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March 5, 2008
The survey crew described Horizon Prime as Shangri-La -- a planet of tropical rainforests, fresh water lakes and trees -- many over a thousand feet tall. The natives lived life in the air; legendary Tarzans swinging on vines between immense branches. Trans-Lux Mining teleported us, its diplomatic negotiating team, to the surface of the planet. Trans-Lux believes that appearing in a burst of white light impresses naive aliens.
Our bodies materialized with knotted muscular faces, hunky buff bodies, and pale coffee-colored skins. The chocolate-colored natives watched. They wore Kotekas over their genitals; gourd-like coverings -- some long, some short, some curved, some thick. We were naked. Our dicks dangled in the wind.
I spoke first and thought second.
"Chief Papenka, I'm Rob Gunner from Trans-Lux. I'd like you to meet Lukas Borstal and Chad Foster, my scientific staff and Mike Hardesty, our liaison to the space corps."
"It is strange human, Wilbur the Surveyor was pink and he wore many things on his body and suffered much in the heat of our planet. Yet you appear naked and brown."
"Wilbur lives in the space where skin requires protection from cold and vacuum. Clothing is utility. Humans prefer nudity. We glorify the body." I lied.
"You honor us by reshaping your bodies to resemble ours."
"Nothing much to it," I said, using my best smile, my most endearing manner. Formal contact, diplomatic relations, treaty and mining rights and technology transfer -- Whatever you called it, my team is here to ensure that everything of any worth belongs to Trans-Lux.
"In the days to come, when the three moons rise in their mystic configurations, you and your men will be able to learn our customs and culture," the chief said.
Long ago, Trans-Lux Conglomerate decided that a negotiating team gained an advantage if it looked, dressed and acted like the natives. Trans-Lux's xeno-psychology division plans and manipulates every detail to gain any advantage. They build loopholes into the treaties and contract clauses making it easy to rape and pillage the planet. They place spies on the negotiating teams. Every negotiator I know fights with the xeno-psychology division of Trans-Lux. They never listen. They have college degrees and they plan what we can and cannot do. Most negotiators believe that the xeno-shrinks need phrenologists and hairdressers, or massages and pedicures. I've told them as much. I've told them to go get laid, to get their ashes hauled by any woman who would relive them of their well-kept and well-deserved virginity. Either that, or go masturbate each other in a dark room and pretend. They did neither. My firm opinion, they'll die virgins.
But you don't care about the inner workings of Trans-Lux anymore than I do.
We stood on the flowery crown of the tallest tree in the rainforest. Chief Papenka pointed to an adjacent tree outfitted with grass hammocks in the branches. We climbed through the branches on vines and rope bridges. The bio-engineers got something right. They gave these bodies strong forearms and bent fingers to hold ropes with no effort. And, they gave us prehensile chimpanzee-like feet so we could swing upside down and hang by our feet.
Our tree -- that is, our new home on the planet -- produced an abundance of edible fruit. A small stream of fresh water flowed from the upper canopy down through the branches. We spent two days meeting natives and explaining the issues involved in the upcoming negotiations.
At the end of the third day, Mike and I met Chief Papenka on the canopy of one of the taller trees. There sat a carved wood statue of a Horizon man seated on a pedestal. The figure was gaunt and stretched. This was the first artwork or industry that any Earthling saw on Horizon Prime. Mike edged close to the carving. The statue's muscles and joints were anatomically perfect. The only difference from what the typical Horizon anatomy was the genitals that resembled a three-foot-tall koteka growing from Natanka's crotch up above his head.
"This is the tribe's founder, Natanka Netter. He lived for a thousand years and gave birth to ten sons. Those ten sons founded their own family trees. We are all descended of his line. Today, we pay homage to our founder."
Mike and I watched the native's ancestor worship. Afterward, we talked.
"Horizon has no industry, no power sources and almost no minerals. Yet it has a population that thrives. I think that if we find out what that statue signifies, we'll have the key to negotiation the treaty," I said. He agreed
"It's time for me to get closer to the natives."
"Just like we thought. You're doing the heavy lifting. And Chad, poor boy, I thought those two were lovers but there's something else going on between them. They act like they're attached at the hip," I said.
"I caught a fugitive radio emission. Lukas is reporting back to the spaceship. He's blackmailing Chad. I couldn't find out why or how but he is."
"I knew one of them was on the military's leash."
"There's a young Horizon named Cort I can get close to," Mike said.
"He's the one who met Wilbur the Surveyor. He's our best bet to manipulate the treaty. Go to it. We got a formal negotiating session tomorrow. Make it work." I said.
Mike sought out Cort with a six-pack of earth-made beer. By evening, he and Cort sat on the moss-covered crown of Netter Eleven. Gourds of various shapes and sizes grew all over the crown.
"Earth beer is made? Our fruit produces alcohol all by itself. It dilutes the thicker tree sap." Cort plucked a fruit from a tree and poked a hole in it. He motioned for Mike to drink the fluid inside. The liquid smelled like paint thinner and burnt like tequila. Mike dribbled boozy fruit juice onto his chest. Cort licked it off.
"That stuff will knock your eyebrows off. It's unbelievable. Hooch that grows on trees." Mike picked another fruit and sucked the juice from it.
"Then you like our fruit?"
"Like it, hell I want to export it. Football games would be a real blast with fruit juices like that."
"Football? It's sports. Don't you ever compete with another tribe?" Mike asked. Cort lay back against the tree with his arms behind his head and his legs spread. His curly koteka rested on the moss. It completely covered the Cort's ballsack. Mike stared at the koteka.
"Sometimes, when a tribe becomes too small, a larger tribe meets to wrestle. The losers remain to augment the smaller tribe, increasing their number. Do you wrestle like that back on earth?" They ate more fruit.
"We don't have tribes on earth. In fact, we have too many people. I've been wondering, if you fall and break an arm or a leg, do you have the medical knowledge to heal?" Mike brought the subject back to Horizon-Prime. His eyes stayed fixed on Cort's koteka.
"We almost never fall. It's been two hundred years measured by the transit of the world around the sun since any Nett fell out of a tree. Accidents shorten our time in this form. We're sitting in his tree. It needs a crown to form seeds."
"A crown?" Mike hesitated.
"We call the statue the crown of the tree. Wilbur the Surveyor wanted to be the crown of this tree. He was an exceptional man for an offworlder. He shared our love of trees. Did you know that I was the first Horizon he met after he landed? I took him from the ground and into the shelter of the trees. The insects would have overwhelmed him if he stayed down there. Then I went for fruit and when I returned, he was naked. He said he wanted to show me the horizontal mambo. He said all men did it back on earth but to tell the truth, I didn't believe him," Cort spoke with his eyes wide open and an innocence on his face. Mike returned his gaze determined to gain more knowledge. The alien continued. "Yes Mike after that, Wilbur and I fucked and sucked three, for times a night. He helped prepare that post. But then, two soldiers with guns escorted him off planet. He promised someone would take his place." Cort pulled his knees up. His koteka pulsed in the air. Mike felt the head of his penis peek out of his foreskin. Cort's body smelled of fruit juice, alcohol and turpentine. Cort sucked a fruit and licked his lips.
"The military won't let him return to the planet. I need two or three of those alcoholic fruits." Mike put his hand on Cort's thigh and rubbed it.
"Are you trying to seduce me Mike Miller?" Cort pinched Mike's nipples between his wet fingers. Mike let Cort's koteka slide between his legs and pressed his body against Cort.
"Seduction implies subtlety. I'm just horny." Mike humped his hips and let his erection poke between Cort's legs. They kissed as the sun set.
"Would you like to live with me, Mike?" Cort's voice vibrated both of their chests.
"You've got such a cute ass. I just want to hump your buns."
"So it's lust then. I can do with a night of lust. Before we fuck each other in unholy ways..." Mike pulled away at the phrase. "Sorry, Wilbur used those words. I don't know their meaning."
"Wilbur should not have said things like that."
"A simple question Mike, do you want to live forever?" Cort eyes locked on Mike in the fast fading light.
"Of course, no one wants to die, Cort." Mike and kissed him first on the lips, then his neck and then his chest. Stars twinkled in the moonless sky.
"Every living thing on Horizon man is linked together. All of us." Cort guided Mike's hand to the loop that held the koteka. It slid away to reveal a long penis. It curved just like the koteka. Mike licked Cort's erection. It tasted of wood. Cort's lubricating fluids had a savory taste, like fresh herbs.
