Zarkor has been taken to the Prison Planet where he is condemned to spend the rest of his life chopping at solidified magma in an underground cave. There is no purpose to this labor except for punishment. It’s a hellish environment for poor Zarkor, who is used to lazing around thinking up improbable theories about life, the universe and everything else, plus going on adventures and occasionally saving the universe from evil villains.
We find him alone and miserable in a cavern of magma, pondering his unlucky fate.
“This sucks!” he is saying to himself, resting from his meaningless task. “It’s hot in here, and I have to work chipping away at this stupid magma! Plus, the guard keeps yelling at me all the time like I’m not working hard enough! Bah! I could out-work all the prisoners here; only I’m a superior intellect, not a Zyberian rock-eater!
“All this over a stupid game!” he exclaims, letting his little hammer and chisel drop to the stone floor of the crevice in which he is hovering. “It’s not only for me I despair, think of the loss to the Galaxy! How will science ever progress without one of its greatest theorists?! And think of the multitudes of my admirers! What lonely, bleak lives they’ll live without my guidance!
“And what of Zerak? He’ll really be lost without me! Poor Zerak, all alone in the Galaxy, leading a deprived and friendless existence! Sad, isn’t it? Oh, oh, here comes that stupid guard again. Better pretend I’m working.”
“Alright you! Get back to work!” the guard shouts.
Meanwhile, Zerak and Uncle Zebon again appear in Judge Vector’s courtroom..
“You two here again?” the Judge says, annoyed at their return.
“Yes we are,” Uncle Zebon states defiantly, “and we have an Order from the Galactic Appeals Court for the release of Prisoner 486117!”
“I see,” Judge Vector says. “On what grounds was the appeal granted?”
“On the grounds that there was no trial before sentencing, of course!” declares Uncle Zebon.
“Bah! Legal nit-picking!” Judge Vector gazes over the document. “Oh, I suppose I’ll have to obey this ruling,” he admits reluctantly. He turns to a guard next to the bench. “Officer, locate this Prisoner and release him.” He turns back to Zerak and Uncle Zebon. “Won’t do him much good, though. The Prison Planet is a desolate place, my friends. He won’t last long up on the surface of that planet. Oh well, hope he enjoys his freedom, for as long as he can, that is. Good morning, sirs.”
“But wait!” Zerak exclaims. “You can’t just turn Zarkor loose on some miserable Prison Planet all by himself! You’re supposed to release him into our custody!”
Judge Vector replies wearily, “Sorry, but that would be impossible at this time. The Galactic Judiciary is taking its customary Holiday Adjournment. All official procedures are suspended until after the official celebrations. Good day.” With that, Judge Vector drifts from his bench and hurriedly leaves the room.
Uncle Zebon turns to Zerak.“Well, it looks like it’s up to us to find that Prison Planet before poor Zarkor waists away on its surface! Let’s get going!”
Back in Uncle Zebon’s ship in the Viewing Room, Uncle Zebon says to Zerak, “I’ve set the coordinates for the most desolate, inhospitable planets in the Galaxy. The Prison Planet must be one of those.”
“I only hope we find poor Zarkor in time!” Zerak says anxiously. “I can’t think of Zarkor all alone in that terrible wasteland! No food, no water, no inferior species to annoy. He’ll be suffering terribly!”
After several likely planet candidates appear on the screen, Uncle Zerak says, “Ah, here’s a likely candidate, Qualisteron Five! “A barren surface with caves of solidified magma within” the directory states. I bet this is it, Zerak!”
“I hope so!” replies Zerak hopefully.
In a few Time Periods, Uncle Zebon’s ship reaches the planet in question. Zerak and Uncle Zebon observe the planet’s surface from orbit.
“What a desolate planet! I fear there’s not much hope.” Uncle Zebon says in despair.
“Don’t say that, Uncle Zebon!” Zerak pleads “Let’s scan the surface for any indication of biological organisms. If we find any, one of them may be Zarkor!”
Scanning the planet’s surface, they discover a trace of bio-organism in a region near the equator.
“That could be Zarkor!” Zerak shouts excitedly.”
“We’ll go down to the surface and investigate,” Uncle Zebon says.” But what we find may be only remains, I fear. But let’s no give up hope! We’ll bring the resuscitation kit, and we’ll have to wear breathing apparatus. The atmosphere is adequate to sustain life for only a few Time Periods. If that is Zarkor down there, I hope he hasn’t been on the surface long.”
Zerak and Uncle Zebon descend to the planet surface and drift cautiously toward the source of the bio-scan.
“What a dismal, forbidding place!” Zerak says as they drift along. “Nothing but solid rock everywhere, and a dim star overhead! Its cold, and this atmosphere! Fhew! I hope Zarkor has his Dumb Luck Activator turned on!”
They drift onward until Zerak spies something. “Look here!” he cries. “A cave! Let’s investigate, Uncle Zebon! It’s possible Zarkor may have found refuge!”
As they cautiously enter the cave, Uncle Zebon says, “Zerak, there seems to be light ahead!”
“Yes, I see it!” Zerak agrees excitedly.
“We must be cautious, though,” Uncle Zebon warns. “We don’t know what horrors may be lurking in a cave like this even on this desolate planet!”
