Author: Rick Tobin

Rotting mangoes proffer disgusting flavors like burning spittle rising into a renovator’s mouth when alien wraiths hiss, rising from charred ruins fallen untold millennia before humanity’s existence. Dearth Crenshaw stood his ground as a maniacal, mystical slaver, without concern for his acolyte, Emmaus Progo. His protégé previously accompanied haunted clearings of thirteen worlds in readiness for human colonization, but repeatedly lost his bowel control when ectoplasmic spirits of species, still haunting their abandoned civilization, swirled in fury about them, tearing at their interloper space suits and souls.

Dearth’s hands spun the vicious atmosphere about him with invisible lines of force, entwining his attackers. The whispish harpies slashed back in agony, confused and forlorn as their fates were sealed by superior skills of a dark arts master.

“Now, Dearth? Use the wand?” Emmaus extended a six-foot silvery metal rod toward the billowing murk surrounding them.

“No! I hate that technology crutch.” Dearth guillotined the discussion as strings of undetectable magnetic fields encircled his captives, binding them and finally compelling their migration into a shimmering rope of energy speeding into an irregular orange crystal suspended loosely from his neck, outside his suit. Soon, the troubled ambiance was clear of psychic turmoil. Dearth’s gemstone glowed, pulsing life force from captivated new souls waiting his processing.

“I did not mean to interfere, master. I was afraid they might overcome us. I do not have your powers, so I must use what I have.” Emmaus tried to justify his interruption during battle as the hunters later discarded their battered space suits in a change bay aboard their ship.

“You’ve soiled yourself again, Emmaus. I had hoped for more progress after two years of apprenticeship.” Dearth turned, glaring at his offensive understudy.

“Maybe this is not my rightful destiny,” replied Emmaus. “I might try a different profession. With the thousands of new Earth colonies, surely there would be a better fit. Free will cries for better.”

“Free will! Where did you hear that term?” Dearth was suddenly insistent.

“I read some historical material in our ship’s library. Isn’t happiness really what we all deserve?”

Dearth’s fingers twisted quickly into an arcane hand mudra. Remains of Emmaus fell to the metal floor; his body desiccated into small piles of debris as a puff of soul rose to be encapsulated within the orange, glistening stone about Dearth’s neck. Dearth walked deliberately to a communications panel mid-ship.

“Dearth Crenshaw. Operation successful. 29465 is completely cleared for restitution. Send mining clones. I have fresh souls to activate them. Astral memories from this unknown race will pioneer a useful human outpost. There are copious resources in this world worthy of immediate exploitation. Note…send me a new assistant to implant. I will transfer this last one’s soul into a settler once new bodies arrive. I suggest acquiring a new helper soul from an earth-bound spirit taken from shambles of New York or Chicago. Forget the suburbs. I need a servant that is pliant and barely curious. Capture something drifting about a nursing home destroyed after the last asteroid strikes. I will wait, as required, for the supply ship. Please transmit my next target planet coordinates. For my control files, record that I have sealed more sections of Earth’s ancient mythologies on my ship that are heretical.”