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"Fahnsoman Oasis"© 2007 S.T.
"Fahnsoma - Autumn"© 2005 S.T.
The technology of the UFN over the years yielded metallurgy that had come a long way since the 21st century. The shuttle was made out of material so lightweight that its 150'x60'x90 dimensions weighed no more than 1.77 tons! If it had been made out of the same materials that the Apollo and Gemini capsules had been made out of, it would have weighed in the neighborhood of 900!
The seventeen men were meant only to steady its cumbersomeness.
"Okay, Dad...that's it! Tell them to put it down!" Hanquong walked over to him and whispered in his ear.
"Just say `Fersaang glot', Ralph...."
"(Fersaang glot, you say?) Okay....FERSAANG GLOT, guys!" And as a unit, the Sonsuangians set the shuttle down with absolute precision. The Garçons were another thing altogether. Fevrier threw his back out, Avril got his hand caught between the corner of the shuttle and a patch of mercifully soft ground and Juillet, Mars and Mai fell on top of each other, putting Ralph in stitches for roughly three straight minutes. Juin kibitzed, which could have explained everything. Fortunately, the shuttle had wheels, so hopefully, this comedy of errors would not be repeated when they moved it over the mirror. It would take only three or so people to do that, anyway.
All the wild speculation about the shuttle, plus the jollity of the troupe's spirit had seriously curtailed the study of the specimen Fahnsoma and the Sonsuangians were eager to get back to it. The troupe offered their services as guides and raconteurs. Ralph and Hanquong imagined they must have been brimming with tales about this strange planet and its apparent mystical properties. While both entourages were still together, the troupe regaled everyone with those very tales of their "revenant". One inparticular that happened after they had been there a short while:
About a week after they splashed down on the planet and just as they were beginning to worry about how they would feed themselves now that their shuttle had sunk, the morning after the seventh day, they woke up to find all the fruits and vegetables they were familiar with, plus a sampling of Fahnsoma's best, right in the middle of their initial campsite.
About six earth-months after they had washed all their clothes, including their flight uniforms, in Fahnsoma's water, water full of abrasives and volcanic acids, however diluted, many times, their raiment started to show severe signs of wear. After it was determined that all the patch kits had been exhausted, expertly woven fabrics started showing up in the survival tents of the women. The cloth was of a ramie-type fiber that was as durable as steel, and this sort of thing happened every time they were low on food or in need of clothing.
Then one day, Anny Thursday...Judi, as she is known, went to pick some edible succulents for a salad in a wild field not too far from the encampment and she noticed what looked like a puffball or boll of cottony plant fiber seemingly growing out of the ground. She went to touch it, for it was nestled in an indent in a succulent bush that looked particularly bountiful and got much the same reaction Ralph did in his first encounter with the planetary welcome wagon. She bolted for the camp to tell everyone of the phenomenon, and while she was initially met with derision and skepticism when she recounted what had happened, she managed nonetheless to convince Anny Monday and Dauphin Fevrier to accompany her back to the spot for verification.
The three got no closer than fifty feet away from the site when they became witness to a spectral image that put the trained thespians in mind of Hamlet's father's ghost. It was attired in classic medieval armor, holding its helmet in its hand, replete with sheathed sword. Fevrier sought to test it. He was hoping for a negative, however....
"The time is out of joint, o cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!" To which the specter answered, in a perfect reproduction of Fevrier's voice:
"....And this above all else: To thine own self be true!" Anny Thursday exclaimed in alarm....
"Sacre! We are haunted!! How could this thing possibly be acquainted with ze Bard!" This was one of the few other rare times the troupe had been at a loss for words. After some reflective hand-wringing and nervous glances at each other, that changed in short order.
"Fevrier! What do we tell the others...?"
"Nothing! Judi has already told us! This is obviously some sort of aberration peculiar to zis planet. Perhaps this is the predominant lifeform of zis place!"
"Ask it if it is the one who has been sustaining us all these months...." Fevrier complied.
"Ho there, mon ami! Are you our provider?! The one that has been leaving us food and cloth....?" No answer. "I think we can assume he is the one. Lord knows there is nobody else here....!"
"Perhaps you are correct, mon frere. C'est desolé!"
"Let us return, siblings! I am frightened!" Judi's color had blanched noticeably. Odd. She was usually among the braver ladies of the troupe.
"Tout â l'heure, mon cherie! Come on, Fevrier, we must discuss this with the others...."