"I understand. To stay in Shangri-La, you become one with the trees." Mike repeated the environmentalists' creed. In the dark, in each other's arms, the two men sucked each other to orgasm. Cort's testicles felt like knotted roots to Mike's tongue. They kissed and played with each other's bodies. Their hips humped in unison. They orgasmed a half dozen times before they exhausted their libidos. Then, they fell asleep in the soft light of two asteroid belts crossing the sky.
Cort woke Mike before sunrise. Mike eyes could only see only grays and blacks as he followed Cort. The entire canopy smelled of wood and sap. The mossy oil and dew on his skin aroused him.
"If you wish to learn about Horizon, Mike of Earth, to follow in Wilbur the Surveyor's footsteps pick a fresh gourd before sunlight hits it. The Koteka will bind you to Horizon." Mike eyed the shapes -- gourds with twists, bent gourds, long thin and thick gourds, gourds pointed like carrots, more shapes than he ever imagined. Mike pointed to a gourd with a round base the size of a grapefruit and a neck the length and thickness of his forearm.
"This will be my koteka. It reminds me of our equine species back on earth, many men dream of being this big, this outrageous."
"That shape koteka is associated with leaders and pioneers." Cort handed Mike a wooden knife and showed him where to cut the stem and how to open the gourd without spilling the jelly-like sap inside. Mike slid it over his cock and balls.
"To invent a cliché, where no man had gone before. Why don't you guys show off your big arms?" Mike said. He showed Cort how to weave grass into ropes. He tied them around his biceps, ankles and forehead.
"What will your companions say when they see you?" Mike twisted grass ropes for Cort's arms and forehead.
"There's no rule against fraternization." They lay side-by-side on their backs with their gourds pointing up to the sky and let the warm sumlight fall on their bodies. Shouts came from the lower branches of the tree.
"Your companions are calling for you," Cort said. Mike stood up and tried to brush off tiny greenish-brown sprouts off of his knees and elbows. Their roots stuck to his skin. His eye caught a square wood block, knee high and twelve inches square, growing directly out of the crown of the tree. The surface appeared cut and polished.
"This is convenient." Mike sat on the block. The wood surface felt alive. He stood up and leaned over the edge of a branch. Cort listened with him. Rob called from down below.
"Duty beckons. I've got to join the negotiations. Can you bring fruit and drink?" Mike stood up and climbed down the nearest branch. As he did, he glanced back at the block. It bore the clear impression of his buttocks.
Mike swung into our tree wearing a big grin and the koteka. He posed.
"Have you lost your mind?" Lukas growled and turned away. Chad gave the gourd disapproving stares.
"What you staring at? You guys always said I was hung like a stallion." Mike humped his hips and the gourd moved up-and-down like an obscene play toy. "Sorry Rob, I lost your bet," he added. The prearranged signal. I folded my arms and tried to tap my foot in response but the chimpanzee feet and lack of boots ruined the effect. Instead I drummed my toes. Lukas nearly shit at the sight.
"Asshole. That thing belongs on a jackass. " Chad said.
"It's not a surprise. They screamed like two drunken dogs in heat last night." Lukas had that pissy sound we expect of childhood rivalries.
"Give it a break, Luke. Only half the planet heard their lovemaking. The gossips will spread to the story to the other half." Chad's droll delivery was like a red cape into Lukas's bullheadedness.
"You give me any more attitude, you'll be sorry. Shut the fuck up."
"Whatever you two got going on, put it aside. We got a contract to negotiate," I said. Chad and Lukas returned to brooding stares. Those boys have history, I thought.
"It's the first formal negotiating session. Normally I would take the lead but Mike might do better wearing that native koteka. These natives are eager to please but savvy. If Mike reaches an agreement in principle, Chief Papenka and I can work out the details." I said.
"They say you never give up lead negotiator. What the hell is your game?" Lukas asked. I stood taller and heavier than Lukas. I turned to Lukas and confronted his insubordinate attitude.
"No game, merely a contract negotiation done my way. You can do as you're told and work on recording and documentation." Lukas grumbled and stepped away.
"I'll go prepare." Mike pulled a vine and swung away from the tree.
An hour later, the Horizon team and Cort arrived at the negotiation site in the crown of Natanka Netter. Cort created his own buzz wearing the same grass ropes as Mike. For his part, Mike sat with that huge koteka pointed so everyone could see it. Mike held his ground against three Horizon negotiators. Give and take, give and take and then more talk. Chad and Lukas made transcripts with the 2-D video. Trans-Lux wanted 3-D but the sunlight ruined the cameras. I argued that they aliens could not negotiate a good deal if they were inside an unfamiliar structure.
Mike's overnight adoption of koteka and grass ropes on his body gave him an advantage. As the negotiations moved from issue to issue, he could do no wrong. Clause by legal whereas and stipulation-by-clause, he squeezed the Horizon delegation for the best deal for Trans-Lux. In return, Trans-Lux agreed that a home planet would remain pristine. Trans-Lux owned sole rights to the two asteroid belts, the system's Ort cloud and various mineral rich cometary bodies. Typically, industrialized planets never gave up that much territory in outerspace but then Trans-Lux never gave away an entire planet.
Sweating in the direct sun, Mike's skin took on an oily, lacquered look. The woven grasses sucked up his sweat and thrived on it. And Cort, faithful puppy dog that he was, kept Mike supplied with exotic fruit and funky drinks. I poured a drop of their juice into an analyzer. It reported a mixture of turpenes, resins and alcohols. Tasting it made my head spin, drinking it was something else.
By the end of the day, we had a draft treaty and the outlines of the Trans-Lux contracts. I beamed the terms of the treaty back to Trans-Lux. Within minutes, they replied with an approval. We scheduled the signing ceremony for nearly a week later. Just enough time to bribe the politicians, line up the dignitaries and ass-kiss whoever else had to be ass-kissed to make this contract work. I had to admit, when Trans-Lux had to ass-kiss, they smooched up to the kissee real good.
Back in our own tree, I opened the champagne and let if spray Mike and Cort. Chad and Lukas sprayed champagne everything else.
"To a good deal and an easy negotiation," Mike raised his bottle of champagne.
"To the best negotiator I know. Mike Hardesty fastest and bestest negotiator for a primo, A-number one contract! A squeaky-clean negotiation with no detectable subterfuge, no deception, no bribery, just like the lawyers want. The best deal money can't buy but words can buy." I began a round of toasts beginning with Earth, Horizon, my uncle, their parents, Trans-Lux and ending with Mike. Then I repeated the toasts with native fruits. I wanted Chad and Lukas drunk and off their guard.
Mike slipped away. Cort followed. Lovebirds do that, slip away.
"What's next on the science agenda?" I asked. Lukas smacked his lips and then rubbed them with his hands.
"I invited those two over-anxious xeno-biologists, ists, ists, ists, to survey the surface. Strange, I can't feel my lips." Chad smacked the back of Lukas' head. They cringed and cowered.
"Have you gone nuts promising a couple of green students access to the planet?"
"Sure tweety, I've gone over the deep end. Ya twit. The natives won't take us down there, acting like the plague when anyone talks about it. So fuck the natives. I blackmailed a couple of university interns with the prospect of bigger stipends. I don't care if the bugs eat'm." Lukas answered in one breath.
"Why don't you wait until after the signing?" I asked.
"Because then I'd have to kiss an ambassador's ass." Lukas snapped his mouth shut and turned turned his back. I liked the non-stop yakking of lips freed from inhibitions by demon rum.
"You know who the ambassador is?"
"Do you? I sure as shit don't. Probably some old geezer bigshot who's about to agree to nothing scientific. I say this to the new ambassador." Lukas grabbed his buttcheeks and spread them wide. A blubbery, loose and amazingly vulgar clarion trumpet call echoed through the trees.
"A kiss for the new ambassador!" Lukas yelled for the world to hear. He stood up and shadowboxed, bobbing and weaving at the unseen opponent. He brought a right hook around wild and almost fell off the branch. Chad grabbed him and spun his body down to the flat surface of the branch.
"I warned you. The alien fruits are potent." Chad sat behind Lukas with both arms around his chest so he wouldn't roll off the branch. Lukas slid down and shot a mean and nasty look at Chad.
"Fuck off weasel. I know your type. Rotten little lying bastard, son-of-a-bitch, ass-kisser. Did I say weasel. Like you weren't drunk half the day? I ain't your drunken Daddy you so complain about, so's you don't hafta clean up after me. Get your arms off me." Unable to stand up, Lukas tried to pry Chad's arms from around his body. They half wrestled until Lukas gave up.
