The spaceship that cut through the dark blank void of space resembled an unusually large helicopter, its shape, and structure could be passed off for one of mankind’s most popular modes of short flight on Earth. The only major difference between those on Earth, and this one was that it had no rotors. Instead, it was moving by jet propulsion rockets aerodynamically designed, and strategically fitted to its sides, and the back.
Inside this spacecraft, Captain Gerald Allison stirred. He sat up from a cylindrical sleep capsule, and looked around himself. As he did so, a wave of dizziness passed over him, and he had to shake his head several times to clear it. As he slowly gained consciousness, he looked at the two other sleep capsules next to his. Their occupants were stirring, and sitting up.
Gerald easily recognized them. They were his crew Sergeant Mark Bradley, and Sergeant Liz Morrison. As they sat up, he waved at them. “You better shake your heads pretty well to clear it up.”
Mark blinked at him. “Captain? Are we really awake—it’s not a dream?”
“Yes, we are.”
“Did we make it?” Liz asked as she massaged her neck.
“I think so,” Gerald replied. “Didn’t NASA warn us about these symptoms? That once we completed the space jump from our solar system, and reached our destination, we are going to wake up, and experience some side effects.”
They all got down from their beds, and stretched.
“Come, let’s go to the control center, and confirm our location,” Gerald said.
They all made it to the cockpit of the spacecraft. Once they settled into their seats, they began to punch on the buttons in the console.
Liz was the first to speak, “the coordinates all check out, Captain. We are in the right position.”
“So, we jumped through loops, and time only to arrive at a planet that looks just like Earth?” Mark asked.
“Are you disappointed, or surprised?”
They all glanced outside, and regarded the planet that was visible in front of them.
Mark shrugged. “I don’t know how I feel, Captain.”
“Apart from the grogginess, and disorientation?”
“Yeah, those are quite something,”
“Come on, Mark, we were fully briefed about the nature of this mission. NASA clearly spelled out the risks involved,” Liz said.
“I remember. They said that it was more like a suicide mission to come here, and study this new planet so far away from Earth.”
“So, what is it?”
“I don’t know Captain. Maybe traveling for one hundred, and fifty years just messes up one’s emotions, and reasoning?”
“You better make sure your emotions are in good shape, Mark,” Gerald chided. “We need to be in good shape to recon, and survey this planet. Now, before we proceed any further, we need to run a systems check on the weapons, and missiles.”
“Did NASA have to go so far?” Liz asked as she began to run some diagnostic checks on their weapon system.
“What do you mean by that?” Mark asked.
“Have you seen all the weapons onboard our ship? It is as if we are going to start a war; not survey a new planet.”
“Well, better safe than sorry,” Gerald replied. “And NASA would never send three of its finest astronauts out here unprepared. They knew we might be confronted with threats.”
“Well, maybe for once NASA could be wrong,” Mark muttered under his breath.
“What do you mean?”
“I just scanned the planet, Captain. There are no threats whatsoever.”
Gerald regarded the report of the scan on the huge monitor in the cockpit. “That’s good, but we won’t take any chances. Each of us is going to carry at least a laser rifle.”
“But there are no threats,” Mark insisted.
“Yes, I heard you, Sergeant, but we are still not going to take any chances, that is why we will go in with the laser rifles. Liz, check the atmosphere, and determine how compatible it is with our biological systems.”
“From what I can see, the atmosphere is a perfect match with that of Earth,” Liz said, scrolling through her monitor.
“Can we breathe there without external oxygen supplies?”
“Yes, Captain. There’s sufficient oxygen.”
“Well, then. All checks on our weapons, and missiles are good. And the atmosphere is conducive as well. Take us in for a landing, Mark.”
“Ok, Captain. Everyone buckle up,” Mark announced as he maneuvered the ship.
Mark brought the spacecraft down through the atmosphere. As they broke through the thick white clouds, Liz gushed out aloud. “My goodness. This place is beautiful.”
“Yes,” Gerald agreed. “No wonder why NASA did not waste any time in assembling us to come, and investigate it. It looks like prehistoric Earth.”
“Completely, without any life form, or civilization,” Mark said.
“What a marvelous sight,” Liz exclaimed. “Where does one find a place to land a spacecraft in such dense vegetation?”
All around them were tall trees whose foliage were thick, and green. There were also a lot of blue bodies of water all around.
“There has to be some form of land somewhere,” Mark said as he scanned ahead of them. “We need to land somewhere.”
“There is a clearing up ahead,” Gerald pointed. “It looks like solid ground.”
Mark brought down the spacecraft. The doors slid open, and the three of them stepped out into a whole different world.
“It is just as we thought it would be,” Gerald marveled as they looked around.
