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, while extorting his fellow travelers to join in the fun, but pay up the wager. 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.
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 arrive he always wished he could stay longer. There was a young Vacan young 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 notable purpose for the flight 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 made not a sound but the book opened. Slater picked the book up and read “My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill.”
His ship veered to the right, a normal flight correction move, but Slater, standing and reading was jostled.
Later on Lizit, Slater found the home of his young female friend. Her father opened the door. “Oh, I was expecting Marilia.” Before him was man 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, Marilia’s father was the priest.
“Oh, sir, I am delivering noogles my father picked from his vines this week. The priest, uh you, are supposed to get these.” Slater patted his back pack.
“Really. Slater handed the knapsack over to the priest.
“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?”
Mirilia peaked her head around the corner and smiled at Slater. When she caught his eye she nodded affirmatively.
Slater looked into the teary eyes of the priest. “Yes sir. Can we start with the story of the vines?”
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