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Boating- The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak

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'Boating' - The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak – Chapter One

I first want to interject, this is an exciting comedy-adventure story featuring my Space Alien friends, Zarkor and Zerak. Just so you'll know.

You may also know that our Alien friends own their own private planet, but they have not explored it, as they spend most of their time sitting in the living room of their luxuriant home eating, relaxing, taking naps and chatting. A well-deserved rest from their Adventures, I must say.

Zerak, having put up most of the Value Units for this extravagant purchase, thinks it would be good for Zarkor’s character development if Zarkor did most of the chores around the house, like taking out the trash, mowing the lawn and generally keeping their abode clean.

Zarkor of course doesn’t think much of this idea, and after a few weeks of household duties decides to create a clone of himself. That way his clone can do the work and Zarkor can continue eating, napping and relaxing.

The cloning process is successful to a certain extent, but as usual, Zarkor errs in the cloning process, and his clone is not quite Zarkor in all respects. Probably a good thing.

Zarkor names his clone Cloney, and teaches him all about chores, but little else. Cloney has intelligence, insight and rationality that may be lacking in Zarkor’s character, but he enjoys his simple chore-life without complaining.

Being inexperienced, Cloney does make a few mistakes now and then, like setting the fusion powered lawn mower on fire and blowing-up the trash bin. The exploding trash bin event was not really Cloney’s fault. Designed by Zarkor, it had two un-labeled buttons on it: one button compacts the trash; the other button explodes the bin.

Cloney, of course, pushes the wrong button, blowing up the bin. After Zarkor had berated Cloney, when Cloney complained about the un-labled buttons, Zarkor drifted away in disgust.

But, why have a button that blows up the bin?” Cloney asks innocently.

Any reasonable creature would understand,” was Zarkor's only comment, drifting away in disgust.

Typical of Zarkor’s engineering ideas.

At any rate, one day Zarkor decides to sail over the planet's ocean to investigate the Next Continent. At first he considered just bringing the Next Continent closer, but on further thought, he decided that that would be too easy, and would spoil a great seafaring adventure, with himself as its great hero, of course.

As the story begins, Zarkor is hovering above a warm sandy beach looking out over the vast expanse of blue sea before him. Floating nearby alongside a make-shift dock, gently bobbing in the waves, is his boat.

Zerak approaches from behind, and seeing the boat for the first time says,  "Zarkor, that doesn't look like a very big boat to sail across the great ocean to the Next Continent."

"It'll be okay, Zerak," Zarkor states confidently.  "After all, with me a the Captain, what could go wrong?"

"If you say so," says Zerak doubtfully.  "At least you'll have Cloney to help in any emergency."

Zarkor frowns. "Lot of help he'll be."

"But he's you!" emphasizes Zerak.

"Yeah, but confidently looks the boat over and says, "I've calculated the size of the ocean relative to the size of the boat, Zerak, and the ratio falls within safe limits. It's a new theory I've been working on. "

"Well, the weather looks good, anyway," Zerak says, looking at the sky and changing the subject.  "How long do you think it will take to get to the other side?"

"I don't know. Couple of days, maybe," Zarkor replies.

"Do you have your charts and sextant?" Asks Zerak nervously, still eyeing the small delicate looking craft.

"Nah, don't need those," says Zarkor.  "My sense of direction is far superior to any stupid chart.  My internal compass is infallible, Zerak. I'm going to navigate by dead reckoning."

"Somehow I don't like the sound of that," Zerak says.

Just then Cloney passes by, struggling to support a number of huge boxes before him.

Zarkor looks at him absently. "Say, Cloney, get all that other stuff into the boat, too," he commands. "Don't dawdle, we don't want to start late."  Zarkor turns back to Zerak,  "I just hope Cloney doesn't get in the way like he usually does. And he's always asking questions. I told him since I'm the Captain of the ship to only speak when spoken to and to address me as “Sir” or “Yes Captain”. You have to have discipline on a ship, you know."

"That's right,  Zarkor," Zerak replies. "You wouldn't want a mutiny on your first voyage."   

Later, with Cloney already in the boat, Zarkor drifts aboard importantly, hovers on the deck and yells, "Cast off!"

Cloney hesitates, and looks at Zarkor.    "Don't you think we should start the engines first, Captain?" He asks timidly.

Zarkor, annoyed, yells out to no one in particular,  "Start engines!" Then he turns to Cloney hovering uneasily on the deck.  "You should have started the engines already, Cloney! What have you been doing?"

"I've been stowing away our gear, sir. By the way, I put your toys in your compartment, stored the provisions, and Teddy is on your cabin propped up against a pillow."

"Good," says Zarkor, "at least you've done something right. Now, look sharp and start those engines!"

Cloney drifts down into the engine bay and starts the fusion engines. "Engines running, Captain!" he shouts out to Zarkor.

Zarkor, now in the pilot house, guns the throttle. The boat lurches forward momentarily, then crashes into the little dock and stalls.

"Should I cast off now, sir?" Cloney asks, picking himself up from the deck.

"Err, yes, cast off!" orders Zarkor, regaining his balance. "Always remember to cast off before you start the engines, Cloney!" He shouts. Let's try to follow proper naval procedure from now on!"

Finally, moving easily across calm waters, the little boat is running smoothly away from the beach toward the distant horizon.  Zarkor is at the helm with Cloney hovering about, securing various useless items Zarkor insisted on bringing with them.

After a few short Time Periods, Zarkor seems to be bored with piloting, and shouts to Cloney. "Avast there mate! Come here and take over the wheel!"

Cloney drifts over to the pilot house and hovers next to Zarkor. 

Zarkor says, "Look here, Cloney, see this needle on the compass? Keep it right on that mark right there.  I'm going down to my cabin and take a nap. Look sharp, now!"

Cloney moves past Zarkor, takes the wheel and looks down at the compass and the mark indicated. As Zarkor turns to leave, Cloney asks,  "Should I wake you when it's your watch, Captain?"

"Umm, yes," Zarkor replies, "but if you don't get tired too much let me sleep. Just let me know if there's bad weather or something. When I do wake up, you can make some lunch or dinner. Then after I eat you can take the next watch. You know how sleepy I get after a good meal."

"But, what if I get sleepy, sir?" Cloney asks innocently.

"Then put it on auto pilot for a few minutes. We have to stay alert!  Remember, we're in uncharted waters!"

"But we have charts, Zarkor. You just didn't bring them with us," complains Cloney.

Zarkor gives Cloney a stern look. "I'm the Captain of this vessel, Cloney, don't question my authority, just obey orders! We don't want a mutiny's aboard ship now, do we?"

"No, Captain," Cloney says, a little confused.  After a moment, he asks, "How long do you think it will be 'till we get to the other side of the ocean, sir?"

"Leave everything to me," Zarkor says imperiously. "You just do what you're told! That's your job. I thought I explained it all to you before we left!  Asking a lot of foolish questions wastes time and upsets the Captain." Zarkor looks at his watch,  "Now, see, you've made me late for my nap. Just stay on course and speak when you're spoken to. That's how a disciplined, well-run Navy operates. Remember that."

"Yes, Captain," Cloney says, looking doubtful.

Zarkor drifts out on deck, hesitates, and turns back to the pilot house, "I don't suppose you've set out my cookies and milk, have you?" he shouts.

"Sorry, sir," replies Cloney, "I was so busy stowing our gear I forgot. Want me to get it now?"

"Don't bother," Zarkor says, annoyed. "I suppose I'll have to do it myself. You don't expect me to do everything, Cloney, do you? You're going to have to help occasionally, you know. You just can't hover around aimlessly and enjoy the voyage like a passenger. We're all in this together and we each have to do our share of the work."

Zarkor turns and drifts toward his cabin again. "And don't forget to make lunch before I wake up!” He shouts over his shoulder. “Oh, and don't forget your other chores, and report to me if anything important happens! ...After I wake up, I mean."

"Yes sir, Captain!" Cloney turns back to the wheel and looks at the compass. "I doubted this boating trip was a good idea before we started," he mutters to himself. "Now I'm sure of it."   




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Boating – The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak – Chapter Two

After an uneventful first day of sailing, Zarkor and Cloney leave the pilot house to settle down for a good night's sleep.

Before Zarkor drifts into his bed, Cloney asks if he requires anything. "Let's see, I've had my cookies and milk, Teddy is here all tucked in. I don't think there will be anything else, Cloney. Good night."

"But what about the boat?" Cloney asks, hovering uncertaintly. "I mean, should we drop anchor for the night, or what?"

"Do what you think best, Cloney," Zarkor answers, closing his eyes. "Get yourself a few winks and wake me at sunrise. I'm exhausted after my busy day. Just bring me my breakfast in the morning and we'll see what tomorrow brings."

Cloney quietly shuts the cabin door and returns to the pilot house. Shutting down the engines and dropping the anchor, he gazes out over the endless blackness of the calm sea. "I guess I'll go to bed, too," he says to himself. "Maybe this boating trip won't be as bad as I thought. It's kind of nice looking up at all the stars in the clear night sky. There are so many of them twinkling so pretty." Cloney returns below decks and settles into his bed in his small cabin. Soon he drifts off into a peaceful sleep.

An indeterminate time later, Cloney is awakened by the loud sound of thunder. The boat is rocking to and fro violently as well. Jumping out of bed, he drifts quickly up to the deck and is immediately greeted by curtains of pounding rain and continuous lightening flashes followed by loud crashing of frightening thunder. The little boat is being tossed about by tall waves in the threatening darkness. After a look around, he hurriedly drifts back down below and pounds on the door of Zarkor's cabin.