“The shrubs, vegetation, even the soil,” Liz gushed. “Everything here looks exactly like back on Earth.”
Gerald slung his laser rifle over his shoulder, and glanced at the tablet in his hand. “Alright. Now that we have confirmed that there are no threats at all, we better get to work. We must get the reports of our analysis to NASA as soon as possible.”
“We also have to start collecting as many samples as possible for the analysis,” Mark said as he regarded a leaf.
The crew was busy for the next couple of days. They would fly to different parts of the planet, collect samples, analyse, and compile them in comprehensive reports they were preparing to send back to NASA.
On the third day, while they were walking through what seemed to be a corn field, Mark stopped, and raised his laser rifle.
“What is it?” Gerald asked, readying his rifle as well.
“I think I sensed some movement up ahead.”
They all peered at the corn stalks swaying to the gentle wind.
“It might just be the wind,” Gerald dismissed Mark’s concern.
“No, I think he is right, Captain. I think I just saw something,” Liz said.
Gerald was still trying to make out what she was peering at when she raised her rifle, and started to fire. Mark joined her as well. Gerald did not need any convincing. He began to fire too.
“Don’t shoot, please don’t shoot,” someone shouted. “We are unarmed.”
“Cease firing,” Gerald said. “There is someone out there.”
“Someone? Or some people. They said ‘we’,” Mark said, lowering his laser rifle.
“But… I thought the planet is uninhabited,” Liz said. “We have scanned it several times.”
“I guess not. We all heard that voice,” Mark replied.
“Show yourselves, whoever you are,” Gerald warned in a firm voice.
The corn stalks separated, and some strange beings emerged. They reminded the crew of huge ants because of their structure, and their black complexion. Their upper body had two appendages, slightly raised above their heads, while the lower part of their bodies had two more on which they stood. They did not have any noticeable fingers, or toes. Their heads were cylindrical, with three slits—two serving as their eyes, and one as their mouth.
“Drop your weapons,” Gerald ordered.
“We carry no weapons on this planet,” one of the beings said.
“Seriously?” Gerald almost laughed at the absurdity of the statement. “Are you joking, or what?”
“No, I am not joking. We carry no weapons on this planet because it is a peaceful planet,” the being replied.
Gerald nodded. “Okay. Take us to your leader.”
“Follow me,” the being said, and started walking.
Gerald, and his crew walked in silence with the beings. They were led through a well-designed estate with houses made of gilded rooftops, and white marble walls. There were no windows, or doors on these buildings. Rather, they had circular holes in place of the windows, and spherical holes that served as doors.
As a result of the absence of doors, and windows, Gerald, and his crew could peer into the buildings. Inside, they could see more of these beings.
Soon, they approached what looked like a palace. It had several tall towers made of polished white marble. The roof shone brightly in gold, reflecting starlight, and the glow of other luminous bodies in the skies.
The gates were unmanned. And it also did not have any windows, or doors. Rather, there were similar holes like the ones found on the other houses in the estate.
Inside the palace, the king sat on a chair made of gold. He looked the same as the other beings, except for the robe he wore, made of wool with golden embroidery on it. On the king’s head was a crown made of gold.
“Welcome to Planet Ihud,” the king said.
“And who you might be?” Gerald demanded.
“I am King Kal-Ruhl. You must be the visitors.”
“Yes, you may say that,” Gerald said before introducing himself, and his crew.
“So, you are explorers from Planet Earth?” King Kal-Ruhl asked.
Gerald nodded. “Yes, we are.”
“Come, and join me for a feast to talk some more.”
A table was set for them, a buffet with sumptuous amount of food that the crew easily recognized. There were fried meat, drinks, and several other delicacies.
“Since you are here to explore, I assume after you have completed your assessments of our planet, you are going to report back to Earth?” King Kal-Ruhl asked as they ate.
“Yes,” Gerald replied. “And once they get our reports they would colonize the planet.” He launched into explaining their mission on the planet.
“And what about the threats?”
“If there are any threats, Earth will send an army of spaceships with the most advanced missiles to eliminate them.”
“I see, have you sent any reports to Earth yet?”
“No, not yet.” Gerald shook his head. “We are still conducting our studies.”
“I see. By the way, how far is Earth?”
“Well, it took us one hundred, and fifty years to get here.”
“One hundred, and fifty years? Tell me Captain, how do you calculate that in terms of the speed of light?”
“That is almost 300,000 kilometers per second.”
“I see.” The king looked thoughtful.
“Why are you asking about the speed of light?”
“Because I want to understand your mission here, Captain. If it took you one hundred, and fifty years to get here, that means it would require the same amount of time for you to send your reports back to Earth. Am I right?”
