THE EMPEROR BY THE SEA (IV-V)

IV

A short time later, the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko headed to the palace entrance. At the top of the stairs, just outside the front entrance there was a small crowd. As they approached the group Emperor Bartala jumped out and exclaimed “Do you like it my friends?!”

He had changed his hair; he now looked almost identical to the character Londo Mollari. If he didn’t have the bright blue eyes and the Ploosnarian accent he could have passed for Londo.

“Well  hello  Londo,”  teased  Brzko,  “where  is  your

sidekick Vir:”

“You watch this is going to become a trend. Every male on Ploosnar will want this hair, some of the females too I suspect. I owe it all to you, the only friend that can hold her nekmid.”

“You’re  welcome  Bartala,  I  enjoy  having  a  worthy nekmid partner. Poor Brzko here usually has to keep up with me.”

M and Brzko were having so much fun with Bartala that they hadn’t heard the aircoaches approach.  They look a little bit like Earth cars but they don’t have wheels, they hover a few

inches above the ground. Each one of the convertibles had three bench seats that went all the way across, there didn’t seem to be a “driver’s” seat. Instead there was a control panel accessible from the front bench seat.

Emperor Bartala and Empress Nalau made their way to the front vehicle, as Nalau climbed into the front seat. Bartala opened the second door and motioned to M and Brzko. They slid into the seat behind their hosts. Two of the palace guards took the seat behind them. Nalau had been working the control panel, entering the coordinates for their outing.

“I hope you enjoy the scenery. We’re going to the barren lands where most of our roinad is mined.” Explained Bartala.

The aircoaches departed from the palace. It didn’t take long before they were in the midst of a dense blue forest. “I haven’t been out this far in a long time Bartala. It’s lovely, the blue is amazing…” M trailed off. She was struck by the beauty of the blue forest. The forest is a buffer between the city and the open land, or barren lands, as Bartala called it. Once they were past the forest, the aircoach was gliding above the blue sands with  seemingly  no  effort.  It  seemed  like  they  were  in  a convertible but there must have been a force field in place, there was no wind.

They were passing a large structure, far off to the right. Brzko leaned forward to address Bartala, “Is that part of the mining operation?”

“Yes, this is where we package unprocessed roinad for interstellar shipping.”

As they neared the structure, lines of shuttle transports became visible. It looked a lot like an Earth trucking operation, except these were small space ships rather than semi-trucks.

Off to the left, still far in the distance, something was coming into view. “There it is” Nalau pointed.

It looks like a variety of junk spread around in a loose pile. The aircoach circled around the debris before landing. The remaining two aircoaches took defensive positions on either side of the landing party. Everyone on Ploosnar was well cared for and generally happy, but when you are an Emperor and Empress personal security is a requirement. The debris is spread over an area about the size of a football field. As M and Brzko slid out of the car they were speechless. They had no doubt that all of this debris was from Earth. The most intriguing artifact was a wooden sign partially buried in the blue sand. It was made of old weathered wood, and the text had been crudely burnt into it. The sign read “Scorchbrooke Oregon, Est. 1857, Population 2”.

“What is this place, a dumping ground?” asked Brzko. “That’s  what  I  thought  at  first,”  answered  Emperor

Bartala, “but I couldn’t imagine how, or why, someone would transport such a variety of “junk” from Earth to Ploosnar. So I had security begin monitoring the site. It seems that these items just appear from time to time. My nanny told me stories of such space traps. But it was about the sending side, not the receiving side. The stories are folklore meant to frighten a young child into behaving.”

Empress Nalau turned to M “This must be quite shocking. We are hoping that you will help us figure out what has created this place and why. It has not always been here, we don’t know when it started, but we do know that it was not here in the last planetary imaging survey, that was done around 10 Ploosnar cycles ago.”

“Of course, Brzko and I will help you figure this out. It’s

weird. Can you tell if everything is from Earth?”

“It looks to us as if all of it is from Earth, but we have had much  less  exposure  to  that  planet  then  you  two…”  Empress Nalau trailed off as she slowly spun in a circle looking at the debris.

“We will need a little time to sort through the pile and look for clues as to the origin. The suns will be setting soon. If it’s alright with you Brzko and I can return in the morning and start looking for clues.”