"I'm sorry sir. He's drunk." Chad tied a vine around both of Lukas' ankles with his feet.
"Don't be apologizing so fast. Now we know, In Vino Veritas. Tie the poor boy to the tree and make sure he doesn't fall. It would be a shame if he explored the ground face first. Besides, I don't want to explain a dead-cat bounce to Chief Papenka," I said.
"He's worse than a spy. He's Captain Gasport's personal asskisser and butt-boy."
"Mike and I pegged him as Charlotte the Harlot to Captain Gasport's Barnacle Bill. "
"I think Lukas flying backwards through the pearly gates in a fireball would be a boon, huh? I've been waiting for him to make a mistake. And now a drunken Lukas Borstal is going to learn bungee jumping," Chad squeezed Lukas' balls. Lukas screamed and tried to crawl away but Chad yanked the rope and made him fall on his face.
"You know he's going to puke his guts out if he bungee's," I said.
"I'm counting on a righteously huge Technicolor yawn, governor. It's better than keelhauling the scurvy bastard." Chad's eyes wandered left and right in drunken despair of ever lining up.
"Mind your language Mister Christian, Captain Bligh don't abide by any bad words," I said, almost. Chad yanked Lukas' legs when he got too close to the edge.
"I measured the vines yesterday and I picked a branch bridge away from tree trunks. We wouldn't want to spoil that pretty face scraping it up against rough bark, would we?" Chad yanked the vine again.
"Why are you doing this?"
"Revenge, plain and simple. A month ago he planted a camera in my toilet after he talked me into a fake Mexican Chile and Tequila contest. My guts almost left my body that night and Lukas sold the video. He's been holding that shit over me ever since. This little Technicolor bungee jump is my revenge. There are three cameras floating out there. All three tracking Lukas' biochip. Man, I'm going to be the king of the Internet and Lukas will be hiding in shame." Chad's eyes gleamed. He checked the vine around Lukas's ankles then used his feet to squeeze Lukas' testicles to make him bellow in pain.
"How did you get floaters on this planet? I'm supposed to approve all technology."
"You did. Remember when you approved my personal music equipment? Well my speakers float and take pictures."
"Not me, my Mom's a good woman. Now Lukas, he's a spoiled brat with divorced parents. You can call him a son-of-a-bitch and I wouldn't care. I'm going to use this little escapade take our budding enfant terrible down to size." Chad let out a howl. A young Horizon voice echoed his call.
"You seem to have it all under control."
"Not really. I still have to derail those two interns." Chad rolled one alcoholic fruit between his palms and another between the pads of his prehensile feet. His leg stretched out and handed the fruit to Lukas with his toes. Chad laughed and then sucked the alcoholic juice from his fruit.
"I can help with that. I called my favors in and bought the ambassadorship. The announcement will be made at the signing ceremony. Tell those two interns the ambassador-to-be said stop and wait."
"I thought you were too young," Chad said. He caught a hand to his mouth and rolled his eyes. "I didn't mean that you were inexperienced. It's just you look so young."
"Young?" I laughed and squeezed fruit juice into my mouth. Between the alcohol and the organic chemicals, my tongue went numb. I gasped for breath as the liquid fire settled into my body.
"Gift of the transporter, kid. You started young and you're going to stay young. I started old. I was a soldier for 30 years before transporters. I fought three wars with teleports. Conquered three planets. Then on one planet, I discovered that the natives wanted technology and would negotiate mining agreements and treaties. Most worlds are hellholes, pigpens or charnel houses. Horizon is a paradise." I picked up another fruit, squeezed the rind to liberate the juice and contemplated its effect on my liver. A Horizon voice ululated again. This time only a tree or two away.
"It might be paradise, sir but my scans show nothing but plant-life and rock. I don't think that there's a useful mineral on this planet." He tugged Lukas back from the edge of the branch.
"And mucking around the surface is a waste of time."
"Absolutely, I'll convince the interns to wait." He winked and gave me thumbs up. We heard voices. Four young Horizon men carrying fruit swung down to the branch we sat on.
"We heard it's party time," one of the young Horizon men said.
"You want to learn an Earth sport? You guys know what bungee jumping is?" Chad asked, bouncing around like a chimpanzee. The Horizon men imitated him, expressing their ignorance of bungee jumping. Chad lifted Lukas under the arms and dragged him to the middle of a bridge well away from the tree trunks. Then he threw him over the edge. Lukas screamed like a little girl all the way down and when the vine went taut, a streak of purplish vomit continued down as his body bounced back up. Chad and the young Horizons cheered each bounce and gave numerical scores to Lukas' retching.
"Felt better out than in, huh?" Chad called to a moaning Lukas as he hauled him back up to the branch.
"I think I need deniability," I said and left. Some things I didn't want to see. I was swinging on a vine a tree away from them when I heard Chad and one of the young Horizon men banshee screaming on the way down. Horizon had learned a new sport.
I was swinging on a vine several trees away from the bungee jumpers when Mike caught up with me.
"Hey boss," Mike swung up behind me. He stood so close that his koteka brushed my stomach. I could smell turpenes oozing from his body. He unconsciously wrapped both hands around his gourd and while he stopped it from touching my body, he stroked it, sort of.
"Uh boss, I thought I'd ask for a shuttle to visit the ship," Mike said.
"Not with that thing. Strict orders, no alien artifacts on the ship. Besides, it's considered insubordinate to look like you're masturbating."
"Sorry, I can't seem to leave my hands off it. Going native must make other guys nervous."
"No, seeing a dick that big makes guys clench their ass cheeks in fear. I'm ordering you to stay under the radar until the signing ceremony. After that, we'll discuss how to get you off-planet if you want. Right now, go enjoy Cort. Take a vacation. Go live in the trees, learn about each other, enjoy the gourd." Mike took a deep breath and wiped his face with his hand. The ceremonial grass rope around his forehead didn't move.
"Besides, your grass has take root." I could see small roots penetrating Mike's skin where the grass touched him.
"I guess you're right." Mike answered. He swung away from the communications tent.
Inside the communications tent, I found Chief Papenka waiting in not-so-air-conditioned comfort. He shivered under a blanket.
"Is your world this cold all the time?" Chief Papekna asked. The air conditioners kept the computers at 80 degrees. Horizon's temperature never fell below 90 degrees at night.
"No, the tent is warm compared to the spaceship and my planet is even colder."
"How do you humans live in coldness and isolation?"
"I thought Mike was going to find you. He wanted to go back to the spaceship and show off the gourd. I refused and told him go back to Cort. We'll have to be more careful when we meet."
"Cort will keep him out of trouble."
"Official Trans-Lux policy forbids deliberately going native. The policy is notable only for the lack of enforcement especially when the person going native just handed them a sweetheart contract. Mike likes to get down and dirty and fuck with the natives. I think he falls in lust with most aliens he's come in contract with. I don't even know if he realizes the truth about the koteka or his fate. Either way, we keep him under wraps until the treaty is signed."
"Is this how you got your previous agreements, sacrificing one of your own?"
"Mike and I debriefed Wilbur the surveyor. We volunteered before we ever set foot on Horizon."
"And where is Wilbur?"
"Trans-Lux hustled him off to his next assignment across the galaxy." I lied.
"I thought Wilbur would return," Chief Papenka said. I thought him naïve for that remark. The truth was that Wilbur crashed his Trans-Lux ship into a sun after his body sprouted roots and leaves. Wilbur got the goods on Horizon for Trans-Lux. All Trans-Lux offered him was his own brass pot in the lobby of Trans-Lux headquarters. They threw in a brass plaque and perpetual dirt, water, air and fertilizer for free. What a bunch of heartless bastards. If I were Wilbur I would have crashed my ship into the Tran-Lux lobby and paid for a specially engraved plaque to be delivered explaining why. I checked outside. The sun was almost completely set.
"I have to prepare the draft contract tonight. Soon it will be too dark to travel." Chief Papenka stepped outside and readied a vine.
"You're as cold as your world, Ambassador-to-be Robert Gray."
"Helluva thing to say to a diplomat, Chief. Have I lied to you?" How could he tell? Everything I said was a lie. With his jaw set firm and square, Chief Papenka swung off to the next tree.
"You don't know the half of it," I said to nothing but the encroaching night. I stood watching, smiling, and being diplomatic until the dark enclosed everything. I like being a diplomat, my best job ever. That's all I am, a diplomat. I steal candy from babies while I kiss them and they thank me for it. That's what diplomat's do for a living.
