Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
“Good afternoon. My name is Deut Wallis. I’m from the Galactic Encyclopaedia Update Department.”
Perry regards the bespectacled gent with suspicion. The last one who turned up in a suit that smart wanted to sell folk funeral plots on the moon, never mind that nobody here buried anything anyway.
“What you selling, guv’nor?”
Deut waves his hands in horror: “Oh, good grief, no. I’m not a salesman. I simply need your help. People I’ve spoken to tell me you’re the one to deal with my problem.”
Perry puts the hammer and chisel down. Pulling off gloves and goggles, he looks the suit up and down.
“Mister Wallis, I’m no dealer with problems. I make figures.”
Deut looks about the cluttered store. The side he’d already taken in is typical of a general store on any frontier world. The side he hasn’t is more like, well, an art gallery. The place is filled with statues, abstracts, and dioramas, all carved from a glossy blue-black rock.
“Precisely. You’re by the Magma Fields. That’s what I’m here about. The spelling mistake. My father noted it years ago, but it’s been so far down the ‘to do’ list we’ve only just gotten around to it for the centenary edition of the Galactic Encyclopaedia.”
“I’ve heard of it. What’s the problem?”
“Well, on seeing images of this planet, I saw the typographic error had crept into you local signage, so I thought I’d come and start the process of getting corrections applied in time for the release of the centenary edition.”
Perry shakes his head.
“I’m not getting you.”
Deut shakes his head.
“The Magma Fields. Such a wonderful view, I’m surprised it hasn’t attracted more tourists. When I saw the spelling mistake, I understood. You could be sitting on a fortune in tourist revenue, and I’m sure your figure-making business would benefit.”
Perry’s eyes widen.
“Oh. Now you say it again, I see the problem. Come with me, Mister Wallis.”
He beckons Deut through the shop and out the rear door. He grabs two pairs of tinted goggles and hands one set to his visitor.
“Put these on.”
Deut looks at them, then shrugs and does so.
Stepping through a metal door, a wave of heat strikes them. Many metres below, glowing, molten rock moves like an enormous sea. Deut raises his gaze to find it is a sea. From here to the shimmering horizon, there is nothing but heaving lava.
Perry reaches into a large fridge and pulls out a can of drink. He offers one to Deut.
“No, thanks. Not while I’m on the clock.”
Perry smiles and closes the upper door. Opening the lower door, he pulls out a chunk of ice and tosses it over the edge.
Deut leans forward to watch it explode into steam on contact with the lava below.
Perry reaches out and pulls him back.
“Wait for it, Mister Update Department.”
Deut’s about to reply when a rippling mass rises from the fiery sea below. The heat coming off it is like a body blow. Two eyes of shining black open. Deut sees a hole open that goes right through the mass. Air whistles and roars. Perry nods.
“Rolthsar is delighted to see you. They wonder if you have an offering?”
Perry’s eyes flick to the fridge. Deut takes the hint and grabs a can from the it. As one, they throw cans into the rippling mass.
Air howls and whispers. The mass subsides back into the magma.
Perry catches Deut before he collapses.
“Your book doesn’t say Magma Fiends in error, Mister Wallis.”