“Yes. You are right about that.”
“And by the time Earth receives the report on my planet, it would take them another 150 years to send their response to you.”
“That means a total of three hundred years before we expect to hear from Earth,” Gerald concluded.
“Exactly, Captain. It would take a whole three hundred years before any response, or armies arrive from Earth. Isn’t that quite a long time to wait?”
Gerald rubbed his chin. “You have a point there, King Kal-Ruhl. But while we were in deep freeze, I am sure they had devised a faster means of travel that would substantially shorten the time to get here.”
“Maybe, but you cannot say for certain that this has happened yet, can you?”
“No, not really. But it is a possibility.”
“What is the average lifespan of mankind?”
“On average, we live to be about one hundred, and twenty years old.”
“And how old are you, Captain?”
“I am forty-four.”
“That means you are still young compared to a person who is one hundred, and twenty years old.”
“Yes, you may say so. How about you? How old are you?”
“I am a thousand years old.”
“A thousand years old? My goodness. How old do your people get to?”
“On average five thousand years.”
“That is impressive. What about your weapons, and defense systems?”
“Planet Ihud does not have such things. We are a very peaceful planet, Captain.”
“Really? Then how do you defend yourselves from external threats?”
“We are very peaceful, Captain. We have no wars, and have never faced any threats from outer space.”
Gerald burst into laughter. “You know what? Earth has hit the jackpot here on your Planet Ihud.”
“Captain, what would it take for you, and your crew to abandon this mission of yours?”
“Abandon? No way, we are not going to abandon our mission.”
“I think you should, especially considering that you, and your crew are not going to live that long for your report to reach Earth, or for even their response to arrive from Earth.”
Gerald gaped at him. He glanced at his colleagues, who gazed at him, open-mouthed.
“What are you trying to say?”
“It is obvious, Captain. Neither of you would live long enough. So why not forget the mission, and enjoy your remaining years here, on Planet Ihud. You know for a fact that you won’t be alive to witness the arrival of your brethren from Earth.”
Gerald did not respond immediately. In his mind, he was considering the king’s request. But deep down, he knew that mankind was intelligent, and very capable. They might have already devised new means of achieving hypersonic travel through time, and space. If that was the case, their response, and arrival would only be in a matter of days, or at most weeks.
“Let me make it easier for you, and your crew, Captain. If you do not report anything to Earth, I would give you all the gold we have.”
“When our people arrive from Earth, we would have all your gold.”
“Okay. What if we allow you to live among us in peace?”
“What kind of stupid offer is that?” Gerald thundered. “We are going to take over your planet, and live amongst you anyway.”
King Kal-Ruhl regarded Gerald. “You seem to know what you want.”
“Of course, we know what we want. And we want your planet, and its resources for our people back in Earth. Did you think we are a confused lot? Not at all. We know exactly what we want.”
King Kal-Ruhl nodded. He reflected over what he had noticed. Mankind is arrogant, aggressive, and full of vanity. All they ever wanted was to rule, and be in charge.
“How about if I offer you the opportunity to rule our planet, Captain?”
“You mean to be your king here on Planet Ihud?”
“Yes, you would be the king until your people arrive from Earth, and it would be effective immediately. That way we ensure a peaceful transition of power to the people of earth, without any harm to our planet, or our people, who will be your people too if you accept.”
“Are you serious?”
“Of course, I am, Captain. It is only logical. After all, your people would still come to take over our planet, wouldn’t they? So, I am going to renounce my claim to the throne.”
“So that we can rule your planet?”
“No, only one of you can rule as king of Planet Ihud.”
“I see. So in effect, we get to be royals, and enjoy royalty?”
“Yes, but like I said, only one of you can be king. You have to decide who amongst you will be the king. Whoever that person is, would get to live in this castle, and rule over the planet until your people arrive from Earth.”
“Who amongst us is going to be king?” Mark asked.
Gerald glared at him. “Are you seriously considering his offer?”
“Why not?” Liz asked. “You just said that you liked the idea of us being royals, and enjoying royalty. Why shouldn’t we consider it?”
“But only one of us can be king, Liz,” Mark pointed out.
“Well, since I am the Captain, and the most senior officer, I should be king.”
“No, Captain, Mark is thirty-four, while I am twenty-six. That means I am the youngest. I should be the queen of the planet.”
“What nonsense? Have you ever heard of royalty being bestowed upon the youngest person?”
“Well, maybe not Captain, but I stand the best chance of surviving until the people of Earth eventually arrive. You are too old, and would never survive that long.”
“What are you saying, Sergeant?” Gerald jumped to his feet. “Are you questioning my authority?”