"Zarkor! Zarkor!" he shouts through the door,  "There's a bad storm outside, wake up, we need to do something!"

Still comfortable in his bed, Zarkor is clutching Teddy, oblivious to the raging storm. Cloney enters the cabin and shakes Zarkor awake.

"Umm...umm...what is it, Zerak?" Zarkor mutters, half asleep, "Are we at The Happy Holiday Planet already?"

"No," Cloney says, "this is me, Cloney, there's a bad storm outside, get up!

"Wha... What? A storm? Well, shut the windows and turn on the inertial stabilizers. If it's another Expanding Cosmic Sucking Vortex, just let me sleep through it. That last one gave me such a headache I was sick for twelve Time Periods."

"It's not an Expanding Cosmic Sucking Vortex, Zarkor, whatever that is, it's a storm! We're on your boat, remember?!"

Zarkor finally arouses to wakefulness. "What? A storm? Stay calm, Cloney, I'll handle this.” Zarkor sits up in his bed, clearing his eyes. “Go the the fore deck and batten down the hatches, then go aft and belay the binnacle, then go larboard and secure the bowline and make sure to shift the ballast, and after that gaff the forecastle and scuttle the spinnaker! Quick now, boy!!"

Cloney rushes back on deck as the storm rages around him, the boat tossing helplessly in the rough seas, rain pounding relentlessly on the deck. Confused as to what to do, he heads to the pilot house where the wheel is spinning one way then another furiously.

Zarkor soon joins him in the pilot house, peers out at the storm and says, "Cloney, why have you steered us into this stupid storm?! I told you to keep on course! If you would have obeyed orders like I told you none of this would have happened! So... What should we do now?"

"I think we should abandon ship, Captain!" Cloney shouts. "We're sinking!"

Zarkor accepts this bit of news in his usual calm, rational manner. "Sinking! We can't sink! That would ruin our adventure to the Nearest Continent! What would Zerak think?!" After a moment of indecision, he says, "Well... So how do we stop this sinking stuff?"

"I'll go below and start the bilge pumps!" Cloney shouts over the storm.

"Good," Zarkor shouts, "I don't know why you brought all that bilge with us, anyway! Only makes the boat heavier! Must have been your idea. I don't remember ordering any bilge before we left!"

"I guess so," Cloney replies and rushes below.

Soon Cloney appears back in the pilot house. "There are no bilge pumps, Captain, and the bottom of the boat is filled with water!"

"A fine mate you turned out to be, Cloney! First you order all that bilge and then you forget to bring the pumps that go with it! Next time we go boating, Cloney, you're staying home!"

"Yes, Captain," Cloney says, dutifully, "but what should we do with all that water! It's filling the boat! It'll sink us for sure!"

"It's simple, Cloney. Always remember it's the simple solutions that are the best," Zarkor replies, regaining some of his composure.  "I know this because I'm the Captain, and the Captain is always the wisest man on a boat. Get some pots and pans from the kitchen and bale out the water! See how easy a solution that is?! Now get to it and everything will be okay. Oh, and while you're in the kitchen, make me a ham sandwich. Easy on the mayo but don't forget the ketchup. Just a little lettuce and only one slice of cheese. And you might as well bring me up some coffee as well. I have a lot of work to do with this storm and all, and I want to make sure I'm fully awake and alert. After all, it's my responsibility to save us from this pending disaster. Go on now, hurry up. And don't spill the coffee."

Cloney hurry's away to the kitchen, which he discovers is flooded to about a foot of water. Realizing that a few pots and pans are not going to solve the sinking problem, he rushes back to the pilot house.

"Captain I don't think we can bale out all the water!", he says. "The kitchen is flooded and the water is rising fast!"

Zarkor considers this, "In that case we'll have to take drastic action!"

After a moment of silence between them, Cloney asks doubtfully, "Drastic action, sir? Like what?"

Zarkor looks around at the raging seas, the blinding flashes of lightening, the deafening thunder and the pounding sheets of rain splashing violently on the pitching deck. He turns to Cloney. "Maybe if we panic we'll come to some solution, Cloney! I've panicked many times in the past under similar circumstances and I've always survived to tell the tale, right?! It's either panic or a total catatonic seizure! I think those are the best courses of action right now! Me first!!"

As Zarkor's eyes begin to roll up into his head, Cloney realizes it's up to him to save the day. "The lifeboat!" He shouts and scurries out of the pilot house to look for it.

What will happen to our two hapless friends caught up in this perilous catastrophe?

We'll just have to wait and see...



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Boating - The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak - Chapter Three

As the storm rages around them, the tall waves tossing their little boat helplessly to and fro, Cloney leaves the pilot house and scurry's about looking for the life boat. He soon returns to Zarkor. "Where is the life boat, Captain?!" He shouts in dismay.
Returning to partial consciousness, Zarkor’s eyes reset themselves to a glazed focus. "The life boat! Hmm.Yes,” he mumbles. “A good idea. And then a catatonic seizure! Thank you, Cloney.” Zarkor is silent and thinks for a moment. Now semi-aware of the dire situation, Zarkor says, “I believe the life boat is in my cabin, under my bed. I thought that would be an appropriate place to stow it. Hurry now and bring it before the ship sinks!"

Cloney rushes off to Zarkor’s cabin and soon returns with a plastic bundle. He tears open the bundle and throws its contents on the deck. "This is just a floatie we use in the pool at home, Zarkor! This is no lifeboat! A floatie will never save us!" He exclaims.

Now in full alert consciousness, or as fully alert as he ever is, Zarkor looks down at the rumpled floatie lying on the deck and replies resolutely, "Of course it will save us, Cloney! I wouldn’t have brought it if it wasn’t adequate for the job!” Returning his gaze to Cloney, he admonishes, “As Captain of the ship, Cloney, my judgment is impeccable, and questioning my decisions is tantamount to mutiny, and we’ll have none of that aboard aboard!”

Zarkor peers out vagely to the fury of the storm, seemingly distracted by a new thought. This new thought having crystallized in his mind, he says to Cloney, “Did you bring the rubber ducky, as well? I couldn't abandon ship without that! And rush back and bring Teddy. We can't leave him on a sinking ship!"

Cloney hurriedly drifts back to Zarkor's cabin and gathers up the ducky and Teddy and rushes back to the pilot house.
"Now all we have to do is blow up the floatie and we're saved!" Zarkor exclaims confidently. "You do it, Cloney, your Captain is too exhausted from making all these vital decisions!"

Cloney dutifully huffs and puffs and blows up the floatie. He gazes up at Zarkor hopefully. "There, Captain, it's done!"
"Good,” says Zarkor. “Now I'll use the floatie and you use ducky. We'll drift overboard and lower ourselves onto them. One, two, three..."

"Wait, Zarkor! This is stupid!" Cloney shouts angrily. "We'll be drowned for sure using these pool toys instead of a real life boat! I'm staying with the ship! Maybe the weather will settle down and we can ride out the storm!"

Zarkor considers this. "You may be right, Cloney! I think this floatie has a hole in it anyway. In fact, I gave it to you to fix last weekend, remember?!" Zarkor faces Cloney in irritation. "That's what I get for depending on a deck hand for our safety!” Zarkor gazes at nothing in particular again, changing to a conversational tone. “I would have done it myself except I was too busy thinking of more chores for you to do. You don't realize the responsibility I have as your mentor, Cloney. Besides, if I didn't keep you busy all the time you'd just get into mischief. Remember you're me. Now...what should we do next?"

Cloney looks around anxiously for some way to save themselves from the raging storm. "I know, let's radio for help! All Zerak has to do is fly the Security Ship here and pick us up!"

"Great idea!" says Zarkor, relieved. "See if the radio is still working! Send out an SOS or a May-Day or something. I know Zerak will be standing by waiting for a message, he always seems worried about me for some reason."

"Okay!" agrees Cloney excitedly as he rushes below to see if he can locate the radio. After a few moments he returns to Zarkor's side looking angry. "Zarkor! You didn't bring a radio! All you brought with us is that stupid jam box so you could listen to that stupid Earth Punk music you like so much! Why did you do that?!"

"It's a radio, isn't it?!" Zarkor exclaims, surprised at Cloney's attitude. "How was I to know this storm would happen?! Besides, I have to have my music with me or else I get bored. You should know how easily I get bored by now, Cloney! Anyway, go back and see if my Earth-type CD's are secured. I'd hate to loose them, then I'd have to go back to that pathetic Earth again for replacements! You know how I hate Earth…and Earthlings!"

Cloney hovers about dejectedly as Zarkor bobs up and down in annoyance at the horrid prospect of having to return to Earth. Looking out into the storm, suddenly Cloney cheers up. "Look, Zarkor! The sky is brightening over there! The waves don't seem as tall as they were and the rain is lessening! Maybe the storm is over!"

Zarkor looks out at the sky. "It's about time," he says in disgust. "Stupid storm! Look how wet my membranes are! Now I'll be combing them out for ever so long!" Zarkor turns his gaze at the water still sloshing around on the deck. "And look at the boat! It's full of water! Stupid boat! You would think it would have more sense than to try to sink in the middle of an ocean!"

Then, beginning to regain his usual oblivious demeanor, Zarkor turns to his mate. "It'll take you a long time to bale it out, Cloney, so you'd better get started right away. Start in the kitchen first. In all this confusion you didn't make me my ham sandwich! You'll have to learn to obey orders better than that." Cheering up to his old self again, Zarkor continues: "See if you can find some dry bread, then put the kettle on. And don't take too long! You know how upset I can get when I'm hungry. I loose my calm, kindly and understanding manner. I wouldn't want you to see that side of me, Cloney pal! You might think I don't like you as much as I do. Now get busy and do as you're told."

