T. Mark Mangum
Jun 30, 2020 · 4 min read

Planetary Explorers

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Photo by Guillaume Issaly on Unsplash

“Happy, there is a fluctuation in the power runners on the port side, what is going on,” I asked my Engineer.

The ship, knowing who Happy was and where he was, channeled my inquiry through the Communications Platform to Happy Joe Dertzey’s, in engineering.

Why did we call him happy? No clue, he is actually a grumpy old, ornery cuss.

Taylor Cannedy, my 2nd, had introduced him as Happy, she called him happy, so we called him happy.

“Well, shit fire captain the relay in section P3 is throwing an alert.”

“Z2E, (Pronounced Zee), we need emergency diagnostics and repairs in section P3’s power relays,” I spoke again.

“Almost their captain, I had to retrieve tools from the maintenance bay.”

Z2E was a little rollie, flex maintenance bot that was worth its weight in gold. Z2E’s previous owner had added intelligence protocols, so Z2E would constantly plug into the sensor arrays and observe unless otherwise needed.

The little bot moved quickly to the relays and completed necessary repairs. Then went back to monitoring the universe through the sensors.

Moments later we dropped out of Dark Space near Palistade-9.

“Palistade-9, is a habitable planet with an accommodating atmosphere, the gravity is one-tenth of a percentile less than that of the earth; It should not be noticeable. We are the first to gain an investigative permit to this planet that is orbiting a White Dwarf Star in the constellation of Palistade.”

Z2E continued to ramble on with more information that all of us had already reviewed.

“Captain Lowe.” Taylor said, I gave her the look, “Ted,” she quickly corrected, the ship has found a suitable landing zone, I’ve instructed it to proceed.”

“Thank you, Taylor. You and Happy take first walk; I’m going to go over the sensor array details with Z2E. We should be down in an hour or two.”

“Let’s do this shindig Ms. Taylor. I sure hope it ain’t a pucker party. I need a drink and a shower. If I smell like I feel, y’all may be passed out soon,” Happy said.

They entered the containment lock, it cycled, opened, and just like that, Happy Joe Dertzey, and Taylor Cannedy became planetary explorers! It was odd to me how we just did that now. This was planet number five for us, in as many years, since Darkspace navigation had been worked out.

I began to review the sensor data with Z2E. Palistade-9 appeared to be a classical life-supporting world with diverse ecosystems and species. There was however no sign of advanced sentient life.

The door to the containment lock cycled and opened, Z2E and I walked down the ramp to the field camp near the ship. Happy was seated at the table looking at a pile of Gemstones, Taylor was scanning the tree line with binoculars.

“Captain look, this is downright amazing, they’re all over out there,” He told me, waving his arms around. “Fields and fields of them. As far as the eye can see.” I looked but all I could see were trees.

“What the hell,” I picked one up, it was about the size of a golf ball. “When you say fields what do you mean.”

“So through those fracking trees boss, there is a clearing. They are just strewn about the field, so many it is hard to walk. Its as if they all just dropped from the sky.

Happy, actually seemed happy.

The colorful pile on the table appeared to be uncut gems, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, of many different sizes. Some dirty, some covered in mud, or partially encrusted in a rock casing.

“Sir, the sensors are alerting me to movement all around,” Taylor said.

Then we heard It, a horn.


“Captain the sensors are detecting a large number of quadrupedal life forms moving towards us. They appear to be carrying crude tools, possibly weapons,” Z2E said. “I am not sure how this happened, but they are all around us, we are surrounded.”

“Everyone, to the ship,” I yelled.

When we were all Safely back aboard, I started my report to the web, so all would know what to expect from a visit to Palistade-9.

“Palistade-9 nine has nothing to offer but wide-open wilderness spaces, an extremely active climate, and an Alpha predator, numerous and tribal. The alpha predator is vicious, aggressive, and less than intelligent or sentient. They are extremely territorial and can be expected to attack in force without hesitation. Our surveys found no location where a variant of the Alpha species did not wander. Several months of observation and multiple attempts at communication leave us with the impression that they either do not care to communicate due to an instinctual territorial trait or are incapable mentally to communicate.”

“Hey, boss man, when we heading back to Palistade-9, daddy needs a new pair of shoes you know.” Happy said over the coms.

Copyright: T. Mark Mangum, 2020. All rights reserved. No part of my story may be copied, reprinted, or published without the written consent of the writer.

T. Mark Mangum, is the product of the 60s and 70s, his imagination, wonder, thought, and ponderings, emboldened by Star Trek, Star Wars, Conan the Barbarian, and The Hobbit. He loves a good story and hopes you will love reading his stories. Veteran, Father, TTRPG, and board Game Junkie. He spent 20 years in the United States Army, another 10 years working for the government, before realizing he should write.



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T. Mark Mangum

Written by

The Bad Influence
T. Mark Mangum

Written by

Imagination, wonder, thought, surprise, I love a good story, I hope you love reading my stories. Veteran, Father, TTRPG Game Junkie.

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