“Yes, yes, that sounds fine. Let’s return to the palace, I hope you will stay with us tonight. I want to prepare for a grand entrance at tonight’s dinner. My “Londo Style” hair will be making its debut!”

The old friends shared a good laugh about Bartala’s new hair, and then returned to the palace.

V

“Oh that’s just sick!”

“What, what did you find?”Agent Brzko asked heading over to see what the Muse of Mischief had found in the debris pile.

“It’s a naked Barbie Doll with a G.I. Joe head!” They both cracked up as she tossed it aside. Everything in the pile was from   Earth.   There   was   an   odd   mix   of   items,   like   the Scorchbrooke Oregon population sign, a Kitchen Aid mixer, a Toro lawn mower, a rusty infant swing, a set of army men, a few garden tools, and a dog collar. There were even a few folding chairs half buried in the blue sand.

“OK,  so  let’s figure this out. Everything here is from Earth, right?” Brzko asked resting his foot up on the rusty lawnmower.

“Yes, it looks like everything is from Earth. Although not

necessarily from the same time, everything could be from the same place. Emperor Bartala’s security team has been watching for any movement in the area and no one seems to be traveling here, by aperture or ship. The junk just appears.”

“Let’s  ask  Bartala  for  the  surveillance  files  when  we return to the palace. If we look at them in say three hour intervals (a Day on Ploosnar was about 37 hours) we should be able to figure out if there is a pattern for the arrival times.”

“We should start researching Scorchbrooke Oregon. I’ve never heard of it but there is something creepy about that sign. What kind of town has a population of two and why haven’t we ever heard of Scorchbrooke. We need to find the place, it seems like the portal must be there.”

“I’m a step ahead of you M; while you were playing with Barbies I had Lelelu start gathering information about Scorchbrooke.”

“Then I guess you’ll have plenty of time for playing with the army men Brzko.”

“Ha ha, smart ass. Let’s head back to the palace. I want to catch Bartala before he’s had too much nekmid and I’m hungry again.”

The Muse of Mischief and Brzko walked over the where they had left the Bisporks tethered.

Bisporks are four legged, semi-intelligent creatures kept as working pets on Ploosnar. They stand well over 10 ft tall and sort of resemble a dinosaur with fur. The humps in their backs make a perfect seat for a rider. They run incredibly fast and smooth,  and   they  love   to   run.   Because   they  have   some intelligence and a vocabulary the rider “asks” them to take them where they want to go. They seem to enjoy having a rider to serve.

As M approached the Bispork she had ridden out from the palace it bent down and put its head right next to hers. “Hello my friend” she said as she rubbed forehead.

“Ahhhhhhhhh” M  took  the  happy sound  as  a  positive greeting.

“Will you please take me back to the palace?” “Yeeeessssssssssss” the Bispork said in its grunting way.

It lowered itself even further so she could climb on. M turned to see if Brzko was ready to  go  but he was having issues.  His Bispork was shaking its head.

“What’s wrong Brzko?”

“My friend here is a jokester. He says  I need a code word!” Both Bisporks seemed to find this hilarious and let out a series of snot spraying grunts that were surely laughter.

“OK, nuf, go.” Brzko’s Bispork said and lowered itself so he could climb on. I guess he had gotten enough of a laugh at Brzko’s expense.

They took off for the palace, racing across the open blue sands of Ploosnar. When they neared the city a few minutes later, the  Bisporks  slowed  down  a  bit as  they entered the  forested region. That was just fine with M and Brzko because blue forests are not a common sight. Most of the plants look tropical, with large leaves and flowers.

With the Bisporks turned in at the stable they set out to find Emperor Bartala.

“You know you could have taken an aircoach instead of bisporks,” Emperor Bartala said as they entered Bartala’s sitting room “they can be quite unpredictable. Let’s have a drink and you can tell me what you found today.” Bartala was still sporting his Londo hair style; and because he favored the same style of clothing, it was actually a little disturbing. “A drink sounds great, I thought you’d never ask my friend.” as M was saying this as a member of the palace staff entered the room. He also had a Londo hairstyle. Evidently this was going to become a trend on Ploosnar. M considered the implications of showing them an image of the female Centauri characters from Babylon 5. Except for a long ponytail, they were bald. She decided to leave well enough alone.

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