After some time passes, the seas are becalmed and the sun is seen peeking out from fluffy, whitening clouds. The rain has changed into a gentle drizzle as the little boat bobs easily now on almost tranquil waters. As Zarkor leans lazily against the pilot house door, happily munching the long awaited ham sandwich, Cloney is still busy baling for all he's worth.

"We've weathered the storm, Cloney my friend!" Zarkor shouts proudly. "Your Captain has pulled you through safely from yet another perilous episode! You appreciate my superior rational decision making abilities and expert seamanship now, don't you." Zarkor settles into a benevolent mood. "Always trust your Captain's good judgment, Cloney! Never fear, he will always return you unharmed and safe to the bosom of your own snug little home!" As an afterthought he adds, "And no need to thank me, Cloney dear. Heroism in the clutches of catastrophe comes naturally to one such as I."

Cloney pauses his baling for a moment, considers it better to say nothing, then continues his task with even more vigor.

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Boating - The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak - Chapter Four


After the storm, Zarkor and Cloney's voyage continues without incident. Zarkor spends his days playing with his toys on deck or in his cabin, gives even more meaningless orders to Cloney, takes naps and occasionally keeps an eye on the compass in the Pilot House.

Cloney mostly steers the poat, picks up Zarkor’s scattered toys and prepares meals. At nightfall, Cloney keeps watch while Zarkor sleeps comfortably in his cabin. Cloney sometimes anchors the boat and sometimes switches on the Autopilot to get some sleep, though the Autopilot usually becomes bored with heading in one direction, and for novelty makes large, sweeping figure-eights or just goes off in some random direction for reasons of its own amusement.

One morning, Zarkor and Cloney awake to see large birds circling overhead. “Look!” Cloney exclaims, “Birds! There must be land ahead!”

Zarkor, watching the birds replies, “Nonsense, Cloney! Those are sea birds; they remain at sea all their lives. They eat fishes and nest in the water!”

Cloney watches the birds for a while, then asks Zarkor, “But, how can they nest in water? How can they lay eggs in the middle of an ocean?”

Zarkor looks at Cloney in disgust. “Don’t you know eggs float!” He replies, annoyed. “The mother bird sits on the egg in the water until they hatch, then the baby birds swim around and the mother feeds them until they learn how to fly! I’m an expert on all Alien species, Cloney. Remember that…and don’t ask so many questions!”

Late the next afternoon, while Cloney is on duty in the Pilot House and Zarkor is lazily sitting on the stern watching the wake the propeller is making, thinking of a new Theory, Cloney suddenly shouts out, “Land! I can see land ahead, Zarkor! Look!”

Zarkor slowly stirs from his reverie and drifts to the bow. He pulls from his membranes an old-fashioned naval telescope and peers through it in the indicated direction. “There’s land ahead, Cloney!” He shouts in a commanding voice. “At last I have discovered the Next Continent! This will go down in the annals of renowned maritime exploits! Your Captain has brought you to a safe haven at last, Cloney, pal! Now, full speed ahead! We’ll land on that little beach and begin our explorations!”

Excitedly pushing the throttle forward, Cloney is relieved that the ocean voyage is at last behind them. Taking his eyes off the land ahead, he looks up and sees the same birds he saw before, flying to the land and disappearing over it. He says to Zarkor, who is still gazing through his telescope, “But I thought you said those birds never fly to land!”

Zarkor becomes even more intent on his telescope. “Err…they do occasionally fly to land, Cloney, but just to visit their cousins, the land birds. They exchange various news items with them, then hurriedly fly back to the open seas where they live.” Zarkor puts down his telescope and glances over his shoulder to Cloney. “Never mind the birds, Cloney, we must prepare for our explorations. Pack all the supplies we’ll need in a bundle so you can carry it when we reach land. And make sure to pack enough food for a long journey, and don’t forget Teddy, then make me a few sandwiches and some slime eels to munch on when we reach the beach, I’ll be hungry by then. And stow my toys in my cabin neatly. You know how tidy I like to keep everything. We must keep the ship ship-shape, you know.”

Cloney steers the little boat forward, and soon it is safely beached on the sand. Zarkor and Cloney drift off the boat onto the beach and look around.

Hovering above the golden sand, they see a great forest that lies before them. Zarkor gazes intently, his eyes trying to pierce the thick foliage. “Well, here we are at last, Cloney!” he states in a commanding voice. “The Next Continent! Now for our great adventure! Let’s go!”

As Zarkor drifts determinately forward, Cloney cautions, “Wait, Zarkor, it’s starting to get dark, maybe we should camp here for the night.”

Stopping at the edge of the forest, Zarkor hesitates. “Nonsense, Cloney,” he says, “I’m anxious to get into the interior!” Then adds, “Did you bring the Death Ray pistol?”

“It’s in here someplace,” Cloney replies, looking through the bundle of supplies heavily suspended before him. “Do you think we’ll need it?”

“Of course we’ll need it!” Zarkor says, turning to Cloney. “Who knows what dangerous, horrid beasts we’ll meet! Besides, we may have to hunt for our food. We can’t just live on the pastries and slime eels we brought from home.” Zarkor faces Cloney in sudden distress. “By the way, are you sure you brought Teddy?”

“Yeah, that’s the first thing I grabbed.” Cloney replies carelessly. “Of course we can’t venture into dangerous unknown territory without Teddy.” Wavering a bit in his hover, Cloney peers over the large bundle. “This is heavy, Zarkor, you sure we need all this stuff?”

“Everything I told you to bring is essential, Cloney,” Zarkor says firmly. “We don’t want to begin this undertaking unprepared, now do we?”

“I just wish you hadn’t changed your mind and made me pack so many toys,” Cloney complains. “What good will they be? I think we should leave some behind and bring more camping gear.”

Turning to face the forest again, Zarkor says, “Leave the preparations to me, Cloney, dear. We may have to trade with the natives.”

Cloney’s eyes widen. “Natives? You think there’ll be natives?”

“Why not?” Asks Zarkor.

“But I thought this was a virgin planet. Isn’t that why you and Zerak bought it?”

“Well…there may be virgins here alright, but we’ll deal with them when the time comes.”

Cloney sets down the bundle and contemplates the dark, forbidding and seemingly impenetrable forest in front of him. “How are we going to keep from getting lost in there, Zarkor?” He asks. “We’ll have to have some way of finding this beach again. Did you bring a compass?”

Still majestically peering into the forest, Zarkor answers reassuringly, “Don’t worry, Cloney, by the time this exploration is over, we’ll know this continent like…um…like I know my membranes. I’m going to draw a map as we go. How can we get lost in an unexplored continent? Besides, I’m an expert map-maker.” Zarkor’s eyes glaze over, “Now, where did I put that pencil?”

Cloney dutifully picks up his heavy parcel again and waits for Zarkor’s command to begin the expedition, but Zarkor hesitates again, contemplating the mysterious forest that lies ahead. He turns to Cloney. “Umm…maybe we should explore this beach first. We don’t want to ignore any aspect of this continent.”

Cloney looks around. “But, this beach isn’t much bigger than the boat, Zarkor. Besides, what’s there to explore? It’s all just sand.”

Zarkor gazes at the small patch of sand around him, then at the vast surrounding forest. “Umm…I’ve decided we’ll spend the night here and get a fresh start in the morning. I want to write a letter to Zerak anyway, letting him know we’ve arrived safely. Set up the tent and put your bedroll in it. I’m going to spend the night in my cabin in the ship. I wouldn’t want any big sea monster or anything to sneak up on us. You stand guard here and let me know if anything happens. See you later.”
With that, Zarkor hurriedly hovers back to the boat, leaving Cloney alone on the beach.

Cloney dutifully assembles the tent, drifts inside and settles into his bedroll as darkness begins to close around him. Cloney soon becomes sleepy, listening to the water softly lapping onto the beach and the night sounds of the forest. Suddenly Cloney is startled to alertness by a sound he doesn’t recognize. “Zarkor, is that you?” he asks tentatively, peering out through the tent flaps. But Zarkor is comfortably asleep in his bunk in the ship.

Cloney cautiously exits the tent and looks around. He hears the sound again. He tries to peer into the darkness, but cannot see anything definite. Soon all is quiet, and Cloney once again becomes drowsy. At last he hovers back into the tent, snuggles into his bedroll and falls fast asleep.

The next morning Zarkor awakes and drifts drowsily to the beach where he finds Cloney looking carefully at the sand around the campsite. “Loose something?” Zarkor asks, and yawns.

Cloney jumps. “Oh, it’s you Zarkor. No, but look at this!”

Zarkor drifts closer and examines what Cloney has been looking at. “Looks like footprints!” Zarkor exclaims. “What made them?”

“I don’t know,” Cloney answers, hovering about the tent. “I didn’t see anything last night, but I did hear a noise before I went to bed.”

“You went to bed?” asks Zarkor. “I thought you were going to stand guard!”

“I have to sleep sometime, Zarkor,” Cloney replies. “Anyway, what do you make of these tracks?”

“Hmm…” Zarkor mumbles, examining the depressions in the sand. “What ever it was, it had feet.”

“Obviously,” agrees Cloney.

Zarkor ponders various implications of the footprints. “Footprints, hmmm…whatever made these, it’s clearly an inferior species. All inferior species’ have feet, Cloney, and hands, too. Well, sometimes they have tentacles; then again there are creatures like the Cameoleopards which have…”

“Zarkor,” Cloney interrupts, “maybe we shouldn’t go into the forest just yet. Maybe we should scout the coastline, you know, you could make a map of that first. Did you find your pencil?”