“I’m not questioning anything, Captain. I am simply stating the facts that everyone else can see. You are too old to be the king of this planet.” She turned to her other comrade. “Am I wrong, Mark?”
“She does have a point. You are the oldest amongst all of us.”
“What is this? Are you supporting her?”
King Kal-Ruhl stood up. “I would like to excuse myself so you can discuss, and decide amongst yourselves. Once you make up your minds, you can let me know.”
They watched the king step out of the dining room. As soon as he had left, Gerald pulled out his gun, waving it at his crew. “Why are you both challenging my authority?”
“Captain, please put the gun away. No one is challenging your authority.”
“Is that so, Mark? Are you telling me that you did not hear what Liz said?”
“Captain, she was simply stating the truth. You are the oldest. You would never meet those coming from Earth.”
“And you think she would because she is the youngest?”
“Well, she does stand a better chance.”
“Is that so? So, you want her to be queen?”
“I never said that, Captain.”
“Wait, is there anything wrong with me being the queen?”
Mark glared at her. “Well, the king said a king not a queen!”
“Tell her, Mark, she is simply obsessed with ruling when she knows very well that there is no allowance for a queen in this planet.”
Liz stood up. “I won’t allow you to take what should be mine.”
“Hey, Liz, sit down. You cannot confront the Captain like that.”
Gerald pointed his laser rifle at her. “Are you deaf, Sergeant? Do as Mark said, and stand down right now.”
“But I stand the best chance among us all to rule this planet, Captain. Why are you blinded by your ego?”
“I am not going to warn you a second time, Sergeant Liz. Sit down.”
“Why should I, when you want to deny me a golden opportunity to rule?”
“Sergeant, I said you should—”
Gerald never got to finish his sentence. In his anger towards Liz, he had failed to see Mark pulling out his rifle. He only felt the searing pain as the beam of laser pierced him through the chest. He turned briefly to gasp at Mark before he fell with a thump.
Liz stepped back, shocked at the death of Gerald, the gaping hole in his chest, and how blood seeped around him. As she turned to look at Mark, Liz gasped as another laser beam hit her in the chest too. She was dead before her body hit the ground.
Mark regarded the lifeless bodies before him. He did not betray any emotion as he walked towards the door.
Outside, he met one of the beings. “Where is your king?”
“He is in the presidential office.”
“Take me to him right now.”
When King Kal-Ruhl saw Mark approaching him, he clapped his hands. “So, you have been selected?”
“Yes, you can say that.”
The king came down from his throne. He removed his crown, and placed it on Mark’s head. “You are now going to be king of Planet Ihud, King Mark.”
Mark smiled. “At last.”
“But you will need a change of clothes into something more regal.”
“Then inform your subjects to get me something good to wear,” Mark ordered.
Kal-Ruhl turned to his subjects. “You have heard our new king. Get him some new royal robes immediately.” Then he turned to Mark. “While they are getting your royal gowns ready, I would like to offer a suggestion, King Mark.”
“What suggestion would that be?”
“You know that you need some experience to run this planet. Let me serve as your adviser until you are well versed in the ways of my people.”
King Mark nodded. “You are right. Yes, I agree to that suggestion.”
“Good,” Kal-Ruhl said. “Now, I will tell you some things about the way this planet is—”
“Wait, wait, wait, don’t rush me, please. I have just been made king, and you want to start bombarding me with work?”
“I am sorry, King Mark. When do you want to start learning about our people?”
“I don’t know. Maybe later. Right now, I feel tired, and I need to get some rest. Take me to your sleeping quarters.”
Kal-Ruhl bowed his head. “Yes, King Mark. Please follow me this way.”
Mark was led to the king’s sleeping quarters. The place was lavishly furnished. Once inside, Mark placed his crown on the bedside nightstand. “You may leave me now. I need to get some sleep.”
“As you wish, my king. Sleep well,” Kal-Ruhl said with a bow before leaving.
He went back to the palace, and walked up to the throne.
As he sat on the throne, one of his subjects rushed to him. “Your highness, shall I get you another crown?”
“No, I don’t need a crown to be king,” Kal-Ruhl said. “Now, I want you to get some men then go, and destroy their spaceship immediately.”
The subject bowed, and left with several of the beings.
After they had gone, another of his subjects came to King Kal-Ruhl. “So what now, your highness?”
King Kal-Ruhl smiled. “He cannot marry in our community due to biological differences, and neither can he communicate with his own planet. And he has a maximum of eighty-six years to live with us here, on Planet Ihud. Time is on our side. We are going to keep him busy with the affairs of the planet, as well as keep him entertained. All we have to do is to tolerate him for another eighty-six years.”