Mike and Cort climbed to the top of the Netter tree leaving Chad and Lukas alone with the young Horizon men. They sat on the soft moss, ate alcoholic fruit and watched the sunset.
"This is like our first night together."
"Seems like years, not a day." Mike gazed out over the treetops.
"Negotiations talked you out?"
"I'm usually so hyped up after a negotiation that I can't sit still. But this treaty is different. I have a thousand questions to ask you about Horizon but I don't know where to begin." Their gourds made wooden clacking noises when they touched.
"Horizon has only one sex. Physical contact is associated with pleasure not procreation. But I think I'm falling in love with you as humans express it."
"Love, it's a strange concept. I always considered it an old virtue. When crewmen fell in love, I told them it was nothing but new age, mystic horseshit not love. I dismissed them as fools. But, I like you, Cort. I could easily fall in love with you. What does that make me?"
"A new brother, the progenitor of a new family. Reborn like a Horizon male."
"I'll miss negotiating. I'll miss the intrigue. I won't miss the life. My last planet had giant pink pig-like creatures. They gave away everything for spaceflight technology. Trans-Lux even mined the core of their planet and left the cold-dead hulk. Another world filled with lizard-like natives was all rock and sulfurous volcanoes, ugly creatures living in an even uglier world. A third planet had aliens insects so ghastly I wouldn't piss on them if they were burning to death. Each time, Trans-Lux made my body like the alien's bodies. I hated it. I didn't care what Trans-Lux did to their worlds. Then came this world and nearly human bodies. I want to stay on Horizon."
"And you negotiated a good agreement."
"Horizon supplies all of your needs, physically and emotionally. That's rare in the universe." Mike slid his koteka off. His penis touched his solar plexus and the shaft was as thick as his arm. Cort licked one side while Mike licked the other side. Their tongues eventually touched. They kissed. Mike fluttered his tongue down to the head of Cort's penis. It only took a moment for Cort to stiffen. Mike stroked Cort's curly member making him whoop and holler as he shot a load into Mike's waiting mouth. Cort took his turn and shoved his tongue down the center of Mike's oversized penis and worked him into a frenzied orgasm. They let fly random passionate yells. The echoes made them laugh.
Afterward, both men lay on the moss eating fruit in the dark night. "I'll bet Chad and Lukas heard that one. I hope they enjoy the echo as much as we enjoyed the orgasm."
"Tomorrow, we can smile and nod at them." Cort laughed.
"Cruel." Mike embraced Cort. They kissed and Cort rolled onto his stomach. He sank his face between Cort's buns. Cort moaned.
"Use me, use my body." Curt begged in response. Mike slid his tool inside Cort's hot body with one stroke. He imaged that he was drilling a hole large enough to support a tree. Cort bucked like a horse as Mike drove deep inside him, pounding him into the canopy. The soft moss beneath them spread oily chlorophyll over their bodies. He pounded away for what seemed like hours before he stiffened and felt Cort's body tighten around his cock. Mike locked his arms and legs around Cort's body and drove his hips hard up against Cort's back. Mike licked Cort's chest. His sweat had a sharp, vegetable taste. The two men's tongues never stopped until the pale moon set. Then Cort pulled Mike's legs up onto his shoulders. He drove his manhood deep into Mike and plowed him into the moss canopy. They screamed and carried on, not caring who heard them. Afterward, they fell asleep entwined in each other's arms and legs.
Again, Cort woke Mike before sunrise. Soft light from a single moon let him pick small twigs out of his knees and elbows. A mass of tangled brown roots encased his testicles and grew deep inside his body. The head of his oversized manhood almost touched the middle of his chest. Mike tugged at the grass ropes on his arms. The roots grew into his biceps and triceps.
"The grass is growing into my arms."
"Grass likes to throw roots. The stuff spreads real fast what with the way you humans sweat."
"Like spread all over me, grow? Or bushy eyebrows grow?"
"Like you'll be a grass carpet we can walk on."
"Hmm, I could feed my own goat. How fast will this tree absorb my body if I sit on the block over there?" Mike asked.
"Minutes. Wilbur wanted this to be the first human tree on Horizon but he went back into outerspace."
"Sit on a stump and become a giant prick, a phallus on planet Horizon," Mike guessed.
"You humans and your many meanings for many words, phallus?"
"A famous human once said that it's a phallic symbol if it's longer than it's wide and thousand foot high, two hundred feet in diameter trees are phallic."
"You humans have two sexes and we have three states of being. I was a flower. I am a seed. I will become a tree next year."
"I'll never be a woman. I just donate sperm to eggs. You're all just seeds."
"Yes, seeds, but I love your human spunkiness."
"Yeah, you suck with the best, lover boy."
"You're going to be, father is the word you would use, to a family tree."
"How long does a tree live?"
"I'm only eight hundred years old. Our tree family dates back 15,000 years in growth rings. Chief Papenka's tree is old growth and represents a million cycles," Cort replied. He reached out and plucked some fruit from the nearby branches. Cort split open several coconut shaped fruit filled with thick sap. Mike drank. It satisfied him in a way no food ever did. He could feel his muscles growing leaner, getting buff and ripped.
"If you plant yourself in the ground will you turn into a tree?"
"I plan to become a tree after you bloom next spring. I want you to plant me in the soil."
"And how long before you'll be reborn?"
"In several decades, depending on how fast I grow."
"Does it matter that my human genes enter the Horizon ecosystem?"
"Genetic diversity, Humans genes will strengthen the Horizon Ecosystem. We home many humans join with the planet."
"We have to be careful. You're too honest. You'll scare them. Then the Military will quarantine Horizon and forbid anyone from traveling here. This requires some diplomatic finesse. We need a way to screen the sincere humans from the merely curious or the maliciously exploitive."
"I never thought about it that way." Mike watched Cort's spirit sink.
"Don't worry. You're not a negotiator or a diplomat. I made my living convincing people to do what they didn't want to do. I ought to be able to do the reverse. In fact, if I read Rob's intentions correctly, he'll help us."
That morning, Mike and Cort found me in the air-conditioned communications tent. Cort wilted in the air conditioning. Mike shivered
"Hey Rob, did you file the treaty yet?" Mike asked. I gave his body a stern up and down look.
"I'm working on it now. You look like someone shellacked you with green grass stain."
"You like it? I'm going to bottle it and sell it to the xeno-environmentalists." Mike flexed and posed.
"Chlorophyll flavored love juice? Nah!" I paused. "What about the contract?"
"Since you're going to retire here when you cease being ambassador, can you modify the treaty to restrict tourism here to those a chosen few? Also, can you restrict planetary exploration to biology and plant specialists selected by a scholars program? If you need to, you can use my share of the award to establish that program. I want to prevent the military from sending men here indiscriminately. What about reporting that there's a 100% chance of anyone coming here going native and only those prepared to study native plant-life should apply as a scholars. We could also let in any ecology freaks and tree hugger types. Those types." Mike rubbed his arms. Cort's teeth chattered.
"All that? How about restricting tourism to Tuesdays and Thursdays when the moons are full?"
"Nothing like that, how can we make sure the right people visit the planet?"
"Not that way. You don't just ban visitors. You create an exploration trust society."
"A what?" Mike said. He wrapped his arms around Cort to warm him.
"An exploration trust society to screen applicants and would-be immigrants for all sorts of physical and mental requirements. And the requirements can be as arbitrary as you want."
"That's it, that's it. How can we accomplish that?" Mike bounced up and down.
"Well, it requires a hundred pages of highly technical legalese. The details will take me a few hours to explain. But, by the time I finished, you two would be popsicles or ass-less from the cold. Before you freeze, why do you want this?" I asked, resting my chin one hand. Mike and Cort were blue from the cold.
"I'm going native and I want to keep the riff-raff out," Mike said. He slid his gourd off to reveal his sixteen-inch long cock. Cort slid his off out of habit and revealed tiny flowers growing out the head of his penis, miniature ferns growing on his abdomen and the mass of roots covering his testicles and burrowing deep into his body.
"Not as appalling or gruesome as I imagined. Let's talk outside." They moved fast. The sun warmed their bodies .
"Now I know why Wilbur the Surveyor wore all that clothing on his body." Cort perked up.
"Cort, am I right that your testicles are rooting in your stomach and will eventually grow into a tree?" I asked. He shook his head affirmatively.
"And Mike, you're body reminds me of the statue that Chief Papenka showed us, right?" I played stupid. Better they tell me than I admit that I know what's going on.