“No, Cloney, we’re going to investigate this,” Zarkor insists. “Discovering new and mysterious species is one of the reasons we’re here! It’s probably a little furry animal that made these tracks. You know how much I like little furry animals. Maybe we could catch one and make it a pet! I’m getting tired of that Xlanthropod anyway. Keeping the most dangerous animal in the Galaxy for a pet has prestige, but little else. It’s annoying the way it keeps burrowing through the superstructure of our Lightship. By the way, how good are you at patching holes in neutronic-carbon nano-structures?”

“Listen, Zarkor,” Cloney says, ignoring Zarkor’s question. “What if this creature is dangerous?”

“It didn’t bother you last night, did it?” Zarkor replies. Zarkor looks from the mysterious footprints to the deep forest ahead. “In any case, since you’ve been such a capable second mate, I’ll carry the bundle of supplies for a while. You can lead the expedition into the forest for now. I’ll follow up behind and keep a look-out from the rear. Come on, take down the tent and let’s go.”

Cloney disassembles the tent, and rather roughly stacks it on top of Zarkor’s cumbersome bundle. Lead by Cloney, the little expedition cautiously enters the forest, boldly going where no superior species has gone before.

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5c043da9f2f3a_Boating5a.jpg.4c92c27ff82b806604ced964fe56fee7.jpg"Boating" The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak - Chapter Five

Leaving the beach behind them and entering the forest, Zarkor and Cloney are soon enclosed in its thick foliage. Tall trees loom overhead, streamers of light filter down through their broad leaves. The forest floor is gloomy as the two little adventurers slowly drift on, cautiously peering this way and that for any unexpected danger.
After a few hours, Zarkor says, “Let’s stop here, Cloney, I’m tired. How you talked me into carrying all this heavy equipment I’ll never know. I’m supposed to be the leader of this expedition; you’re just my helper. Let’s not forget that.” Zarkor sets down the bundle and looks around. “This forest is stupid, Cloney. Every place looks like every other place. How are we supposed to know which way to go?”
Cloney looks at Zarkor. “Maybe if you’d brought a compass we’d know where we are,” he complains. “I have no idea which way is back to the beach.”
“Don’t worry, Cloney pal,” Zarkor says in a reassuring tone. “My intuition is working overtime. Besides, I have my Dumb Luck Brain Implant to guide us. Let’s just rest here a while.” Zarkor fumbles through the bundle and pulls out a package. “Want some pastries?”
“We can’t survive on pastries and Cheese Doodles, Zarkor,” Cloney complains. “I wish you’d brought some real food.”
“I think there’s some slime eels left,” Zarkor offers cheerfully.
“No there aren’t," Cloney says, annoyed.  "You’ve been munching on them since we entered this forest, remember?” Cloney settles down on the forest floor and looks around. “Funny we haven’t seen any animals yet. I wonder where that creature that made those footprints is.”
“Probably we scared it away,” Zarkor suggests. “Anyway, this forest is too thick for animals. Animals like wide open spaces. You can depend on my knowledge of alien species. I’m one of the greatest authorities on animal life in the Galaxy, Cloney.”
“I wish you were an authority on where we are, Zarkor,” Cloney declares unhappily, trying to peer through the foliage. “I wonder how big this forest is.”
“Why don’t you drift up over the treetops and have a look?” suggests Zarkor.
“You’re afraid of heights, remember?” Cloney replies.
“Just because you’re my clone, Cloney, doesn’t mean we’re the same in everything. Zoom up there and see what’s around.”
Cloney lets out a sigh. “I can’t, Zarkor, I’m too tired. I’m used to chores, not drifting for hours on end through thick underbrush.”
“Take heart, Cloney,” Zarkor says in a reassuring voice. “In a few weeks you’ll be used to long drifts. Here, have a cup cake.”
After a good rest, the expedition begins again, this time Zarkor leading and Cloney carrying the heavy bundle of supplies.
Later that afternoon, they come to a clearing. Cloney throws down his heavy load and descends to the forest floor. Zarkor hovers around the clearing, looking about.
Cloney studies the ground around him “Look here, Zarkor!” he shouts, “There are footprints all around here!”
Zarkor rushes to Cloney’s side and inspects the depressions. “The same as on the beach! And look at this! These stones here! They look like they’ve been put here on purpose! I think we’re on to something, Cloney! This continent is inhabited!”
“Yes,” Cloney replies, “but inhabited by what?”
“Inferior species, no doubt,” Zarkor says knowingly. He looks around tentatively. “I wonder if they’re friendly.”
“We’ll soon find out,” Cloney says. “Look! We’re surrounded!”
Out of the edges of the clearing stand many creatures of an indeterminate species. Tall and slim, humanoid looking, dressed in rough clothing and moving cautiously. They soon gather in a circle around our two intrepid explorers, observing them with curiosity.
“What do we do now, Zarkor?” Cloney asks anxiously.
“Find the Death Ray pistol!” Zarkor shouts. But too late, as one of the creatures reaches down and seizes the bundle.
Zarkor rises to face the creature and shots out, “Hey! Leave that alone! That’s ours! You guys watch out, we’re a superior species! You can get in a lot of trouble stealing from us!”
The creatures are taken aback momentarily by Zarkor’s loud speech. They then come closer and look at Zarkor and Cloney more carefully. There is the sound of discussion among them in an unknown language, as if they are trying to decide what kind of strange animal our friends are.
Zarkor, hovering close to Cloney, speaks again to the natives. “Listen you, don’t try anything funny! I own this planet, so you’re just a bunch of my tenants!”
“I don’t think they understand you, Zarkor,” Cloney says, frightened. “How are we going to communicate with them?!”
“Stupid inferior species,” Zarkor mutters disparagingly. “They don’t even understand Standard Galactica!”
”Yeah,” agrees Cloney. “And we can’t use sign language either!”
The creatures now gather closer still and begin to beckon Zarkor and Cloney to move out of the clearing and onto a path at one side. Our intrepid explorers have no choice but to drift in that direction, surrounded by the tall natives. Following the pathway, they soon come to a village of primitive huts. The creatures coax them along to a large hut in the center of the village.
The natives, giving a gentle push, Zarkor and Cloney drift cautiously through an opening on one side of the hut and find themselves facing a green Humanoid sitting on a wicker chair at the far end of the hut, a cool-looking drink in his hand. “Come in friends and welcome!” the Humanoid cries out. “I had expected you sooner! Come, sit here by me! Do not fear, you are among friends! The Yonis are harmless, they are peaceful creatures. I am Slog, defender of the Ancient Realm of Gog!”
Zarkor and Cloney drift closer to the strange creature. Zarkor looks at Slog up and down. “You’re not an Earthling are you?” He asks in trepidation.
“Heavens no!” Slog answers in disgust. “But it is said that in ancient times our race interbred with those nasty creatures, thus our hominid appearance. This has been to our eternal shame as honorable residents of the Galaxy!”
“I can well understand,” says Zarkor, moving closer. “There are very good reasons Earth has been on the list of restricted planets for thousands of Time Periods.”
“Yes, and thankfully so” says Slog. “Now, you must tell me what brings you to my humble abode.”
Zarkor looks Slog in the eyes. “Well, see, actually this is my humble abode, as I own this planet.”
“You own this planet?” Slog says, taken aback.
“Yes. See, me and Zerak bought it a while back,” Zarkor replies proudly. “Me and Cloney here are exploring the Next Continent, which is here, so this is my turf, so to speak.” Zarkor, considering the point settled, turns his attention to the interior of Slog’s primitive hut. “You don’t have much of an abode, have you?”
Slog gives a cursory glance around him. “It is primitive, I admit, and depending on these Yonis for food and shelter, well, it’s the best I can do for now. Would you like some food, my friends? I’m sure you’re hungry from you long journey."
“Please,” Cloney says with enthusiasm, drifting up before Slog. “All we’ve eaten all day is pastries and cup cakes.” Cloney gives a disparaging look at Zarkor.
“We can eat later, Cloney,” Zarkor says, dismissing Cloney’s comment. He then looks at Slog. “Listen Slog, we’re going to partake of a night’s rest here in your village. You will supply us with food and drink sufficient to our needs and comfortable beds for us to sleep on. Oh, a few natives as servants, and don’t wake me early in the morning.” Zarkor turnes to Cloney. “You get everything ready while I rest for a while. And don’t forget to bring me Teddy. You know I can’t sleep without Teddy.”
Zarkor now turns back and addresses Slog. “It’s tiresome leading a great expedition like mine into uncharted territory, even when it all belongs to me anyway. I don’t suppose you could provide slime eels for dinner. Well, the best you have will do. And like I said, don’t wake me too early. Well, wake Cloney early, so he can make sure breakfast is prepared correctly. Cloney, I think there’s a bottle of Flavorian flavored soda pop in the bundle. See if you can round up some ice and bring it to me after my nap.”
Zarkor looks vaguely into the distance for a moment. “I guess that’s all I’ll need, for now anyway, Slog. If I think of something else I’ll send Cloney to you. Well, let’s get a move on, I’m getting sleepier by the minute.”
Slog leans back in his wicker chair, a sly smile on his face. “You don’t understand, my friends, you’re my prisoners, not my guests! You have trespassed on the Ancient Realm of Glog! Your so called ownership of this planet holds no authority here. You shall be confined to the prisoner’s hut until I proclaim your punishment for trespassing, and I am afraid your punishment shall be severe. And you won’t have time for breakfast, at dawn your sentence will be decided and carried out. Have you anything to say for yourselves?”
Zarkor and Cloney look at each other in distress, and then back at Slog. “The Realm of Glog?” Zarkor shouts out in contempt. “What nonsense

