Never Visited by the Excalibur

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01. the obligatory desert planet

"Remind me again why we're walking to this 'mystical place of healing'," Gideon said.

"Tradition?" Eilerson suggested. "These sorts of places always look much less impressive if you can just fly there, so they tell you that the mighty oracle or wizard or whatever will only talk to people who are half-delusional after three days in the desert. Oldest trick in the book."

"Actually, I think that's the myth of Creation," Galen said.

Eilerson frowned. "What?"

"The oldest trick in the book?" Galen's lips twisted slightly. "Of course, it might depend on your book."

"On the subject of tricks: am I the only one wondering how someone can be wearing a hooded, full length cloak - and a black one, at that - and yet not be the least affected by the heat?" Chambers asked.

Four pairs of eyes studied Galen, who shrugged. "Oh, did I forget to mention I'm a technomage?"

"What, so it's magic?" Eilerson snorted.

"Is that a hint of doubt I am detecting? Now, really, Maximilian."

"What I want to know is: why are you here in the first place?" Gideon said.

"The killer of unwary cats?"

"Sandstorm," Dureena said.

"Curiosity," Eilerson corrected her. "It's a saying on Earth. 'Curiosity killed the cat'. It means - "

"What it means, Mr. Eilerson, is that there's a sandstorm headed our way." Gideon squinted. "Coming up pretty fast. Any bright ideas?"

For a moment, none of them spoke. The storm was clearly visible now. "Imagine getting caught in something like that in a shuttle," Chambers said.

"I'd just as soon not, thanks," Eilerson said.

"Entertaining as it is to simply stand here and watch, perhaps we might get a move on? I believe we may find some shelter on the other side of that dune over there. Or maybe that one? They all do rather look alike, don't they?" Galen turned to Gideon. "Oh well, I'm sure we can figure something out."

"Can't you just, I don't know, wave your wand and make that thing go away?" Eilerson asked.

Galen arched one eyebrow and followed Gideon as he set out in the direction of the first dune Galen had pointed at. "Honestly, Maximilian, what do you think I am?"

("A colossal pain in the ass," Eilerson muttered.)


02. the obligatory ice planet

"Sharing bodyheat," Gideon said firmly.

Chambers kept a straight face. "Very medically responsible, captain."


03. the obligatory planet with lots of good-looking women in skimpy outfits

Eilerson was smiling a little uncomfortably at a woman with what appeared to be cat's ears. Her tail was swishing lazily.

"Apparently," Galen said, "they trick unwary travelers by taking on the guise of that which they love."

Eilerson looked up sharply. "They what?"

"Interesting," Gideon said, eyeing Eilerson with a slight smirk.

Eilerson sat up abruptly, nearly shoving the woman away. "Hey! Sure, I love Mr. Kitty, but not like that! That's just wrong."

"Mr. Kitty?" Gideon asked, one eyebrow arched. "Something you want to share, Mr. Eilerson?"

"Oh, it's just his pet cat," Galen said dismissively. "Sorry, Matthew, nothing at all exciting. Although I must say, don't you notice a certain striking resemblance between that woman over there and your dear lieutenant?"

"I do notice there doesn't seem to be anybody around who looks the least bit like a Technomage. How's that for interesting, eh?"

"Ah." Galen smiled beatifically. "Point well taken, Mr. Eilerson."

"Can we go now?" Matheson asked.


04. the not-so obligatory planet with lots of good-looking men in skimpy outfits

"Wouldn't they get cold at night, do you think?" Dureena idly commented to Chambers while sipping some sort of local beverage with a name Eilerson had translated as 'some kind of fruitjuice'.

"Maybe they keep sweaters somewhere?" Chambers looked around. Several men smiled at her. "Ugh."

Dureena grinned. "Think they're trying too hard?"

"Trying and failing," Chambers said. "Do these people have any concept of romance? Basic human psychology?"

"Maybe we're the ones that are supposed to be a challenge. The hunted."

Chambers scowled. "Primitive gender roles that don't even make sense. For all that we seem to be surrounded by idiots, this is a technologically highly advanced society. Logic would dictate they are socially advanced as well - sufficiently advanced, at least, to no longer distinguish between male and female as archetypical patterns of behavior."

Dureena blinked. "Wow. That was a pretty complicated sentence."

"Are you sure this is just fruitjuice?" Chambers peered suspiciously at the liquid still remaining in her glass. "It doesn't taste like alcohol, but even so."

"I think Eilerson got in some new data crystals the other day," Dureena said.

"What kind of - oh." Chambers emptied her glass and rose mostly steadily to her feet. "Those kind."

"There were six of them. Six." Dureena shook her head. "Only one that was any good, of course. Lousy taste in porn, that's Eilerson. Nabbed that one."

"Well then. Shall we?"

"Just look straight ahead and keep walking. Try not to giggle. Show neither fear nor weakness."



05. the planet with those you-know-whats

Matheson looked uncomfortable. "Sir, they look exactly like - "

"I know, lieutenant." Gideon looked at the alien lifeforms that surrounded them.

"Like what?" Eilerson asked. "Over-sized teddy-bears? Kid's toys? Cartoon characters?" He took a step forwards. One of the aliens growled and pointed a primitive spear at him. "Easy there, fuzzball."

"You honestly don't know?" Gideon asked.

"Know what?"

"Star Wars, sixth movie," Matheson said. "Or first trilogy, third movie."

Eilerson shrugged. "Never heard of it. Sounds kind of pompous. Pretentious. Was it any good?"

"You've never heard of Star Wars," Gideon repeated.

"Is this really relevant to our current situation?" Dureena asked, adding, when Gideon turned to her: "And no, I haven't seen it either."

"They look like Ewoks," Gideon said. "They walk like Ewoks. They sound like Ewoks."

"They wave their pointy sticks at people like Ewoks, I'm sure," Eilerson said. "You want me to act as if these are fictional aliens from a fictional movie, or you want me to actually figure out what they're saying so we can find out if they know anything of value?"

"I just don't believe this." Gideon shook his head.

"Look at it from the bright side, sir," Matheson said. "We could be talking to Jar-Jar Binks."