Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: TOURIST TRAP (08/20/15)
- TITLE: Arch Villian: Arty Futkin
By Trace Pezzali
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Futkin ran thumbs underneath the braces that held up pin-stripe trousers, and spoke down his narrow nose to the audience. Voice slick as oil, he delivered the final hook: “It is desire that determines your destination when traversing the galaxy without a vehicle. Because results from the Magic Transport Application Balm stems from both fear and hope, you will be confronted by the real motives of your heart. This consideration has made a coward of even the most intrepid explorer, for only a few brave souls wish to confront their true nature.”
Bexley’s voice exploded loud as a cannonball in the room. “Professor Futkin, how brave are you?”
Futkin drilled her with a laser stare. “The question is who you are.”
Bexley, conscious of her filthy appearance and torn clothing, resisted the impulse to groom. Thick clods of green slime matted her hair. The gash on her cheek stung. “Someone brave enough. One of a thousand suckers drawn in by Sovereign Star’s claims of adventure. But let me tell you where intrepid travellers are really transported to.”
Bexley punctuated her rant with controlled steps down to the stage. Mud squelched out of her shoes with every measure. “Straight into a trap of Sovereign Star’s making. The steaming pit of planet Tercies. When the tourist arrives, their eyes immediately burn from the acidic odour of cyber slug excrement. Disorientated and easily taken captive by armoured Snorg, they become slaves forced into mining Netlom Scum that burps up from the natural molten pits. Dangerous work.”
“That’s preposterous!” Futkin puffed in and out like a drowning fish.
At the stage edge, she vaulted onto the platform. “It’s taken me two years to escape from Tercies and get back to Earth.”
The professor’s eyes darted from Bexley to the audience. He pushed a shaking hand through his coiffed black hair.
“You want proof?” Bexley thrust up a long sleeve and displayed the SSC branding burned into her arm.
It took a few blank moments to process, then Futkin’s shoulders slumped. He flung out a hand to steady himself against the podium. “I… I had no idea…”
“I’m expected to believe that?”
Rendered audible only by the headpiece microphone, Futkin confessed: “I’m a fraud. I’ve never transported.” He beseeched Buxley with his eyes. “I say what the Conglomerate tells me to.”
The audience gave a collective gasp, and Bexley addressed them. “Leave now, and tell everyone what you’ve heard. The war against Sovereign Star has begun.”
During the excited vacating of the gradually obedient crowd, Futkin removed the head piece and slumped onto his knees. Too easily he’d become a shrunken image of himself, a parody of shame. Bexley considered stomping on his head.
When the doors slammed shut after the last departed, Futkin got onto one knee. He directed his question to the floor. “You say they mine Netlom at Tercies?”
“Tercies... Well, I’ll be.” Futkin brushed dust from his knees as he stood. Upright, he smoothed back his errant hair. “Netlom’s the active ingredient in the Second Skin barrier cream. Its protective qualities are astounding. Only one known planet produces it, and the secret of its location is how the Conglomerate maintains its hold over the galaxy. Miss – you’re in grave danger.”
“I’m well aware of that. And I’m not alone. Furthermore I now have an advantage.”
“And what is that?”
“You, Futkin.” Swiftly, Bexley withdrew a small weapon concealed by her shirt. Thank God, her hands were steady as she readied her aim. Futkin sprang back in alarm. With an animal growl Bexley warned him. “No. Sudden. Movements.”
“I can’t help you. What do I know? You could do anything to me and they wouldn’t care!”
“You have uses. More importantly, it’s time to make reparation for the hundreds of people you’ve sent into slavery and death.”
“But I didn’t know that’s what I was doing!”
“That’s not an excuse, and it grants no pardon. Gather up your wares, Professor. You’ll need them where we’re going.”
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