“Oh, I just said we were friends, I didn’t really mean it,” Slog says, smiling.
Cloney pipes up. “Listen fella, it’s not nice to lie to someone! You’d better be nice to us! Like Zarkor says, he owns this place and he’s no one to fool with! Show him the deed, Zarkor!”
Zarkor glances at Cloney. “Um, you’ll find the deed in the files of the Galactic Real Estate Records Bureau on Nimonur Nine. You’d better go there and check first before you start sentencing people right and left!”
Slog leans forward on his wicker chair, giving Zarkor a harsh stare. “Your Galactic laws mean nothing here! This is my domain as far as the eye can see! My authority has been handed down from father to son for untold generations! Before the Galactic Council even existed, the Realm of Glog was already an ancient dominion! All trespassers will be prosecuted. That’s the law.”
“Trespassers?” Cloney says, “Is that all we’ve done? But how were we to know?”
“You didn’t notice the ‘No Trespassing’ signs?!” Slog says. “They’re posted conspicuously all around. I can’t imagine you’re not noticing them. They’re yellow with big red letters.”
Zarkor and Cloney exchange glances. “No trespassing signs? In the middle of a forest?” Cloney says in disbelief. “That’s ridiculous! We didn’t see any signs, did we Zarkor.”
“No, and even if we had, I own this planet!” Zarkor shouts, bobbing up and down angrily. “Get that through your stupid green head! So I own you and these natives and your stupid Realm of Gog, whatever that’s supposed to be, and your stupid signs and everything!”
Slog considers this calmly. “Even so, you two are in my power. My minions hold you captive.” Slog leans forward, “Try to escape! You would not get far in this vast forest, believe me. My natives know every inch.”
Zarkor looks around at the natives gathered behind him. “You think these puny creatures could stop us from escaping?! Bah! We allowed them to bring us here for archeological research, didn’t we Cloney!” Zarkor turns back to Slog. “And say, how do you know Standard Galactica, anyway? Just who are you, really?”
“I am Slog, of untold generations of…”
“Yeah, we heard all the before,” Cloney says in contempt. “You’re not from here at all. Just why are you on this planet?”
“That’s none of your business,” Slog says. “You’re not from here either, my friends. It seems we both dwell on foreign ground.” Slog turns to one of the natives. “Chaka! Take these prisoners to the prison hut!”
Natives gather around Zarkor and Cloney and escort them outside. Drifting toward another hut in the village, Cloney turns to Zarkor. “Why don’t we just drift up and away? We could escape easily.”
“Because I want to find out what’s going on here, Cloney, that’s why,” is Zarkor’s answer.
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Boating” - The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak – Chapter Six

Zarkor and Cloney are brought to a primitive hut and are pushed in by the natives. Inside the prisoner’s hut, Zarkor and Cloney huddle together anxiously…

Well, what now, Zarkor?” Cloney asks nervously, looking around the bare interior.

Zarkor thinks for a moment. “Tell you what, Cloney, I’m going to go to sleep, you stand guard for a while, then you sneak out and scout around. When you come back, wake me up and tell me what you’ve discovered...if it’s not too early in the morning. Better yet, just let me sleep, you can fill me in after I wake up.” With that, Zarkor begins to settle down for a much needed rest.

Wait a minute, Zarkor,” Cloney exclaims, “I need sleep, too!”

Zarkor continues to make himself comfortable. “I know that, Cloney, pal, you can sleep later, don’t worry about it. See, we’ve got to find out what’s going on around here. Oh, and while you’re out, try to find our bundle and get the Death Ray pistol...and a cup cake…if there’s any left.” Zarkor yawns.

But there’s a native guard at the door, Zarkor, how am I going to get past him?”

Zarkor closes his eyes, already beginning to drift into a deep slumber. After another yawn, he says with some effort, “You don’t go that way. Look up, there’s an opening in the roof of the hut. Just drift up. Stay high in the air and nobody will notice you.”

Cloney peers upward. “I don’t know if I have the strength to hover up, Zarkor. I’m tired and sleepy.”

Zarkor opens his eyes slightly. “Nonsense, Cloney, you’re me, right? You know how strong I am at hovering and how much stamina I have. And besides, this may be our only chance to find out what’s going on around here. If you do this you can have an extra pastry.”

Cloney reluctantly consents to the plan, and dutifully drifts up and out of the hole in the roof of the hut. Satisfied that Cloney is doing his duty, Zarkor quickly falls into a peaceful sleep.

Sometime later, Cloney returns, drifting down, and settles before Zarkor.

Zarkor,” Cloney whispers, “wake up.”

Zarkor stirs uneasily. “Zerak is that you?’ He mumbles. “Is it lunch time already?”

No Zarkor, it’s Cloney. Wake up.”

Huh, whah?” Zarkor looks around drowsily and sees Cloney sitting beside him. “Oh, it’s you, Cloney,” he says. “You back already? What did you discover? Did you bring the cup cakes What time is it?”

I’ve been gone for hours, Zarkor,” Cloney says, a little annoyed. “I hope you enjoyed you rest, and I didn’t bring any cup cakes. I’ve got more important news. This Slog character, he’s stealing brains!”

Zarkor sits up a little at this comment. “Stealing brains, what do you mean?”

He’s got this hidden underground laboratory, and it’s full of brains!”

Zarkor thinks for a moment, shaking off his drowsiness. “Let me get this straight, Cloney, Slog has an underground laboratory full of brains? Is that what you said?”

Yes!” Cloney answers. “I hovered about for a while looking around the village, but nothing was going on. I guess all the natives were asleep. Then I cautiously drifted into Slog’s hut. He wasn’t there, but there was a stairway behind his wicker chair leading into the ground! I carefully drifted down, and what do you think I saw?!”

Zarkor waits for the answer. Cloney stares at Zarkor expectantly. “Well, alright, what did you see?!” Zarkor demands.

I just told you, a laboratory full of brains! Weren’t you listening?”

Cloney,” Zarkor says, “calm down a little. Let’s think this out. Can you describe in detail what you saw?”

Yeah,” Cloney begins anxiously. “There were all these bottles everywhere, and in each bottle was a brain! They were all connected by wires and stuff to some big kind of gadget or something. I don’t know what it was, but it had all these dials and view screens and switches on it and stuff. I hid in a corner, and pretty soon Slog came in and began moving around making adjustments and examining the connections and writing down notes. He was so busy he didn’t notice me. I watched for a while, and when he went behind some tables with brains on them, I scooted out and came back here. What is he doing, Zarkor?”

Hmm…,” Zarkor mutters. “I don’t know yet, but I think I have a clue to what’s going to happen to us in the morning.”

Cloney nods in agreement “Yeah, that’s what I thought. I don’t want my brain to end up inside a bottle on a table in Slog’s lab, Zarkor. Let’s get out of here.”

Zarkor is sitting up straight now. “No, Cloney, we’ve got to investigate this. I don’t suppose you found our bundle?”

I forgot about that, Zarkor. I’m too nervous to eat right now, anyway.”

I mean the Death Ray pistol, Cloney. Let me think.” Zarkor eyes Cloney thoughtfully for a moment, then says, “My intuition tells me that Slog would only want one of our brains, Cloney. Since you’re my clone and your brain is the same as mine, hmm… If I’m right, and I usually am, that means in the morning one of us will not have his brain removed and put in a bottle.” Zarkor looks more intently at Cloney. “Since my brain is the original, I think Slog will choose your brain, Cloney. That would be more logical. How do you feel about that, pal?”

I’m not donating my brain to Slog, Zarkor!” Cloney says defiantly.

No, no, that’s not the plan. You just pretend to donate your brain. Then I’ll get all enthusiastic about the idea, and we’ll go with Slog to his lab, and I’ll stall and stall and find out what Slog is doing with all these brains, and before Slog has a chance to suck the you-know-what out of your skull, we’ll make our move!”

Now it’s Cloney’s turn to cast an eye on Zarkor. He slowly drifts away a little. “I’m not sure I like your plan, Zarkor,” he says cautiously. “I mean, it sounds a little dangerous. Especially for me. I’ve followed your plans before, Zarkor, and they never worked out like you said they would. This is my brain we’re talking about here; I don’t want it to end up in a jar looking out at you and “Don’t worry, Cloney,” Zarkor says in a reassuring tone, “my intuition is infallible, and don’t forget my Dumb Luck Implant. What could go wrong?”

What could go wrong?!” Cloney says nervously. “Listen Zarkor, if your plan doesn’t work, Zerak will never forgive you. Think about that.”

Zarkor hesitates for a moment, then regains his confidence. “You think I’d sacrifice your life for mine, Cloney?” Zarkor says with as much sincerity as he can muster. “Don’t be ridiculous! Besides, then who’d do the chores around the house when I get home? Let’s get some sleep. Don’t worry, your brain is in good hands…er…well, you know what I mean.”

With that, Zarkor settles down again and immediately falls into a pleasant sleep. Cloney drifts back and leans his head against the hut’s straw wall, an apprehensive look on his face.

Soon dawn breaks on the little village. Zarkor and Cloney wake to hear shuffling feet outside their hut. A native appears at the opening and gestures for them to come out. Outside in the gathering light, Zarkor and Cloney find Slog standing before a group of natives.

Slog looks at his prisoners. ”My friends, it is time to face your punishment!” He says with a satisfied expression.

Um, what exactly will be our punishment?” Zarkor asks, glancing at Cloney.

