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HOME >> Product 0409 >> KREOTOPIA>>

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The Degeneratron is an international research project to send probes to distant galaxies. It is also a money-sucking white elephant. After six years and two hundred and twelve billion dollars its only accomplishment is a tenuous connection to a single, boring planet. That planet, a foggy, smelly gravel pile supports a single life form: smelly Kreote plants. Nothing else. No insects. No bacteria. Not even a lousy virus. Trevor Tarklington has drawn the short straw and is taking new equipment to squeeze further knowledge from the planet before the connection is lost forever. Trevor's daily reports form the first part of this story.


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Trevor's capsule arrives off target and crushes the foot of Aaron Hurleman, the person waiting to help him from the transport capsule. In his panic to leave the cramped cylinder, Trevor also breaks Aaron's nose. Aaron's injuries send him back to Earth, leaving the team short-handed. The two remaining members are Dan Dennison, project manager and expert at everything, and Deborah, a short, round, silent woman with no patience for clumsy new arrivals.

Dan explains that with Aaron gone it would be best it Trevor remained for the duration. That solves two problems. The first is manpower. The second is that Dan has been keeping a secret from the controllers back on Earth, and he doesn't want Trevor to return and give it away. The secret is that there is a another form of life, one that makes even less sense than the smelly Kreote plants. It consists of an army of cartoon-like bugs who parade in columns while humming marching tunes. Dan intends to solve the problem of the planet's bizarre life forms himself. He wants no interference from Earth.

The disgusting smell of the planet is due to the oil produced by the Kreote plants. The first explorers reported that it has a mild narcotic effect. It causes dreams. The oil has another property. If one oil molecule develops a flaw, other oil molecules copy the flaw. Dan suspects that the planet is a giant library, constantly storing and refreshing memories. The plants produce the oil that copies and stores the memories. The bugs cultivate the plants, but where do the memories originate?

During their explorations, they discover portals to a real world, one rich with plants, animals and clear skies, but their connection to Earth is failing. They have to return immediately. Dan tells Trevor and Deborah that they must go back to report what they've discovered so far, but he is going to remain. There is an unexplored world right at his finger tips.

Trevor and Deborah return to the cylinder, but at the last moment, Deborah decides that she can't abandon Dan. As soon as Trevor crawls inside, she slams the hatch shut and sends him back alone. Trevor realizes that all of their records are back on the fog world. He has nothing to back up his tales of marching bugs and alternate worlds. Worse, the people on Earth will have to take his word for it that he didn't deliberately abandon the rest of the team to slow starvation on a hellish planet.....





66122 Words



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Cover Art:

Stephen Brown


W. Richard St. James


Stephen Brown

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A DAY ON K7 LASTS twenty-three hours. You weigh a little more on K7 than you do on Earth. There is a thick nitrogen atmosphere with barely enough oxygen to make it breathable. Oh yes, one more thing: it stinks. That's it. That's the knowledge that two hundred and twelve billion dollars and six years have produced about the geography of K7. We know other things, of course, but that's it for the geography. Venturing into biology, we know of one form of life: Kreote plants. We know that the reeking Kreote oil that covers every possible surface comes from the reeking Kreote plants. I don't care, because oily plants are not my problem. My concern is the planet itself and the things that we're supposed to know about it by now. Simple things like how big it is, where it is and even simpler things like what the Hell is over the next hill because after spending TWO HUNDRED AND TWELVE BILLION DOLLARS we don't bloody know.

Patience, Trevor, patience. The wife doesn't like you to swear. The wife doesn't like a lot of things about you, but swearing is near the top of the list. The people at The Globe have offered a healthy sum for these recordings, and they probably won't like it either, so I must behave. Take a deep breath. Well, not exactly deep. There's a tent nudging my ribs on one side and a something else threatening to break the ones on the other. Diaphragm movement is also limited, because I can't straighten my legs. Some idiot threw an extra bag of something in at the last moment with a brief "sorry about this" followed by the sound of the hatch slamming shut. Because of that extra freight my balding head is now being pressed against something hard. I can raise my head just enough to look down at my knees and see that they are clearing the top of this cylinder by one finger width, but the view isn't worth the effort.

So, I'm in a cylinder. We'll get into the reason for that later. If you really want to get to the heart of what's going on ask, "where is the cylinder?". Now that is a question. Simple answer: no-one knows. Not me, not the people who stuffed me in here, not the people who, I hope, will soon help me out. According to the scientists I'm not anywhere at the moment, in fact I'm not even in a moment, although my watch tells me that I'm one hundred and twenty seconds from getting out of here, which is the same as one hundred and twenty-one seconds away from a full, screaming at the top of my lungs, beating on the lid panic. You might conclude that I am a bit claustrophobic.

Deep breath. Deep breath (okay, shallow breath, shallow breath). Enjoy the nice, cool oxygen coming through a rubber hose from the tank under your legs. More than enough of it to last another four hours they tell me, as if that's a good thing. I've been in here for two hours and ten minutes already. If the end of this cylinder doesn't pop open in one minute and two seconds I don't think that the prospect of finishing the last four hours of my life floating in limbo, sucking on a rubber tube and blubbering like a madman is going to help.

Forty-five seconds. Thirty. Fifteen. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.

Minus one? Not good. Minus five! Even more not good. What was that? Something's happening ... OH HELL. I'm falling. Now that is something that everyone warned me would be a very bad thing. SHIT! (sorry).




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