Closer to the crash site First Mate Hugert O'Donkloy strained with all of the strength he had to rein in the snuffling bulk of the Gotuk beast. He was a Chimopteran, tall, noble, cold-blooded and one of the greatest space-faring races the galaxy had ever produced. Hugert had lived his entire life in the reduced gravity of freighters, space stations, and most recently, passenger liners, so the oppressive gravity of earth made him feel feeble and feverish at all times. The Gotuk beast he was using to search for the ejected plasma containment vessels seemed totally unaffected by the sudden change in gravity. If anything "Licky" behaved as though invigorated by the stifling miasma of smells the filthy green world was assaulting the survivors with.
Hugert glanced back at Captain O' Folljoy, who was doing his best to comfort Mister and Missus Xctl on the loss of their three broodlings. There was little love lost between Hugert and Captain O' Folljoy. The Captain was a lower caste Chimopteran who had worked his way up over the course of a century to commanding a small but elegant luxury yacht. After saving his guild earnings for another century O' Folljoy had purchased his own ship, the aging passenger liner Does Not Crash, which comically disproved its moniker eight hours earlier as ships tend to do. Hugert, on the other hand, was a member of the elite caste and his guild posting as first mate aboard Does Not Crash was the start of a promising career. His test scores and birthright assured a long life as a transport fleet admiral or even a cruiser captain, and he made sure Captain O' Folljoy knew as much at every opportunity.
"Fuck this," Hugert sighed and tugged on the leash of the Gotuk.
The catastrophic crash of his first ship and the resulting death of five passengers and three crewmen would be a glaring red stain on his permanent record. He would likely spend the next century posted to a garbage scow steering through the excrement fields of Omnabulian IV. Not to mention they would be stranded on this backwater hole of a planet until the uncooperative Licky managed to locate the plasma vessels. They had been ejected just before the ship slammed into the jungle to prevent a fuel explosion that would have destroyed everything in a five hundred mile radius with a blinding flash of nuclear fire. Unfortunately they had ejected them into the middle of a primeval swamp populated with disorienting swarms of hideous smells and ravenous insects. Without the plasma vessels Does Not Crash could not lift off the planet even if all of the other repairs were completed by the surviving crew.
Licky whined excitedly and began tugging on the leash with an unexpected burst of strength.
"Finally! Go on Licky, take papa Hugert to the plasma vessels!"
Hugert let the panting and snorting ball of mucus and teeth tug him towards the edge of the crash site, where the damage done by their landing gave way to the ominous darkness of the jungle. He was nervous about going into the foreboding jungle unarmed, but he was a Chimopteran of the upper caste, and nothing was more important than repairing his ship. Licky crashed heedlessly into the dense ferns and unpleasant thorny creepers dragging Hugert behind him.
"Good girl Licky," coaxed Hugert breathlessly. "I'll give you a whole bag of larva if you just show me to a single one of those itty bitty plasma vessels."
Licky thrust her porcine snout into a rotten tree limb and snorted loudly several times. Hugert moved forward to examine it but was yanked sideways as Licky changed her mind about the plasma vessels being hidden inside. She bounded forward into the darkness, snorting and panting, her long purple tongue lolling out of her mouth wildly and her eight spider-like eyes glittering with excitement. To Hugert the entire floor of the jungle seemed covered in a vile sludge of decay. Rotten leaves, sticks, and even dead animals squelched underfoot and sucked at his silver boots.
"Loathsome planet, I-"
Hugert's one-sided conversation with his faithful Gotuk was brought to an abrupt halt as they emerged into a narrow clearing and Hugert was confronted with the sight of a group of strange crouching animals. Their heads turned towards him all at once and most of them made pitiful gasping sounds or recoiled in horror. They were only a fraction of his height, with a variety of strange skin tones and crude tribal markings with black paint on their faces. They wore what at first glance looked to be simple tunics of foliage plucked from the jungle around them. Hugert blinked and gaped and realized they were manufactured uniforms of some sort, and the creatures carried with them a range of strange black-painted devices of metal and plastic.
"Really, Holmes!" I dropped into my seat, shocked. "You are remarkably tall! What are you, six foot six? Six foot eight?"
As the 19th century diver approaches a giant clam, a flash of brilliant golden light flares from within the shell. I emerge in a swirl of bubbles and do the timeless universal underwater hand signals for the following: ZODIAC KILLER, KKK, BLOOD OF YOUTH
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