You two will be executed, of course,” Slog says casually. “Have you any last words?”

Yes, Slog, I have,” Zarkor begins. “Technically, since myself and Cloney are the same, I think the legality of the situation is to execute only one of us. Cloney is my clone, you understand.”

Hmm, I wasn’t aware of this,” Slog says thoughtfully. “This peculiar circumstance requires some consideration." Slog thinks for a moment. "Possibly you are correct. But if this is the case, which one of you shall I execute?”

Zarkor drifts away from the hut a little and addresses Slog. “As I am the original, I should be the one preserved. Don’t you agree?”

Slog considers this. “An excellent choice, my friend,” Slog says happily. “You, Zarkor, shall be preserved. Cloney, as you are the copy, you shall be set free. Now, Zarkor, if you will drift this way, the execution shall proceed.”

Wait! Wait!” Zarkor exclaims excitedly. “That’s not what I meant! I mean Cloney should be the one executed! I’m too important to be executed! Besides, you wouldn’t like my brain! You don’t know all the stupid things it does! Ask anybody!”

Nevertheless, you shall be the one preserved,” Slog insists, and moves close to Zarkor. “You see, I have heard of you, Zarkor, and your exploits throughout the Galaxy. You are sort of a hero in spite of yourself. Even through your stupidity, or perhaps because of it, you have saved the Galaxy from evil villains many times, though these deeds defy any rational explanation.”

Slog moves a little closer to Zarkor and gazes at him intently. “You have a most unusual brain, my friend. Perhaps the most unique in all the Galaxy.” Slog peers even closer, then shakes his head in some disbelief. “I don’t know how you do what you’ve done, my friend. It contradicts all logic. For this very reason, you may become the centerpiece of my work here, Zarkor. The key to my success! Your brain may go down in history as the most significant brain ever analyzed! Just think how famous that will make you, friend!”

But I’m already famous!” Zarkor pleads, bobbing up and down in agitation. “I don’t want more fame; I want my brain to stay where it is!” Zarkor glances at Cloney. “Cloney, quick! Tell him about all the stupid stuff I do!”

Cloney is about to spew out all the numerous stupidities Zarkor has committed when Slog intervenes by saying, “Come, Chaka, escort the condemned prisoner to the execution compound!”

Yes, Slog, I have,” Zarkor begins. “Technically, since myself and Cloney are the same, I think the legality of the situation is to execute only one of us. Cloney is my clone, you understand.”

Hmm, I wasn’t aware of this,” Slog says thoughtfully. “This peculiar circumstance requires some consideration." Slog thinks for a moment. "Possibly you are correct. But if this is the case, which one of you shall I execute?”

Zarkor drifts away from the hut a little and addresses Slog. “As I am the original, I should be the one preserved. Don’t you agree?”

Slog considers this. “An excellent choice, my friend,” Slog says happily. “You, Zarkor, shall be preserved. Cloney, as you are the copy, you shall be set free. Now, Zarkor, if you will drift this way, the execution shall proceed.”

Wait! Wait!” Zarkor exclaims excitedly. “That’s not what I meant! I mean Cloney should be the one executed! I’m too important to be executed! Besides, you wouldn’t like my brain! You don’t know all the stupid things it does! Ask anybody!”

Nevertheless, you shall be the one preserved,” Slog insists, and moves close to Zarkor. “You see, I have heard of you, Zarkor, and your exploits throughout the Galaxy. You are sort of a hero in spite of yourself. Even through your stupidity, or perhaps because of it, you have saved the Galaxy from evil villains many times, though these deeds defy any rational explanation.”

Slog moves a little closer to Zarkor and gazes at him intently. “You have a most unusual brain, my friend. Perhaps the most unique in all the Galaxy.” Slog peers even closer, then shakes his head in some disbelief. “I don’t know how you do what you’ve done, my friend. It contradicts all logic. For this very reason, you may become the centerpiece of my work here, Zarkor. The key to my success! Your brain may go down in history as the most significant brain ever analyzed! Just think how famous that will make you, friend!”

But I’m already famous!” Zarkor pleads, bobbing up and down in agitation. “I don’t want more fame; I want my brain to stay where it is!” Zarkor glances at Cloney. “Cloney, quick! Tell him about all the stupid stuff I do!”

Cloney is about to spew out all the numerous stupidities Zarkor has committed when Slog intervenes by saying, “Come, Chaka, escort the condemned prisoner to the execution compound!”

As Zarkor is dejectedly lead away, Cloney, it must be said, is a little relieved. He watches as Zarkor, surrounded by the natives, drifts anxiously toward his execution, lead by Slog.

Cloney slows his drifting and lets the little procession move ahead, a new plan developing in his cloned brain.


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Boating “- The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak - Chapter Seven


Zarkor is being escorted to Slog’s execution compound, being held down by the natives. They arrive at a walled-in area with a complex and hideous- looking machine at its center. Slog peers at the machine with a loving expression on his face. He explains: “Zarkor my friend, here you see my patented brain extraction device. It’s very simple in operation. You sit here in this chair, the mechanical arm covers your head and effortlessly and painlessly your brain is extracted from your skull." Slog smiles down at his machine. "Simple, isn’t it?”

Zarkor glances hesitantly at the machine, then turns to Slog. “Very nice,” he says. “I think we should talk this over first, though, Slog. I mean, I think you’ll be disappointed in my brain. It’s got me in a lot of trouble, and I’m not so sure you’d be happy with it.”

Slog, still gazing in admiration at his machine, ignores Zarkor’s comments. “Of course you are kept alive during the operation so that the organ remains active, then your brain is carefully placed here in this glass container for further examination.”

Zarkor finally looses his temper and confronts Slog. “You can’t do this, Slog! I have powerful friends, when they hear about this you’ll be sorry! And besides, I’d be more valuable to you with my brain where it is! I’m a brilliant scientist, in case you didn’t know; I could help you in your research!” Zarkor then adds hopefully, “Want to hear some of my Theories?”

Slog, who has turned away from Zarkor and has been making careful adjustments to the apparatus during Zarkor’s diatribe, now pauses and turns back to Zarkor. He says casually, “I suppose I could use an assistant. These natives are no help at all. If it wasn’t for their gullible complicity I don’t think I’d tolerate them at all.”

Yeah, that’s right, Slog,” Zarkor says hopefully, “my brain is too valuable to be put in a bottle. I’ve had various enhancements and improvements installed, like my Dumb Luck Implant. I’d make a great assistant!”

Slog turns back to his adjustments, seemingly having dismissed Zarkor as an assistant idea. “Hmm…By the way, where’s Cloney?” He asks absently.

Zarkor looks around. “I don’t know, he was here a minute ago. But listen Slog…”

Slog glances over his shoulder at Zarkor. “No, all this talk isn’t helping. I think I’ll execute you after all. Your brain would be much more valuable to me in a bottle. In fact, yours may be the last brain I’ll need.” Slog straightens up and stares into a vague distance. “With your unusual brain, my experiments may finally be completed! My life’s work fulfilled!” Slog re-focuses and turns to Zarkor. With a gesture he says, “Sit here, my friend, in front of the machine. And don’t worry, it will only hurt for a little while, then you’ll feel no pain for the rest of your life!”

Promptly, the natives push Zarkor into the chair and strap him down. Above him a claw shaped arm with spinning knives begins to lower horribly over Zarkor’s head, motors humming, gears spinning. As the claw draws closer and closer to poor Zarkor’s skull, Zarkor cries out. “Stop! Stop, Slog! It is impossible to do this. It is impossible for you to remove my brain!”

At this, Slog idles down the mechanism and turns his attention to Zarkor’s words.

Listen Slog,” Zarkor begins in his usual sly fashon, “you say you built this brain-extracting machine yourself, right? Well, you didn’t build it!” Slog looks a little confused at this statement. Zarkor continues, “This is all a figment of your imagination, Slog! Look, any blueprints you have discovered are only a virtual description of that which they describe, and therefore there can be no physical relationship inherent in the depiction! This machine cannot exist! This is just a figment of your deluded imagination, Slog! You have never built this machine and you have never extracted a brain! Your laboratory is empty, only your delusions exist!”

Slog considers this dubiously. “I suppose this is one of your famous theories, Zarkor?” He asks rather sarcastically. “This is not a very convincing argument.”

Zarkor thinks fast. “Umm…where did you get the instructions to build this machine, Slog?”

Well, from an old issue of Popular Galactic Mechanics Magazine."

I thought so,” says Zarkor contemptuously. “That rag has been discredited by the Galactic Engineering Society for years as a bogus source of useless inventions and pseudo-scientific speculations! You couldn’t build a functioning brain-extraction machine from that phony crowd. You should know that! Your delusions have gotten the better of you, Slog! You need help!”

Slog steps back and considers this. “Well…but I can see this machine right here beside me! I can touch it! I know it exists! My laboratory is full of brains!”

This just proves how delusional you are, Slog,” Zarkor insists. “By your own words you have condemned yourself! I see no machine here and neither do your natives. Just ask them,” Zarkor demands confidently, being carried away somewhat by his own rhetoric.

Slog turns to the natives and looks them over. He speaks something to them in their own language, then turns back to Zarkor. “There!” Slog says. “The natives say the machine is real! They can see it!”

Mass hallucinations,” Zarkor says calmly, shaking his head in disdain. “It’s a simple example of transference. You’ve transferred your delusions to these poor stupid creatures. Simple psychology. Why don’t we sit down in some quiet place and I’ll analyze your distressed mental condition. Here, untie me.” Zarkor struggles with the restraints. “Probably a result of a traumatic childhood,” he continues, twisting about in a vain effort to loosen the ropes. “As you may know, I’m a trained professional psychological specialist.” In one vain attempt to drift out of his confinement, he adds, “Want to hear my Theory on sexual deviations in the species Celeopheidese?”