"I guess so."
"You guess so? You haven't figured that out yet? Take a good look at the changes in your body," I said. Mike uttered a soft "yes" and stood quiet.
"And you two are here to convince me to create a society or research institute that employs young, virile and trustworthy young earthmen with big muscles and oversized cocks. And hopefully, these men might let themselves be transformed into trees. Moreover, you don't want every military bozo or explorer wannabee visiting the planet unless they want to turn into trees. Is that about the long and short of it?"
"That's it. That's why we came here." Mike stuttered.
"What a half-baked idea. Do you know what would happen if I tried to write anything as blatant as restrict tourism to the morally upright and to guys with chlorophyll-fetishes who want to become plants?" I asked. Mike squirmed. I always thought nothing was worth anything unless there was a struggle to it.
"Rob, is there anything you can do?" Mike asked. Tears filled Cort's eyes. I let them off the hook.
"Sure, I added the language last night. It's a mere formality."
"Then it's done? How did you know what we wanted?"
"I'm clairvoyant and you donate your money to the Horizon Horticultural Foundation."
"I did? You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Mike asked.
"After a morning of paperwork? Hell yes." I raised a hand for a high five and Mike smacked it. Cort fumbled his way through male-bonding.
"Should I ask the details?"
"No. We never had this discussion. I'm working on getting Chad and Lukas promoted to my Embassy staff as scientific advisors. You haven't heard that from me either. In fact, you were never here."
"I've never been invisible before. I've never ceased to exist." Cort mugged the movements of searching for his body. I shook my finger at him. Mike hugged him and dragged him towards the vines.
"Just be sure you show up at the signing ceremony looking as human as you do now," I ordered. Mike twisted him away from me. Cort didn't understand.
"See, I told you Rob was looking out for us," Mike said smacking Cort's arm. Cort's eyes brightened and he actually winked. Oh to be that innocent again, I thought. I always tell a new diplomatic recruit that rationalization is their best friend. You can't live with them and you can't live without them.
I kept the nervous, the crazy and the just plain goofy humans off-planet. The few that I had to let on the surface, I set strict rules to keep their behavior in line until the signing ceremony and my ambassadorial installation. The VP for Trans-Lux and Captain Gasport of the starship attended the ceremony in full diplomatic regalia thanks to a transport capsule lowered by tether from a hovercraft. I thought they would teleport down and take advantage of new bodies, but they preferred their old bodies to the chances of being reassembled with two asses or half a stomach. Lukas, Chad and I wore nothing but our youthful and virile bodies. The Horizon representatives wore brilliantly colored grasses and flowers from the trees and the canopies. Mike and Cort stayed high in the treetops. Going native, sporting a gourd the size of a horse cock and holding hands like newlyweds with mooning eyes isn't the best thing to be or do at a diplomatic ceremony with the top brass.
Trans-Lux redesigned the Embassy to fit our human tree. A dozen carpenters arrived two days after signing the Treaty. They used honest-to-god, real earth wood planking and built what reminded everyone of a large treehouse. The carpenters had hair bodies, moustaches and beards. Hair fascinated the Horizon men. They worked in the heat wearing nothing but sweat, jockstraps, steel-toed boots, tube socks, toolbelts and sawdust. By lunchtime, the carpentry crew and their Horizon admirers discovered the alcoholic fruit. They sucked fruit and got progressively friendlier with the Horizon men. The final layout of the offices within the treehouse went decidedly obtuse and as close to true as acutely drunk as any inebriated square and compass might allow.
Their compasses turned ellipses. Their squares went to parallelograms and trapezoids. There wasn't a sober or square eye left in the carpentry squad by the time it got dark. Chad, Lukas and several Horizon men tied the carpenters to the trees so they couldn't fall to their drunken deaths if they decided to relieve themselves in the dark. The young Horizons wanted to sleep with the carpenters but I forbid it. The Bible might predict lambs will lay down with lions, but humpy young virgins can't lay down with horny, drunken wolves.
In the pre-dawn light, Chad and I counted carpenters. The Horizons came back and giggled at morning wood. The carpenters watered the air when they felt the urge. The Horizons laughed and said the carpenters were all tiny trees. We counted one carpenter short of a full compliment -- a woodwright named Harry Jones, a young man in his late twenties with a naturally muscular build, a hard worker. He fascinated the Horizon men being six foot eight and sporting a bit too much black body hair for my tastes. A short search and we found Harry the missing carpenter, halfway up to the crown hidden by the fork of two man-sized branches.
"Sorry Sir, last night, I found a knothole." His hairy buns flexed as his hips thrust deep inside one of the trees.
"I don't care what you found, pull your dick out of that tree and get back to rest of your crew." I could hear the tramp of boots on wood behind me. I turned. Two muscle-bound carpenters stood there smirking.
"I can't pull out. I can't stop humping the tree, either." Harry twisted his head around to see me.
"Pull him off and get your work done. And stop eating the alcoholic fruit. That's an order." Their smirks changed to frowns as they grabbed their buddy and yanked. Harry screamed for them to stop. They yanked a second time and his screams echoed through the trees.
"I'm stuck, Ambassador, stuck." Harry nodded down to the intersection of the tree and his body. His once-human cock was like a pole of white pine extending into the tree. White roots grew into the carpenter's abdomen. I ordered one of the Horizon men to get Chief Papenka and keep the other carpenters away.
"What is it, Ambassador?" He said. He leaned against the tree and hugged it, his hips still making small movements, his buns flexing. I didn't want to give my thoughts words.
"Serious wood Dude," the first carpenter said.
"Real serious, Jack, real serious," Harry said. I could see these two getting hard just thinking about Harry's predicament.
"What's your dick feel like, all wood like that?" The second carpenter asked. His eyes lit up. He licked his lips and placed his hand over his stiffening cock.
"Harder than your head, Jimmy-boy. I've been pumping all night and it won't go down. It's not fun anymore." Harry half-smiled.
"How many times have you been told to behave on a strange world?" I asked.
"I'm sorry Ambassador. I didn't want to jerk off in front of the aliens. But I got so horny listening to the night noises, laying on the soft moss. I snuck away to jerk off. That's when I found the knothole. A man's gotta do it once or twice a day. Can't let that build up in your balls, you know."
"Jimmy da ass bandit, can't resist a hole," Jack laughed.
"Aw Dude, I'm hurt, you couldn't asked. I would've lent a hand." Jimmy snickered. Harry's pelvis pumped faster and the muscles of his back and legs stiffened.
"He's goin' ta blow." Jimmy sniggered. His cock drooled lube and pulsed at half-mast. As a diplomat I trained my body not to show emotion. These guys were walking advertisements for horniness. He caught me looking and hid his erection behind both hands.
"Each time I spurt, the tree grows into my body. My dick feels like the trunk of the tree. I can't stop." Harry hugged the tree trunk tight and moaned as his body jerked. Several bark insects scurried over hiss body and slipped into his mouth and nose without notice. Some slid up between his legs and into the back door. The contractions ended and the carpenter's body relaxed, his chest heaving for air.
"You three behave. I'll find Chief Papenka and get you out of this." I only hoped that Chief Papenka knew how. Before I could reach for a rope or a vine, a Horizon elder came up beside me.
"Ambassador, Chief Pepenka is up on the crown of the tree. He says it's very important."
"When it rains, it pours trouble," I said and swung out and ran around the side of the tree to gain height. I reached branches that led to the crown of the tree in less than a minute. Mike, Cort and Chief Papenka and a couple Horizon men I didn't know waited for me. Mike's body was gaunt and buff, each muscle standing out as if carve in burled walnut. He held his exposed erection against his body. It extended to his eye level.
"Chief, I have a carpenter stuck in a knothole."
"And a tree without a crown," Chief Papenka answered. I must have looked stupid to Mike and the Chief.
"I wanted to wait until the spaceship left orbit. They can detect human life signs," Mike added. He brushed non-existant dust from the block of wood. It was knee high and twelve inches square and grew from the center of the tree. The surface retained the imprint of Mike's buttocks from when he sat on it earlier. He positioned his body over the block and sat down on it. He winced once as his flesh and blood body began to turn into wood.
"I can feel the wood inside my body, converting it to cellulose," Mike said. His eyes opened wide.
