Author : Andrew Bale

Bezoragamaradat stared at the gleaming stacks before him, and again questioned the educational preparation of junior officers.

“I do not understand, sir – something must have gone wrong!”

Understatement. Even such a simple task as this…

“Worajak – how many fuel pods can the reactor hoppers hold?”

“256, sir.”

“And how many are here?”

The anxious young officer surveyed the pyramidal piles of small yellow spheres, perfectly sized and shaped for immediate use in the ship’s total conversion reactor.

“Perhaps 1024 to 2048, sir?”

“Not by half. And how many bricks can we hold in storage?”

“16,384, sir, including all four bays.”


The senior reactor officer gestured towards the hoard arrayed before them. The reactor needed spheres for efficient operation, but storage favored rectangular prisms. The younger officer counted carefully, checked his math before replying.

“262,144, sir. I am sorry sir.”

“On that we both agree. Wojarak, the reactor likes elementally pure fuel, and the quartermaster likes fuel that is dense, nonreactive, and stable. Do you think that a machine that autonomously converts this…”

Bezoragamaradat picked up a double handful of the local rock, soil, and vegetation, and let it trickle out between the fingers of his left hands.

“… into perfect fuel is cheap? Or disposable?”

“No sir, of course not sir!”

“Then can you tell me where my processor is, or how you intend to pay for its replacement?”

The young officer abruptly focused on the computer strapped to one wrist.

“Sir, the processor is … I’m sorry it should be … “

The sharp intake of breath told him that Wojarak had finally spotted the mistake that should have been obvious on arrival.

“There was a glitch in converting the process file, I should have caught it when I ran it back – “

“Which you clearly didn’t.”

“Yes, sir. Everything after the error was shifted one place.”

“Obviously. So we have sixteen times the needed fuel, and the processor parked itself where, exactly?”

“On the other side of the planet, sir. 76.334 north, 493.581 west.”

“Excellent! While I would love to see you retrieve it, we do not have the time. Load what we need, I am sure the natives will find use for the rest. When you are finished, meet me in the Captain’s cabin so we can discuss … well, your future in this company.”

“Yes, sir.”

On the other side of the planet…

Phocus stared at the thing in wonder and fear – what was it, and why had the Gods sent it? It clearly hungered, for it ate the very field before him, but the manner of creature could not be determined, so stout and concealing was its fabulous armor. It was in attitude and size much like one of the vacuous cows he tended, oblivious to all but its food, but the sounds that echoed out from within were reminiscent of the fowl by the river, and no cow he had ever heard of could lay an egg such as that which lay before him.

The creature was too large to conceal, too stubborn to move, too valuable to cede to the whim of a King who would surely hear of it before too long. There was not enough time to wait for more eggs. Its armor would likely turn away bronze, but even such armor must succumb to the weight of a tree such as those surrounding the field, and those trees would succumb to the axe. The golden innards and a swift flight would make him a King himself on some far shore. Now quickly, to work!


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