Unable to wriggle free, Zarkor dejectedly slouches back and looks at Slog expectantly. Slog looks at Zarkor, furrowing his brows as if he were not quite sure he wants Zrkor’s brain after all. There is an uncomfortable pause in the conversation.

Auspiciously at that very moment, Cloney swoops down from high above and lands rather clumsily on the ground between Zarkor and Slog. “Slog!” He shouts, righting himself and regaining his hover. “Listen to me! I have placed a fusion explosive device in your laboratory! And here is the detonator!” A small black object floats before him. “Release Zarkor or I will blow up your machine and destroy all the brains you have so meticulously collected!”

Slog turns furiously to Zarkor. “You have deceived me! I am not delusional! This machine is real, as are my brains! You will pay dearly for your cunning treachery, my friend! Let the brain-extraction begin!” Slog pushes a large red button on his diabolical machine, and the horrible metal blades begin to spin and flash as they inexorably descend closer and closer to Zarkor’s trembling blue-green head.

Zarkor turns to Cloney in terror. “Cloney! Use the remote!”

Cloney turns to Zarkor, then to Slog. “It’s not a real remote, Zarkor!” Cloney cries out apologetically. “It’s just something I fashioned from our last chocolate cup cake to look like a remote!”

Cloney!...My brain!” Are the last words poor Zarkor is able to articulate before the ghastly blades begin their gruesome task, burrowing deep into poor Zarkor’s skull.

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"Boating" - The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak - Cchapter Eight

Cloney watches helplessly from the roof of a distant hut as Zarkor's brain is about to be plucked from inside his skull. There is nothing he can do to help poor Zarkor, there are too many natives on guard.

Slowly, meticulously and horribly, the blades of Slog’s vile brain extracting machine descend nearer and nearer to Zarkor's skull. Zarkor struggles in his bonds but is unable to set himself free. Finally, with a sense of dreadful inevitability, Zarkor’s body stiffens in inexorable and hopeless anticipation of his terrifying and grisly fate.

The machine’s spinning surgical blades inch closer and begin to incise the top of Zarkor’s head, ghastly removing enough bone to expose his moist, living brain beneath. Then the whirling blades slow and withdraw, and a claw-like mandible appears and carefully surrounds the brain, severing it gently from its spinal chord and lifting it neatly out of Zarkor's brain case. Zarkor's eyes, at first enlarging in deathly stare, slowly dim and recede into their sockets. Zarkor's body goes limp as his brain is lifted clear of his skull.

Slog leaves the controls of the machine and rushes to the glass jar full of murky liquid, picks it up and carries it to the newly suspended brain. Slowly and carefully the machine's arm moves to a position above the container and lowers Zarkor's brain into the glass container.

"Success!" Slog cries out to no one in particular, a gruesome smile on his face, and walks quickly out of the enclosure, leaving the startled natives behind, and moves toward his hut, carefully carrying the jar before him to decend into his laboratory beneath his hut..

Coney, horrified at the sight, rushes over the huts to Zarkor's side, his limp body sagging on the chair under the now silent machine. "Zarkor, oh Zarkor!” Cloney cries out in tears as he carefully unties Zarkor's wilted body. He lifts it and holds it close, turns and carries it miserably to Slog's hut. Descending into Slog's laboratory, he eases Zarkor’s seeming lifeless body gently down into a chair.

Slog, busily connecting Zarkor's brain to his equipment, is unaware of Cloney’s entrance. "Slog!" Cloney demands, "Give me Zarkor's brain!"

Slog turns momentarily from his work. "It is right here, my friend, in this container." Slog places the jar carefully on a shelf. "Not to worry, Cloney. Zarkor's brain is alive and well. We'll soon be able to communicate with it. Allow me to continue with my connections, please." Slog returns to his work.

"But Slog!" Cloney pleads, indicating Zarkor's slumped body. "Look what you have done!"

Slog turns to Cloney once more. "Do not fear my friend; I have saved Zarkor for eternity! Zarkor will never die! With his brain I will unite his mind and all these other minds into an everlasting synthesis! The greatest intellect in the Galaxy! With the intellectual capacity of millions of trillions of neural pathways, I shall rule the Universe!"

"But what will happen to Zarkor's brain?!" Cloney demands.

Slog replies, "These brains you see here on these shelves are the ones that have not yet been assimilated, including your friend Zarkor's." Slog turns and stares at the remaining jars. "Give me an hour or so and I'll have finished with them as well."

Cloney drifts closer to Slog in desperation. "What about after you've assimilated Zarkor's brain?" He asks fearfully, “what then?!

Slog waves a nonchalant dismissal. "It will be destroyed with all the others, of course, as it will be of no further use to me. The synthesis will be complete and assimilated here in this device." Slog indicates the contrivance with the dials and switches. He then turns away, as if deep in private thoughts.

"But you can't destroy Zarkor's brain!" Cloney shouts wildly. "What you're doing is horrid and is against the Primary Law of the Supreme Council! No intelligence shall be greater than that of the most highly developed species of the Galaxy! Do you not remember the terrible Robot Wars?! We Bios narrowly defeated the Cyberoids! You cannot do this!"

"Bah!" Slog exclaims. "What do I care of the Supreme Council! All species shall bow down before me! I shall rule!"

Cloney catches his breath and motions to Zarkor's body. "Here, Slog, I have brought you Zarkor's body. If you can preserve his brain you must preserve his body, too!"

Slog glances over at Zarkor lying limp in the chair. "I have no need for that useless thing. Take it away."

"I won't!" Cloney cries out. "Unless you preserve his body, I will alert the Supreme Council of your dastardly experiments!"

"Bosh," Slog says. "By the time you alert the Supreme Council I'd have my super brain in working order and outsmart any plan your puny Council could devise!"

Cloney looks around the laboratory quickly and spies a large jar full of fluid on a shelf. Swiftly he suspends it to the floor, raises Zarkor's body and submerges it into the jar of dark liquid.

Slog turns to Cloney. "What are you doing?!" he demands. "I was saving that jar for a really big brain!"

"Too late, Slog!" Shouts Cloney, who now rushes at Slog, knocking him down with the force of his body. Cloney then suspends the jar with Zarkor's brain and the jar with Zarkor's body precariously before him, drifts quickly out of Slogs laboratory, through Slog's hut and into the village outside. "If I can only make it to the boat I can escape and save Zarkor!" Cloney exclaims to himself.

He pauses momentarily, not sure of which direction to drift. Slog appears breathlessly out of his hut shouting to the natives. Quickly Cloney is surrounded, but with heroic effort he rises high above the natives with his burdens, and rapidly drifts out over the village and over the surrounding forest, Slog and the natives shouting and following madly below.

Cloney drifts this way and that among the branches of the tall trees and soon out paces his pursuers. After minutes of flight, his burden becomes too heavy, and he settles down onto the forest floor, listening for sounds of the natives. "I think I've lost them," he says hopefully to himself. "At least for now. But which way to the boat?" He trys to peer through the thick foliage. "If only Zarkor had brought a compass! Intuition, indeed!"

Cloney spies a dense thicket nearby and carries Zarkor and his brain to it where he hopes they will remain safely hidden. Placing the two jars carefully within the thicket, he then drifts high above the tall trees, trying to locate the direction of the ocean. Although they had been traveling for only several days, Cloney and Zarkor had made good progress. Looking quickly in every direction over the forest, far in the distance Cloney finally glimpses a thin line of blue. "There!" Cloney exclaims. "The ocean!" He drifts back down to the thicket and settles next to the precious jars. "It is going to be a difficult task to carry these heavy jars all that way," he says quietly to himself. "I feel weak from my diet of pastries, cup cakes and Cheese Doodles, but I must succeed! Slog and his natives are not going to give up the chase easily."

Resting for the moment, Cloney gathers his strength and courage. Suddenly he hears his pursuers crashing through the underbrush nearby. He gathers the jars to himself and springs out of the thicket, drifting as quickly as he can under his heavy burden toward the ocean, the boat and safety.

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"Boating" - The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak - Chapter Nine

Dashing hurriedly hight above the forest branches, Cloney drifts breathlessly with his precious burdens suspended precariously before him, several times almost loosing them in his struggle to elude his pursuers below. From treetop to treetop he flies, ever keeping watch on the forest floor through the thick foliage of the tall trees.

Still far ahead does he glimpse the ocean, a shining thin blue line on the horizon. Succeeding in evading the natives for the moment, Cloney spies a giant tree ahead. With deft maneuver he glides between the great branches, alighting on a thick limb close to the trunk. Setting Zarkor and his brain carefully down, Cloney breathes a momentary sigh of relief. "I have to rest for a while," he admits to himself, looking at poor Zarkor’s slumped body in his jar of pale liquid. "I'll get you home somehow, my friend," he says heartfully.

After a short rest, Cloney hovers upward and looks around. High over the tall trees, the forest floor far below, he peers this way and that to discover the whereabouts of the natives and Slog. He sees nothing of them. "Maybe they've given up the search," he says hopefully. Looking down at the two jars nestled in the tree below, he murmurs, "I think not, though. Slog will never give up. Zarkor's brain is too valuable to him."

Cloney drifts down and settles against a limb of the tree to rest. Closing his eyes, he falls into a shallow sleep. Suddenly he starts. "I've been asleep!" He exclaims. "But for how long?!" He looks around frightened. Evening seems to be settling on the forest. "I may have to stay here all night," he considers. "I'll never be able to navigate in the dark with only the stars to light my way."