"This will help." Cort began to stroke Mike's cock. His hands could barely encircle the massive member. Chief Papenka motioned for me to help masturbate Mike. His phallus throbbed and oozed dark oil. The action of multiple hands stretched above his head. Six hands joined and encircled Mike's cock. Mike closed his eyes at the pleasure. Oily sweat formed on his body, his muscles tightened and flexed. His spine grew stiff and pulled his shoulders back.
"The tree is growing inside me. It's reached my heart, Rob. I can feel Harry Jones, the carpenter. He's scared and you're going to be angry with his partners." Mike smiled. The texture of his skin changed from soft flesh to hard wood. It fused with the block of wood. Graining formed through his muscles. His testicles became a mass of roots growing into his abdomen. I felt the first pulse of his orgasm. Thick white jism spurted out of his cock and covered my hands, staining my light brown hands to a mahogany color. Chief Papenka spread it all over my body, darkening my skin and defining my muscles. Mike's orgasm lasted for several minutes. As it subsided, he sat unmoving. His body gleamed in the sun. To all intents and purposes, he was a block of wood.
"Now lets go down to your carpenter caught in the knothole." Chief Papenka scampered down through the branches and we swung around to the opposite side of the trunk where Harry the Carpenter stood. Six Horizon men followed us. The tableau we came upon affronted my eyes.
Harry's so-called buddy, Jimmy, was nailing Harry's butt with wild abandon. Human shit and blood dribbled down both pair of legs. He thrust up hard into Harry almost lifting Harry's body off the ground. Jimmy's eyeballs rolled up in his head and his body jerked in a deep sweaty orgasm.
"What the fuck are you two doing? I thought you were going to stay with Harry and help him?" I yelled. I pulled Jimmy off. He fell away, trying to cover his erection with both hands. The Horizon men dragged him to one side. Harry yelped at the shock of the sudden disengagement.
"Jimmy got sloppy seconds, yanno. Harry's got a real hot ass and what with the tree sucking his balls dry... We thought he could use a little help from us. He let us fuck his ass balls-to-the-wall style..." Jack's voice trailed off in the realization that justifying forced sex to an ambassador was a losing cause.
"Do I look stupid?" I truly screamed at the randy bastard. I turned to the Horizon men behind me. "Tie them and keep them away from the other carpenters. Don't let any other human near them. Or near here, until we sort this out." Jack and Jimmy fought but the natives outnumbered them.
"I'm sorry sir. I'm causing you trouble," Harry said. For a second I thought he was hugging the tree. One side of his face grew into the bark.
"No you're not. Do you have any dependents back on Earth?"
"My family died in the Big Quake. There's only Uncle Ken. He's a year older'n me."
"Sorry to hear about your family. I'll contact Uncle Ken."
"There's nothing you can do to stop this, is there Ambassador? The tree's going to grow over me and I'm going to die."
"You're not going to die. This is not the end of you. In the spring, you'll be reborn as a Horizon male." Chief Papenka said.
"I keep hearing a Mike Hardesty in my head and he tells me he's going to keep me safe."
"Mike is now the father of this tree. You will be his first offspring young man. As you humans would say, his firstborn son," Chief Papenka said.
"I'm not going to die?"
"No. You aren't going to die. I'll see to your financial affairs." I said.
"I'd turn around, but the bark has grown into my stomach. It's creeping up my chest. I'm turning into wood, like Pinocchio in reverse. Can someone take my boots and tube socks off." Cort and I knelt and unlaced his boots. Harry's toes were half-wooden with grain spreading up his calves. All the while his pelvis kept humping the tree.
"Turn away Ambassador. The bugs, sir... when I spurt they think I'm bark. Don't watch sir. Please don't watch." Harry's body stiffened and pulled tight to the trees. I stepped behind him so he couldn't see me. That was when I realized that his fingers were embedded under the bark. His muscles flexed in orgasm and dozens of insects swarmed over his body, into his mouth, into his ears, around his eyes, under his arms. A long line of bugs dashed up between his legs and into his tormented butt. His body shook. His testicles pumped man-juice into the tree trunk. When he stopped, the insects disappeared and Harry opened one eye. The other half of his face was part of the tree. He licked his lips with a wooden tongue.
"It looks worse than it feels. They each have voices, tiny insect voices," Harry said.
"I'll see you next spring, Harry," I said. Bark grew over hands and forearms. His feet, already half wood, merged into the tree trunk. Only the back of his torso remained, his pelvis still humping away. I didn't want to watch the bark as it grew inexorably over Harry's torso.
I turned to Jack and Jimmy.
"What the hell am I going to do with you two?" Jack and Jimmy struggled. Whatever thoughts motivated them to fuck Harry, I don't know. I didn't want them telling everyone what had just happened. Their description of Harry's fate could destroy my plans. Chief Papenka and his men stripped them of their tools, boots and belts. They carried them several miles to a grove of trees where they suspended the two men in a cage made from vines. Chief Papenka and I drew up a legal document to cover Jack and Jimmy's behavior.
I ordered the remaining carpenters off the planet without explaining the fate of their three missing comrades. I didn't have to file a report of the incident for a week. I would let Captain Gasport sort through the rumors of what happened to these three carpenters.
Seven days, that's what it took for information of the carpenter's defections to reach Captain Gavin Gasport the Third, Captain of the spaceship Glorious Leap into Heaven of Jaing Zemin. Seven days not in May but in the winter. Seven days. I counted every day as a blessing. It took Frankenfurter seven days to build the Rocky Horror, I now understand how Frankenfurter felt -- not in any emotionally sexual way but in a power-trippy, managerial way. Ambassadors are Soveriegn. Nearly kings responsible unto themselves under the State Department rules. Heady stuff. I used the seven days to contact the carpenter's families and out-maneuver Captain Gasport.
Captain Gasport and I played an afternoon chess match. Ego turned it into a tournament. We were tied at three matches each. Kendrick Jones, the uncle of Harry the carpenter, sat behind the camera on the black side of the board. He stood two inches taller than Harry Jones with big, broad shoulders, a hairy chest and big dick. He sat crossed-legged in the tent wiggling his prehensile, finger-like toes -- playing, discovering. He wore a old green jockstrap over his genitals. His pink skin peeked through the fabric of the jockstrap. He was the first modest man I met since I came to Horizon. the rest just walked around with their dicks hanging out. I poured him a glass of bourbon to sip while the Captain and I played.
The camera and holographic chessboard went active. I played white today. A small oval screen flickered in grainy black and white showing me Captain Gasport's face.
"Pawn to King four," I announced. The chessboard lit up and moved the white pawn. A second chessboard on the Spaceship Glorious Leap duplicated my move.
"A benign and common opening, Ambassador. Pawn to King four," Gasport replied.
"Before I make my second move Captain, I want to introduce you to Kendrick Jones, Harry Jones' uncle. He turned up piloting a spaceship in the Horizon system." I swiveled the camera around and let it pick up Harry Jones. He waved. The Captain put a hand to the side if his face.
"I wasn't going to ask about my missing carpenters but since you broached the subject, answer me a question: why do I have nine carpenters rather than twelve? Did my men commit any crime? Are they being held against their wills?" Captain Gasport's image flickered on the vid screen. I turned the camera back to face me and my desk.
"Nothing of the sort. If they committed a crime, I would have turned them over to Earth authorities." I moved my pawn by hand and waited for the chessboard to synchronize.
"Then why aren't they onboard with the rest of the carpentry crew?" His second pawn slid forward on the electronic board.
"They went native."
"I don't believe it,
"You can talk to them it you can find them. They're traveling to find a tree to live in as we speak."
"My lieutenants say that none of the other carpenters can verify that story," Captain Gasport waved his hand indicating that his lieutenants were in the cabin with him.
"What would you like me to say?" I played a new gambit on the chessboard while I talked. "The only defenses you gave those three young men against the temptation of paradise were jock straps and toolbelts. I warned of this in the documents supporting the treaty. The Senate and the State department created the Horizon Horticultural Foundation to minimize planetary access personnel to biologists, molecular chemists and xeno-culturalists." Captain Gasport moved almost immediately after my move registered on his board.
"I want to speak to the remaining two families before I accept your assessment," Gasport said. I knew the game he played. Get a family to side with him through money or sympathy and use that as a reason to romp and stomp all over Horizon.
"I have Jack Maurice Malloy's and James Edgar Livingston's signed applications for permanent residency on Horizon and I have their families signed releases that they hold no one responsible. I'll transmit facsimiles to you later today. It's a treaty violation for me to refuse the request once they set foot on the planet. Knight to bishop four," I said. All the pieces on the chessboard wobbled. Gasport must be pounding his table and shaking his board. The quantum entanglement made my chessboard emulate the vibrations.