Fevrier couldn't resist one last call to the specter....
"La dourmier mout susciter!" To which the spirit replied:
"It is said that God made Fahnsoma to test the faithful...!"
"That is it...I give up! It is beyond me!"
Anny Vendredi interrupted the story to tell them of a time when the spirit itself staged a production of Sleeping Beauty with itself as the good fairies and Vendredi herself as Maleficent, Juillet as Prince Philip and Mardi, Anny Tuesday, as Aurora. The planet supplied all the special effects: lightning in the appropriate dramatic instances, prestidigitation by Maleficent and the good fairies and even ghostly crowd scenes. All the gathering, including Ralph, was fascinated by this...Lifiswang translated for the Sonsuangians, and he was asked to request that the troupe coax the spirit to do it once again for the others.
"Hm...I would not push it, cherie. We are dealing with ze power of a whole planet. I can tell you right now, he does not take kindly to being exploited, as Fevrier can tell you...." Vendredi, or Anny Friday, giggled knowingly, remembering the incident she was referring to all too clearly
"Must you bring that up, mon petit chou...?" Of course she did! Vendredi went on to tell those assembled of Fevrier's attempt to pull a `King Midas' with the spirit, a move, as she said, it did not relish.
"What were you hoping to prove by doing that, Fevrier? You surely cannot spend it here!"
"I was just testing it...."
"Yes, and it certainly put you to the test when you found out that you could not eat, sleep, shake hands or sit down! Le faux pas classique!" Anny Samedi, one of the other female members of the troupe that enjoyed needling Fevrier, added with her tongue firmly planted in cheek:
"You should have requested the scenario from `Rapunzel', Fevrier. At least that would have been more like honest work!" In fact, all the girls enjoyed deflating the somewhat stuffy and pompous Fevrier, though he was the acknowledged troupe leader. They never let him forget a foible while the memory was still fresh, no matter how old it was. However, Samedi's own gaffe gave him the opening he needed to mend his wounds.
"If I am not mistaken, mon petit, I think you may mean `Rumpelstiltskin' and not `Rapunzel'....!"
"That is one for us!" Dauphin Mars averred, sticking up for his brother in a gesture of mock solidarity. The rest of the Garçons greeted this with high signs all around, when, in characteristic cool, Vendredi cut him down with the opinion that he would have been the perfect troll for the part! The Sonsuangians that understood Terran humor were very amused by the troupe and Hanquong and Lifiswang pleaded with them to put on a representative piece before their journey home. They reluctantly agreed. They would leave with a staging, new style, of the Western legend of Creation.
Ralph himself could not wait for this....
"Fahnsoma At Night"© 2005 S.T.
"Fahnsoma - Winter"© 2005-07 S.T.
The shuttle had dried out sufficiently to test the logic and navigational circuits. Ralph and Dauphin Avril were testing every one they could for, in all likelihood, they would need them all. Nothing superfluous was designed into the shuttle and there was a plethora of systems, subsystems and relays that had to work perfectly before they could even think of taking off. There was a hibernation circuit that had to be checked, since the anomalies that accelerated the humans' trips to the Betelgeuse system had long since waned or disappeared altogether. Ralph knew they were looking at at least another twenty to fifty years in space, and only if he could jury-rig the potential for hyperlight speeds out of the solar coils, and he was pretty sure he could. Ralph hoped the "spirit" was reading his mind now, for if it wasn't, he just might have nothing but a mound of slag for a launch mirror and no launch if the propulsion units fired badly. This unit was a three unit giant, about half an old city block in all dimensions, designed specifically for the Terran system's conditions, and he had no idea what Fahnsoma's atmospheric mix would do to it or how the planet's mass would affect escape velocity. That would have to be run through the shuttle's own computer when it was determined everything worked right. Whatever happened, he would still have to take the chance, or he would bathe in the light of "Quonosang" for the rest of his days.
"Fahnsoma - Spring"© 2005-7 S.T.
When the volcanic activity brought it up initially, Ralph immediately covered up the latticed command bay glass, etched, like that of the Cassiopeia, with solar light receptors and transparent circuits, as soon as they got back to the campsite. The presence of so much water put the circuits aboard the ship in danger the minute sufficient solar light hit them! So far, however, luck was smiling on him and everything checked out fine. Earth's blue-green image hung spectral in front of Ralph's eyes like a Christmas tree ornament, like an apple so ripe, he could almost taste its juices. Unfortunately, hallucinations like this were a sign of overwork, but eighteen years of estrangement from dear old Mother Terra had made it understandable. It was getting very close to nineteen years, now!