He drifts back down to the limb with the precious jars and carefully listens to the sounds of the forest. He hears nothing but the evening breeze through the leaves around him. "Surely the natives cannot follow me at night. I should be as safe here as anywhere." Making sure the two jars are securely settled against the broad branch, Cloney leans back against the trunk, closing his weary eyes. "I must make the boat tomorrow," he mumbles sleepily. "When I get back home Zerak and I must find a way to place Zarkor's brain back into his body. It would be a horrid fate for him to live his life in that cursed jar!" With that, Cloney descends into a deep but troubled sleep.

When he awakes it is already morning, the sun of the planet shining brightly in a clear blue sky above him through the green leaves of the great tree. Looking around quickly, he sees the two jars still resting safely on their steady branch. Giving a sigh of relief, he gathers them tightly to himself and rises through the branches.

Hovering high above, Cloney spies the blue of the ocean in the distance once more. Drifting as quickly as he can, he heads for the beach and safety. Even carrying his heavy burden, his spirits are heightened in the knowledge that before the day is ended he and Zarkor will land safely in their little boat and soon be voyaging back to their peaceful home.

Several hours pass, and now Cloney can see clearly the shoreline beyond the verge of the trees that mark the beginning of the forest. Moments later he spies the outline of the boat resting quietly on the shore. With even greater effort, Cloney drifts on and on until at last the shore is almost beneath him.

Suddenly he stops in horror. Below him, gathered on the sand are the natives, with Slog lounging comfortably on the bow of the little boat! "Oh, no!" Cloney exclaims to himself. "I should have known!" Quickly retreating to the cover of the forest branches, he lands on a bough, resting the jars on a fork in the tree.

Below, the natives seem to be milling about aimlessly, while Slog sits on the boat keeping an eye them. Slog shouts out something in their native language and they quickly gather around him. Slog slides out of the boat and onto the sand. He talks to the natives, pointing in several directions. His speech concluded, the natives disperse into the nearby forest while Slog walks casually to one end of the beach, where he conceals himself in some underbrush.

"They didn't expect me so soon!" Cloney says with some hope. "Now is my chance! If I can swoop down quickly enough onto the boat I may be able to surprise them and move her off into the water!"

Instantly Cloney is away. Gliding down swiftly with the jars held close, he lands deftly on the deck of the little boat. He carefully lays the jars on the deck and heads for the pilothouse. Meanwhile, Slog is taken by surprise by Cloney's sudden return. He fumbles his way out of the underbrush, calling to the natives.

Cloney is now in the pilothouse hurriedly trying to start the engines before Slog and his minions can reach him. Slowly the fusion engines come to life, only to stall. "Oh, Zarkor!" Cloney exclaimes. "He never does think of maintenance!" Cloney tries again, this time the engines slowly sputter to life. As he waits for the engines to gain full power, Cloney sees Slot running toward the boat.

"Stop! Stop!" Slog is yelling as he runs. "My brain! You can't take my brain!"

Cloney then sees the natives rushing out of the forest and onto the beach. "Come, come!" Slog shouts to them. "Hurry! He is stealing my brain!"

Cloney tries the controls, cursing the engines’ slow awakening. “Come on! Come on!” He shouts in desperation, keeping one eye on Slog and the native’s progress.

Slog has now reached the boat. Holding onto the rail, Slog commands the natives to board and prevent Cloney from departing. The natives dutifully climb onto the bow and swarm into the tiny pilothouse, clutching the struggling Cloney and pulling him out onto the deck. Slog climbs aboard and approaches his captive.

"Your escape is thwarted!" He shouts at Cloney. "You, too, shall now be executed, and you and Zarkor's useless body thrown into the sea from whence you came!" Slog turns to inspect the jar with Zarkor's brain submerged within it. "My brain!" He exclaims with joy. "You are safe with me at last! Now you will join with my other brains, and together we shall rule the universe!"

Cloney, hovering forlornly in the clutches of the natives, cries out in heartbroken grief, "You fiend! Have you neither shame nor pity?! No compassion or mercy for those who live?! How can you be so cruel as to remove the living brain from those innocent of inequity?! Your wickedness shall repay you a thousand fold, Slog! You shall never achieve your evil intent! In the end you shall suffer as you have caused the suffering of others!"

Slog casually brushes off Cloney's just words. "Bah," he retorts and faces Cloney. "The only evil here is you, my friend. You who attempt to steal from me! Criminal!"

As Slog turns again to Zarkor's brain, there is a sound of rushing water in the air. Slog looks about. The sound is coming from the ocean beyond. Cloney struggles free as the natives turn to the sound in surprise. "It's a boat!" Cloney cries out.

In the distance, rushing toward the shore, a speedboat is approaching, its bow a torrent of spraying water as it dashes through the waves.

As the speeding vessel nears, Cloney lets out a yell, "It's Zerak!" He shouts with glee. “We’re saved!”

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"Boating" - The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak - Conclusion


Here is the exciting conclusion to the Boating story.


Zerak! Over here!" Cloney shouts excitedly from the pilot house and breaks free of the startled natives as Zerak's speedboat approaches the beach.

Slog, watching the speedboat rushing toward the shore with apprehension, stoops down and grabs Zarkor's brain jar, turns and leaps out of the little boat. Hitting the beach he stumbles, sprawling onto the sand clutching the precious bottle.

At the same moment, Zerak's speedboat slides furiously onto the sand and stops. Cloney yells out, "Zerak! That creature has Zarkor's brain! Drift down and stop him from escaping!"

Zerak, not quite understanding, looks out at Slog still lying on the sand holding one leg, then drifts quickly out of his boat to Slog's side.

"Get the jar! Get the jar!" Cloney cries from his boat. "It's Zarkor's brain!"

Zerak looks confusedly at the jar Slog is clutching with one arm. "Zarkor's brain?!" He yells back to Cloney.

"Yes!" Cloney shouts in return. "Grab it and bring it to your boat!"

Zerak wrestles with Slog, furiously trying to free Zarkor’s brain jar from Slog’s unyielding grip. Finally Zerak pulls the jar free and swiftly carries it back to his boat where he sets it down safely on the deck. He then turns to Cloney, who, free from the startled natives, rushes with the jar with Zarkor's body, suspends it before him, and holding it to himself tightly, leaps onto Zerak's speedboat.

Zerak turns to Cloney. "What's happening here?!" He asks in dismay.

"I'll explain later," Cloney says quickly. "Right now let's get away from the beach!"

Zerak quickly drifts to the controls of his speedboat, throws the fusion engines into reverse and the boat slides off the sand and backs quickly away from shore.

Slog gets to his feet with great difficulty, stumbles to the shoreline after Zerak's receding speedboat. "My brain! My brain!" He cries as he wades in panic into the water. "Come back with my brain!" He shouts in horror, trashing wildly in the water as he tries in vain to reach Zerak’s boat. “Bring back my brain!” He screams. “My brain! My brain! You theves!”

Zerak's speedboat slows its retreat as he and Cloney watch the pitiful sight of Slog flogging the water in front of him with his thin arms in futile attempt to reach their boat. "He's lost his mind!" Cloney says to Zerak as Slog continues to flay deeper into the water in hopeless effort.

"Can't we help this poor creature?!" Zerak pleads, turning to Cloney.

"Help him?" Cloney replies. "Slog deserves his madness! Look at what he has done to poor Zarkor!" They both look down at the jars, one with Zarkor's limp body in it, the other containing Zarkor's brain.

"How could this be?!" Zerak asks in dismay, for the first time realizing the calamity of the situation.

"No time to explain!" Cloney shouts. "Now we need to get home as fast as we can! We must somehow find a way to reunite Zarkor with his brain! I don't know how long they will last in these jars!"

Zerak quickly turns his boat about and speeds away over the ocean toward home, leaving Slog now piteously lying on the shoreline, sobbing, watching Zerak's speedboat disappear over the crest of the vast ocean away from the Next Continent, his hopes of ruling the universe dashed forever.

The natives now slowly climb down from Zarkor’s boat and onto the shore. They gather around Slog, who is still lying in the sand weeping wretchedly, his tortured face gazing hopelessly to the sea’s empty horizon before him, still murmuring lovingly, “My brain, my brain...”

In the end, Zerak and Cloney did find a way to reunite Zarkor and his brain. Luckily for them, a famous neuro surgeon was vacationing on a nearby planet, and being alerted, rushed to Zerak's home to perform the delicate operation with success. Zarkor later credited this fortuitous circumstance to his Dumb Luck Implant.

Zarko also took credit for his survival, stating it was hs superior brain that enabled him to endure Slog's extraction machine. He even thought it would have been interesting joining all the other brains, his brain of course dominating all of them with his superior intelligence.

Zerak considered this possibility with horror, contemplating Zarkor as master of the Universe. Slog would have underestimated Zarkor's influence on the other brains, and the result would have been catastrophic for the Cosmos at large.

Zarkor stirrs up enough trouble with the one brain he has.

Anyway, after a long and cantankerous recovery, Zarkor is once again his usual grumpy and demanding self, boasting of his bravery in enduring his desperate misfortune on the Next Continent, and as often berating Cloney for leaving his beloved Teddy behind.

Cloney, for his part, endures Zarkor's caustic comments with benign indulgence and patience, only happy and content that Zarkor is once again well, his brain residing safely inside his skull.

As for Slog, nothing more was heard of him. Cloney, assuming he had been consumed by his madness, and the natives, perhaps taking pity on him, perhaps cared for the poor creature in the little village on the Next Continent to the end of his days.

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