"If you have signed documents, then you have witnesses. I'd like to talk to them. I'm sure that I can convince them to return to the spaceship. Pawn takes pawn, check." He took the easy piece. His minor sacrifice would be a magnificent downfall.
"You're welcome to transport anyone down to interview the two young men. All you have to do is find them." I took the pawn with my knight. The chessboard showed that he touched several pieces before making the pawn move. I should warn all you budding chess champions and diplomats out there. Touching and releasing chess pieces without moving it is a sign of weakness.
"King to Castle, queenside," Gasport said with a flourish. He didn't know what to do to prevent checkmate so he did the outrageous.
"A queenside castle, that's a bold move. I read about it in Passefiume's treatise on chess tactics: Dio Mio, Regina Gambino e' Stupido. Did you know that there are six variations on the Queen's Castle gambit? Passefiume describes the perils of each variation in thirty seven chapters." The treatise, of course, never existed. Gasport didn't know that and some poor lieutenant would have to either create the book or tell him that he was snookered. I enjoy being cruel to ass-kissing weasels when their own stupidity is the cause.
"Passefiume had it all wrong. He forgot to position his knights properly. Now, make your next move carefully Ambassador. My pieces are authorized to eliminate your king with extreme prejudice. I want my full compliment of carpenters. I don't care if my carpenters have tree roots growing out of their asses and moss growing on their cocks. I demand you produce MY carpenters. Rook to King five, check." Roots growing from their asses surprised me. It was true. None of the carpenters could have told him that. None of them saw the transformations of Mike Hardesty or Harry Jones or even Lukas' fuzzy, fern-like fate. Chad and I were the only ones to talk to the men off-world and we were still very human. Bluster to the rescue.
"Demand? Demand I produce them? Like why, dude? Yanno, gag me with a spoon because I never knew they were your property." I laughed out loud hoping to aggravate him. I could see him sneering at the screen. "Sorry Captain but I'm invoking Miller v Gortner which governs treaty disputes and states in clause 367 point five, subparagraph 3, article 37, page fifteen and third clause that states: any Trans-Lux personnel visiting an alien planet are subject to the authority and judgment of the Ambassador and no other authority be it human or alien or hybrid. Unquote. That sir... is the operative law. My actions could be no less than accordance with the law. I cannot and will not accede to your demands. Knight kicks Rook's ass." I could hear Gasport's lieutenants laughing over the vid screen's voice channel. His eyes narrowed. His jaw clenched. He waved his hand across the front of the camera and the laughter stopped.
"No one likes a smart-ass, ambassador. You're wasting my time. I'll have you know that the CEO of Trans-Lux and I have a standing golf date this week and you are still an employee of Trans-Lux. Queen to Bishop seven, CHECK." I think that he tried to slam the chess piece against the chessboard but hologram wouldn't let him do it.
"Good for you. I hope you kiss his balls before each round of golf..." More laughter leaked over the Vid link. "I'm no longer an employee of Trans-Lux. I resigned before I was appointed ambassador. I only answer to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Extra-Solar Affairs who we all know takes a dim view of the military trying to poach emigres in violation of the terms of a treaty. Remember, those carpenters were classed as independents and not Trans-Lux employees. Trans-Lux didn't want responsibility for their taxes, health insurance, and all those other silly expenses. We can set legal precedence but Trans-Lux won't like you much after that. The situation is, as it is. The carpenters are subject to my civil authority and not your military authority."
He started to announce a move and then stopped to stare at the board. "Knight to block."
"Queen takes Knight check, and mate on the next move." I touched the edge of the chessboard and the mating move lit up on the board. There was no escape. I had him four games to three.
The image on my vid screen blinked out to a line and then a dot and then to black. The chessboard split in two as if struck by something, pieces bouncing all over. Quantum Entanglements are twitchy like that. Captain Gasport didn't realize that I could still bill his account and he would pay to replace the chessboard. Bureaucratic revenge is a matter of cold, cruel dollars and cents. The vid screen blinked back online with its grainy Black and White picture. Gasport stood hulking over his broken chessboard.
"You rotten son-of-a-bitch bastard. Someday I'll get my chance to screw your ass and believe me, you'll find out just what a fearsome prick I can be." The Captain waved at the screen imperiously and his image blacked out. I gazed at the blank screen, a little stunned at my victory and his reaction. Kendrick Jones raised a glass of bourbon, saluting my rather audacious victory.
"Gasport believes he's the reincarnation of Lord Nelson and Horatio Hornblower, but in leather drag and silk ruffles," Kendrick said. "Ever since they made him Captain of the Glorious Leap into Heaven of Jaing Zemin, he thinks he invented the navy. The Glorious Leap might be the first Shaanxi Class battleship but as I recall, there's not a toothpick of wood on the vessel, and it's powered by nuclear fusion."
"Don't say such blashphemy, why Captain Nelly Bligh Gasport believes that he invented solar sails. The Glorious Leap is one of those fancy new wooden ships with giant suncatching sails all made of elm and oak. Woodwrights and carpenters like your Uncle Harry keep the navy flying in space, don't you know?"
"Not before today." We laughed. I poured myself a glass of the native fruit extract and made to pour Kendrick another bourbon.
"Keeping the good stuff for yourself?"
"No, it's just the native stuff has a turpentine-like kick to it." I poured Kendrick a glass. "Be warned, this stuff is potent." Kendrick shrugged and chugged. He choked.
"Sweet Jesus that's strong. Tastes like the paint thinner and grain alcohol my grand-daddy called moonshine."
"An acquired taste."
"I hope to acquire it," Kendrick poured another glass. He sniffed and sipped. He tried to not to react but the liquid just lit up his body. "Tastes like gasoline mixed with fruit juice. Are you sure this stuff isn't harmful?"
"It's like the military. You rams your head into a wall and then you does it again until the pain goes away," I said.
Kendrick shrugged his broad shoulders and smiled. "You ought to send a bottle to Gasport and let him drown his troubles. We need to talk about cousin Harry." His expression darkened. "I've seen the knothole you say is the last remnant of Harry's human body. It looks like any other fork in any other tree."
"Chief Papenka tells me that it's common for a tree to bloom after it absorbs a body. Harry will be reborn this spring. You are welcome to stay around until then," I said.
"I met Chief Papenka this morning. The horny old bastard wants me to wear a gourd. Everybody on this planet seems obsessed with my genitals." Kendrick filled his glass with more fruit juice.
"Well they don't want you to get a fungal infection. Earth fabrics harbor mold and fungus. My xeno-biology advisor discovered some rather aggressive fungi that turned his body into something green, fuzzy and fernlike in a matter of hours. It wasn't fatal but you would want him to drop spores on you. Officially, as Ambassador of the planet, I request that you bag the jockstrap and either go naked or wear a native koteka. If you insist on keeping that jockstrap, I suggest you get lots of good antifungal ointment and be prepared to scratch yourself to death. Horizon is one giant symbiotic organism. Everything grows on everything else." I handed him a biowaste bag.
Kendrick stood up and slid his hands under the waistband of his jockstrap. He turned his back modestyly, giving me a good look at the muscles on his torso, buttocks and thighs. As he turned back, his uncut penis bobbed half erect. He scratched his scrotum loose and let his testicles hang down about six inches.
"I never thought I'd regret enhancing my body but when I programmed the transporter, I oversized my equipment. I need support. Are the native gourds safe? Or do they cause transformations?"
"Safe enough. It's called a Koteka and they bloom on the crowns of trees just before sunrise. I don't wear one because I have to meet and greet visitors. I'll get Chief Papenka to have a Horizon man to accompany you to the crown of Harry's tree and show you what to do. Kotekas grow in all sizes. You're not too large." I didn't tell him that the tree sap would infuse his equipment and turn his genitals into roots.
"You don't have to go through that much trouble. I could tie some vines into a pouch and use that."
"Mike Hardesty, my assistant, wove grass into cording and tied it around his biceps and forehead. It looked hot and sexy until the grass took root in his skin. We never did get it off his body. This planet has a way of growing on you." More like growing into your body, I thought.
"OK, OK. I'll take your advice and get a Koteka."
"You and Harry have the same surnames but aren't related. Is that a coincidence?" I asked.
"Harry and I aren't blood relatives. An accident left us stranded in the Aldebaran jungle when we were ten years old. Luckily the Aldebaran Jungle has no predators. We survived as best we could for a few years. Salvers found us, saw to our education and civilification as they called it." Kendrick stretched his legs out over a log and let his feet dangle, wiggling his toes.