"Thumbs up for the monitoring relay, Avril! It looks like it's going to happen!" Dauphin Avril smiled as he backed out of a terminal closet at Ralph's words. Avril was perhaps the most ordinary looking of the Garçons, looking for all the world like the archetypical UFN techno with short hair, no facial hair and the kind of aspect that made him look like a 40 year old househusband.
"Shall we celebrate, Raoul?"
"Oooo...no. We have to be sharp to make sure everything's working here. There can be absolutely no slip-ups! In fact, we'd better take a break now...fatigue will only make mistakes more possible!"
"I agree, confrere. I am, how you say, `pooped'!"
"Yes...strung out!" Anny Samedi, known as the waif of the troupe for her sallow features and little-girlish ways, approached the two famished, labored men with a stew of Fahnsoman proto-apples, which tasted like pineapples, some celery-like vegetable very much like that on Sonsuang, in a succulent broth. It didn't look like much, but it was very tasty. Ralph had had it before, and actually found that the food on Fahnsoma agreed with him better than similar food on Sonsuang. Virgins, or near-virgins were always better than a jaded trollop, and Fahnsoma's eco-system hadn't been polluted by colonies of uncaring mammalians that defecated the landscape in more ways than one.
"Lord, this stuff is good! Walks all over Reevdong radish with gravity boots!"
"It has kept us alive for at least seven years, mon ami! Vegetarianism has never been so palatable!"
"Are the French still masters of the grand cuisine, Avril?"
"Will we ever be anything else. Raoul?? Listen, the French have two marchés cornered: elaborate food preparation and international snobbery! We are the champs at that! Seven hundred years post facto...a record!"
"Thank God I'm not English!" The men chuckled at Ralph's joke, then Ralph continued. "I wonder what Earth is like now, Dag. How much has it changed....? I wish like hell I had some way of knowing...." Dauphin Avril looked up at Krimson from a slightly lower vantage point, sitting on the floor as Ralph sat in a chair with their respective meals.
"What is it now, Raoul...six hundred light years, one way...? They will be in another age by the time we get there!"
"Can't be any worse than this...!"
"This is so bad??" Ralph reflected on his true feelings for a while and found out that he was, indeed, somewhat ambivalent after spending an Earth week on the paradisic Fahnsoma.
"Yeah, Dag, I guess we could start our own little civilization up here, but there are so many variables going against it! Non-indigenousness, for one thing...our ages, for another! How about the possibility of our reproductive systems having been affected by living in this system...not to mention our friend, 'thee esprit'! He might have his limits in the hospitality department if he thought we were actually going to propagate here!"
"Yes, that could be tragic. We could actually be quite up a tree if that were to happen. The only precedent we have to work from is you-know-who and the children of you-know-where! Not a very good working model for prognostication!" Krimson got a mischievous look on his face....
"Yes, but with six women and no impedance....WOW!"
"Hee hee...you are a rascal, Raoul Krimson!"
"Yes, and a horny rascal, frere Dauphin....!"
"Fahnsoma At Dawn"© 2004 Stephen Turner
Everything worked! Nothing, but nothing, was shorted out, corroded or dissolved! "He" must have had something to do with it, the Terrans suspected, preserving it against this day for his newfound friends. The propulsion units all lit up to full power, the oscilloscopes still oscillated, the holographic coordinators all showed crisp images of star systems light years away and charted them in the way Ralph was used to! Even the artificial gravity still worked! Ralph, Avril and the other Terrans were beside themselves. It would happen! Now all Ralph had to do was use those holographic coordinators to triangulate a launch window when Sol was in a clear opening and they were set. Ralph told them launch would probably be in a week. As Ralph started in earnest within the shuttle itself, Hanquong looked over his shoulder, fascinated by UFN/Terran technology.
"That's all it would take you to chart a 600 light-year journey, my son?"
"With these relays humming like this, I should be through with the basic charting in a couple of Sonsuangian days, Dad! UFN technology would have turned your eyes purple!"
