Vines of Orthon
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The vines of Orthon were beautiful in the fall of the Othian year; indeed, so beautiful that they suckered many a species to try the fruit, thereafter the species wandered aimlessly through space seeking relief from a burning desire to become a Phoenix and thereby torch themselves over the roof of an ancient cathedral. Luckily, ancient cathedrals existed only in the annals of fiction, much like the vaulted Phoenix.
The dark side of Orthon featured a playground for the galaxy. Every diversion known under Orthon’s two suns existed hidden beneath the Orthon moons. Great convoys of Melmans to Xyonians found their way to Orthon, much like the great pilgrimages of the years following the final peace.
Chip Slater knew the Othian pull. Teenage memories of daring another Vacan to try Orthon fruit proved tragic. The Vacan youngster had ripped a bright fruit from an early vine growth, consumed the fruit, all the while extorting his fellow travelers to join in the fun, but pay up the wager of the dare. Moments later his eyes began to blaze and he ran through the vineyard until he found a pool of kayma mud. He then proceeded to swallow fistfuls of the blue sludge until he fell to the ground absolutely dead.
While Orthon was a great landmark, and indeed was key signpost for any intergalactic traveler, its gravitational pull was to be avoided. Slater maneuvered his ship past the gravity of the sensual planet and set his course for Lizit, a Christian island in the Quatrant Galaxy. He didn’t really like the trip, but once he arrived he always wished he could stay longer. There was a young Vacan lady living on Lizit. When he last visited she had offered to show him the planet. I wonder if the offer still holds. He set the controls to automatic and stepped back into the galley of his ship. He had not eaten in four turns, and although his mother had urged him to build his strength before the voyage he shunned her offer and consumed a bottle of woco milk, and then grabbed a bag of cookies from the replicator. His purpose was to deliver some of his father’s noggels to the priest of Lizit.
Long ago he and his father had chosen the economy model for Slater’s travel. Hence, there was not a lot of food storage available on board. Slater tapped the portable replicator. “I hope dad reset this thing.” The device sprung to life. “Great. Feed me.”
Slater rested a hand on top of the small device. He loved giving obtuse orders, just to see what would result.
Seconds later the replicator shook and dinged. Slater opened the door expecting a huge hurring burger, but instead only a small black book lay on the glass plate.
“Hey, stupid, I asked for food, something that will fill me, so I can continue on.” Slater fumed at the arrogance of the inanimate machine.
Again the machine shook. Slater ripped at the door. A cross lay on a satin cloth. “Oh, I get it, I programmed in Lizit, and now we are getting nothing but church stuff. Okay, how about some grapes.” The replicator whirred and produced a basket full of grapes and a carafe of grape juice.
“That’s better.” Slater sipped the juice and munched a handful of grapes. He picked up the small book and flipped through the pages. His ship veered to the right, a normal flight correction move, but Slater, standing and reading, was jostled. “Ah, Lizit, the next stop.”
Slater rested the ship in a municipal area, paid the toll, and pulled out the map his father had sketched on the back of the replicator instructions. He also retrieved the instructions dictated to him by the young Vacan lady.
With the help of a Gorian cop he found the home of his young female friend. His father’s instructions were neatly tucked into his backpack. An older male Vacan opened the door. “Oh, I was expecting Marilia.” The man before him was dressed priest’s clothing.
“I’m her father. Welcome. Do come in.”
Slater was used to hospitality, after all he was a Vacan too, and manners with others were a rule in his society. But, if this was Marilia’s father, then the man at the door was the priest to whom his father was sending a sack full of noogles.
“Oh, sir, I am really here delivering noogles my father picked from his vines this week. The priest, uh you, are supposed to get these.” Slater patted his back pack. “I am Chip Slater, by the way.”
“Really? Slater, ah yes, I remember your father from my days at the university, and just last week we had communed during the Lurian Men's Conference. He remembered the noogles, how wonderful. Marilia,” he called, “Chip Slater is here to see you.”
“Oh, I wondered what the connection was". Slater handed the knapsack over to the priest.
The priest opened the knapsack.“Ah, there’s a book in here.”
“Yes, the replicator created it when I approached the planet. I looked through it, looked interesting. You can have it.”
“My young friend, I have one or two. You don’t know about this book then?”
“Would you like to learn?”
When Mirilia peeked her head around the corner and smiled at Slater he noted that she was nodding affirmatively.
Slater looked at the teary eyes of the priest. “Yes sir. Can we start with the story of the priest named Jesus from the old planet?”
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