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StarMountainKid

Boating- The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak

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StarMountainKid

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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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StarMountainKid

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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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StarMountainKid

Boating - The Adventures of Zarkor and Zerak - Chapter Three

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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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