"And you only found out about your inheritance last year?" I asked.
"DNA matched us back to our families. Our estates settled for a handsome amount. I quit my job and bought the spaceship with my money and waited for Harry. Harry had an odd sense of duty. Just like him to sneak off to find a knothole to jerk off in private. You know, it's strange. Harry and I talked about retiring to a planet where we could hunt and fish." We laughed. He handed his glass back to me using the toes on his right foot.
"Horizon is vegetarian. I doubt hunting or fishing even exist as a concept."
"Where are Jimmy and Jack?"
"Officially, Jimmy and Jack went native. Unofficially, Jimmy and Jack never asked Harry's permission. First, threatened him into silence. Then they plugged his ass for all they were worth. Chief Papenka couldn't what was wrong with it. No man on Horizon ever forced sex on another. So I helped him set up a criminal code and a trial process." I could see the surprised whites of Kendrick's eyes.
"You mean they had no laws?"
"None whatsoever. At least not before. Now they have one; ask before you poke."
" Ask before you poke... In legalese, penetrating an orifice without obtaining permission of its owner. Your orifices, my orifices, all orifices, knotholes in trees and any other place you can think of to shove your dick, require permission."
"And this law is it?
"The entire criminal code of Horizon."
"How do you punish the crime of penetrating an orifice without permission?"
"We put them in a cage of vines and hung them in the sun. By the end of the day, the vines sent out roots. The next morning there were two man-sized seedpods ready for planting. In ten to twenty years, they'll grow large enough to be reborn as Horizon males. By that time, Gasport will be long gone and they'll be happy to stay here. It turns out all those vines are extra, extra, extra long penises."
"You're a very strange man, Ambassador. These trees are thousands of years old. Usually a punishment results in confinement or death. You gave those two men a new life, a nearly eternal life."
"They didn't think so at the time."
"Thanks for telling me the truth. I'll find Chief Papenka and make arrangements for a Koteka." We shook hands and Kendrick Jones left the tent.
A week later, Captain Gasport transported the Embassy staff to the surface of the planet with his usual deft incompetence and adroit stupidity. First, he argued that the staff should be teleported without transformation. None of the staff liked that. They wanted new, virile, 21 year-old muscular bodies and they beat back Gasport's objections. After that, Gasport argued that embassy staff didn't require prehensile feet. Lukas' infamous bungee jumping and Chad's vine swinging ended that argument. Then Gasport argued for a half-staffing. I immediately doubled the staff and tripled the pay. Then I padded the names with applications for biological study positions from his immediate staff. I never use the nautical word mutiny, but Gasport's staff had enough of his nonsense and quietly revolted by putting in their transfer papers. Gasport forgot that I negotiated labor contracts and new how to manipulate a decision. It's hard to argue with two-year, triple-pay contracts. Faced with mass defections and two days of endless arguments, Gasport gave up.
Gasport did try to settle the score with me a second time. He only succeeded in damaging his reputation. He ordered that the technicians teleport all of the embassy staff in one single monstrous energy burst. This saved fuel for the spaceship but put the staff at significant risk. The technicians can't handle that many data streams and they turn the transfers over to semi-intelligent computers called transport-bots and booster modules called enhance-bots. Teleport by computer is subject to glitches and reconstruction errors. I demanded that the main reconstruction pad be enclosed within the Embassy so that the Horizon wouldn't see the mistakes that teleports produce.
The staff arrived in a burst of white light; one hundred strong. As I expected, they reeked of ass leakage from involuntary evacuation of their bowels, vomit from teleport nausea, various large mucus deposits from hacking up pieces of lung and ammoniated urine from involuntary contractions of the bladder. Mass arrivals like this are done on a one-time use teleport pad. The exposed electronics short out and spark. The newly arrived men, woozy from the teleport, wobbly from the disorientation and unstable on two new feet splattered and smeared human waste. It took about five minutes for the staff to gain control of their new bodies.
This all would have been humorous if I didn't have one more job. This was Gasport's revenge on me, personally. I held the scanner in my hand that could check each man for mental illness or serious physical injury. You see, when four or five men teleport, the error rate is zero. When 100 teleport, the error rate is one, plus or minus one error with the chance of one being 100 percent and the second being thirty percent. Teleportation is painful. It requires that a high-energy source destroy the human body as the computers record the data. Then the computers and energy beams reassembled the body atom by atom. Although this takes at most fractions of a second, the body is aware of being destroyed and recreated. The conscious mind says "this won't hurt" and the unconscious mind screams "Are you fucking crazy, asshole? This hurts like hell."
Physical reintegration mistakes, lack of a heart or lungs or no arms and legs, can be seen and usually cause death in seconds. However, brain disorders take time to manifest, typically thirty seconds to a minute. The teleport computers can maintain the data for each man for the better part of an hour. The cure in that case, is to destroy the reintegrated body and order a substitute on a secondary teleport pad. I didn't want the job of scanner, but...
The eyes give it away. A terrifying, wildness and despair darkens the eyes, seizes the visage. A look of bloodlust, the uncontrollable urge to destroy, to maim, to torture without reason or consequence. If left to escape, these men are crafty, resourceful and unstoppable killing machines. Their desire for violence is unquenchable. The machine I held, scanned bodies and minds. But beyond that, I scanned eyes. Like I said, it shows first in the eyes.
I caught the look before the scanner -- wild eyes, pained eyes and then angry blue eyes filled with despair. The face was the face of a blond, hunk with a gymnast's body -- short, thick and powerful. There was no question that this beautiful young man was now held fast by the power of a demonic brain reassembled with teleport errors. My heart sank.
No one knows why these mistakes happen. Maybe a subject moves during the scan. Maybe the transport-bot or the enhancer glitched. Maybe the transcription process fails when the mind reassembles. Regardless, I have no choice. I took one shot. His brain boiled and his head and torso exploded into a red mist showering the filth-covered men with gray and red droplets. Grown men nearby screamed and flattened onto the deck. The scanner relayed the dead man's ID back to the spaceship. His life flashed on the screen. I looked over to the secondary teleport pad. The rematerialization erupted in white fire and an identical body stepped out of the glare. The young, blond man with the gymnast's body had a broad smile on his face, blue eyes twinkling with amazement at his new body. I continued scanning the rest of the staff and found no other mistakes.
If Captain Gasport ever comes after me, I will, as the marines say, rip his head off and shit down his neck. I know a world of perpetual cold with savage aliens just waiting for him. Gasport forced me to kill. Now you know why this couldn't be done in the presence of aliens. The scanner-man stands there and waits to kill. Gasport did this as vengeance.
Chad handed out wet towels for the staff to clean their bodies before they left the platform. We crowded the staff into the hallway. They waited, whispering about new feet, new bodies, and the dead error. Satisfied that the staff was whole, I signaled the spaceship. The tech crew teleported the platform and all it contained onto an asteroid aimed at the Horizon sun. Trans-Lux leaves no technology unless it's paid for through the nose. I shook hands with each of the men as they filed back into the room. I began orientation without missing a beat or showing a sign that today was anything other than ordinary.
Within a week, the embassy affairs fell into a pattern. I busied myself learning about the new staff and running the embassy. My contacts with Chad grew fewer as he assumed the chairmanship and day-to-day operations of the Horizon Horticultural Foundation. Mike who began this assignment as my second wouldn't be reborn until the spring. Kendrick Jones lives in the tree where his lover, Harry Jones was absorbed. Chief Papenka keeps hinting that Kendrick could be reborn with Harry his lover if he merges with the tree in the next few days. The two carpenters, Jack and Jimmy have regenerated the vines throughout the vast forest of Horizon. Lukas, bless his miserable little heart awaits rebirth from a fern-like tree that loves the forest floor.
The description of Horizon in the Encyclopedia Galactica tells the reader that this is a tropical world without minerals or much in the way of natural resources. It adds that Horizon is a veritable Shangri-la with tropical rainforests, fresh water lakes and living trees -- many over a thousand feet tall. The natives live like legendary Tarzans, swinging on vines and sleeping on the immense branches. Exploration and immigration are restricted by treaty. Visitors must submit to reconstruction by teleport into males with knotted muscular faces, hunky buff bodies, and pale coffee-colored skin. The natives wear nothing more than a gourd over their privates. Application for residency or scientific study may be sent to the Horizon Horticultural Foundation.
13,600 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
*An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas.
*Murder on a world with altered humans.
*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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