Creeping through the narrow cave, they soon come to an opening to a large room. As they enter the room they see to their astonishment Zarkor hovering contentedly over a table overflowing with food.
“Zarkor!!!” Zerak cries out, dumbfounded.
“Hi Zerak! Hi Uncle Zebon! Come on in!” Zarkor shouts gleefully, as if expecting their arrival.
Forgetting to hover and dropping to the stone floor in amazement, Zerak says in disbelief, “But…but…we thought you were dead!”
“Oh no, I’m fine,” Zarkor says happily, hovering over the table inspecting the various delicious looking cusine. “Hungry? There’s plenty here! Shrimp? Pheasant? Quale? Slime eels? Wine? How about some fruit? There’s plenty for all! Dig in!”
Zerak, recovering a little from his astonishment, asks in a weak voice, “But, we thought you’d be starving!” Blinking at the table piled high with provisions, he adds, “And where’did all this food come from? And it’s nice and warm in here!”
“Of course!” Zerak says with slight contempt in his voice. “You wouldn’t expect me to be living without some luxury, would you?”
Looking around, Uncle Zebon asks, “There wouldn’t be a pub here, too, would there? My throat is parched!”
“Sure!” Zarkor replies. “That’s where my friends are right now! Go on in, Uncle Zebon, they’re great guys! You’ll like them!”
“Friends?” Zerak asks, his head still swimming a bit at the scene. “You mean there’s more of you here? Zarkor, what’s going on?!”
“Well, see, when I was released to the planet’s surface I found this cave with all these released and escaped prisoners living in it. We’ve got Galacto-vision and everything! Our own rooms, plenty to eat as you can see, holo-games, a pool table, a few slot machines…the only thing we’re missing is a swimming pool and a sauna. But we’re working on those.”
“But, but, how did you get all this stuff?” Zerak asks in disbelief.
Zarkor sways back and forth with delight. “See, way back in the cave there’s rubies and emerald and diamonds and all sorts of rare gemstones sticking in the walls! They’re all over the place! It’s a mine! We’ve been bribing the guards with them! Even the Prison Administrator is in on it. In fact, we’re working on getting a few cargo ships so we can expand our operation. Give us time and we’ll have a million Value Units enterprise going here! Great isn’t it!”
Uncle Zebon, his interest peaking, considers this. “Hmm…but why doesn’t the Prison just take over? I mean…”
“Oh, they’re all in it alright,” Zarkor says casually. “They just want to keep a low profile. Even Judge Vector is cooperating. He’s a big crook, Zerak. Who do you think put up the credits for that holo-game? Was he surprised when the government looked into it and declared it illegal That’s why he’s been sentencing owners of the thing to life imprisonment without trials. He was afraid his connection to it would be discovered. He’s not a bad sort, though. He’s the one who’s gonna get us these cargo ships!”
“Wait a TP, Zarkor,” Zerak says irritably, remembering the distress of the recent past. “You mean all this time we’ve been worried sick about you, you’ve been living it up in this nice cave?!”
“Sorry, Zerak,” Zarkor says, slightly remorsefully. “But I had to keep all this a secret. It may even be slightly illegal, I think.”
“Slightly illegal! Zerak says in dismay. “Zarkor, you’re coming home right now! I’ll not have you mixed up in all this! Let’s go!”
“Now, Zerak,” Uncle Zebon interrupts, “let us not be too hasty. Zarkor here has found himself a profitable business. Let’s not be too hard on the lad, he’s showing a lot of initiative! And after all he’s been through I think we should all sit down and discuss this unique opportunity we have here.”
Zerak frowns at Uncle Zebon. “It’s just like you, Uncle Zebon, to think only about Value Units and profits. You know yourself this scheme will run its course and then all fall down like a house of cards. Then Zarkor will really be in trouble! I won’t let that happen!”
“Yes, but think of the revenue before that happens!” Uncle Zebon asserts, his mind calculating various profitable possibilities.
“A lot of good that’s going to do when Zarkor is back chipping hot magma!” Zerak says in disgust. “Well, Zarkor?”
“Zerak, you’re always ruining things for me!” Zarkor says in defiance. “Here I have a golden opportunity for untold wealth, and you come up with rational, coherent, sensible, lucid and prudent reasons why I should leave the whole thing alone! Dash it all! Why can’t you be reckless and irresponsible just once in your life?! It would make you happy, Zerak. For a little while, anyway,” he adds.
“Come on, Zarkor,” Zerak says, “let’s get back to Uncle Zebon’s ship and go home. You coming, Zebon?”
Uncle Zebon, still calculating possibilities, replies, “Umm…I think I’ll stick around here for a while, Zerak. There are certain aspects of this situation that need further looking into.” Uncle Zebon turns to Zerak, “Don’t worry; I’ll catch a ride out of here later. After all, Judge Vector is a very good friend of mine…or soon will be.”
Zerak leads a despondent Zarkor reluctantly out of the cave and toward the surface, Zarkor occasionally glancing back forlornly to his former residence and lost opportunity of fame and fortune.
Uncle Zebon, now alone in the room, surveys his surroundings thoughtfully. “Now,” he says to himself, “where did Zarkor say that pub was?”