Ralph, the troupe and the Sonsuangians had all agreed earlier, when it was certain that the trip was possible, that Hanquong would accompany them back to Earth and the rest of the expeditionary crew would head back to Sonsuang. The shuttle only had hibernation pods for six individuals and two of the private quarters had life-slowing circuitry hooked up to them. Ralph could have improvised a link-up of a few other rooms to accommodate the other blueskins, but he would have had to divert power from his hyper-light setup.
"Fahnsoma - Summer"© 2005-7 S.T.
The troupe was putting the finishing touches on a schedule of rehearsals for their creation production, straining their conditioned subconsciouses to communicate their scenery and effects needs to their friend-in-the-marsh. Mardi and Mercredi, (Anny Wednesday,) were the revenant's favorites. and it stood to rights that they would be the go-betweens for the troupe in acquiring his services. They used a zen acting discipline of long standing to induce themselves to dream or think of certain artifacts and pertinent dramatic instances to arouse "his" curiosity and typical feminine charm to work the rest. Fevrier, naturally, would play the diabolical influence as only he could, but Mercredi had gotten the impression from her sessions with the spirit that the "Revenant de Fahnsoma" wanted to improvise its role. Only the troupe could pull all this off with such facility, for it came naturally to them. "A child of the theater must have a strong will and an ego to match..." as Mondidi, Anny Monday, was fond of saying.
Things were going like clockwork in this little patch of Eden, and a painter fond of depicting contented peasant families at work on a farm or in the field would have been smitten with the industrious tableau of the past week.
"Fahnsoma At Midday"© 2004 Stephen Turner
The production was about to begin! The shuttle had been parked precisely on the planet-conjured base for twelve earth-hours now and as soon as the presentation was over, it was wagons-ho for the two parties to their respective planets. Secrecy had surrounded the whole piece's development and even the members not participating in the production itself were panting to see the results...with a professional eye, of course.
The Sonsuangians were the picture of propriety as they sat on the ground in perfect repose with their arms wrapped around their knees. Dauphin Juin was playfully chasing Anny Samedi around the campsite, snapping a shock of cloth at her to frisky yelps and impotent admonitions. Ralph, however, was getting down to some serious beeswax as he and Mardi schmoozed behind a bush, hidden from the rest.
"Ah, Mardi....it's a shame we'll have to leave this paradise in hibernation for twenty-odd years. I haven't known passion like this since my first days on Sevuasong..." It was obvious Ralph's mind was not on being dramatically entertained at the moment, as he spooned the comely Anny Tuesday away from the eyes of her sibling colleagues.
"Sapriste, Raoul! You mean that you actually had something to do with ze distaff contrepartie of those...those things!? How could you....!?" Ralph had to do some serious damage control now.
"Mardi...five years drifting through space, six Earth years adrift in the Sonsuangian oceans, and the disorientation of being discovered by a bunch of creatures that looked like simian members of a royal Renaissance court....I was desperate for succor from any quarter I could get it. And Sonsuangian females are not only quite human looking, but well toned and rather attractive if you squint in just the right way....!" It seemed to be working.
"Ooooo...pauvre Raoul! How you must have suffered...."
"After my newness wore off, I was isolement for years! Kiss me, Mardi...."
"Certainement, mon talisman. Paraitre, mon soldat! Mmmm..."
Just as things were starting to get meaningful for the two amants, thunder, of a volume no one present had heard for years, heralded the beginning of the epic play's prologue.
On a conjured ledge, the figure of Anny Monday could be seen, diaphanous gown flowing, holding out both arms to a setting sun.
"O king of heaven, baron of the boundless sky.....glorify your light, that I may behold your magnificent gifts!" At this, the kwonigs-distant fog beyond the edges of the campsite came rolling up like a tsunami, riveting everybody's attention and alarming a few in the bargain. It then formed a canopy over their heads that put Ralph in mind of a planetarium dome, then dimmed ominously, then lit up again to a perfect replica of a star rich sky. It had been Fahnsoman twilight at the start of the play.
"Where is a mantle for my feet, a foundation for my home, O persona of greatness!?" Though the star-canopy had many a twinkling star set in it, the ground beneath it was still dim. As a reply to the request for a place to walk, a gentle light illuminated the ground directly under the center of the magnificently reproduced "sky" and spreading from the center outwards.
Into this scene came Vendredi, Anny Friday, in a dark, "mistress-of-the-night" counterpart outfit to Anny Monday's more ethereal garb.
Vendredi: "I, your angel of the night, am lonely! I would see companions, to make my days useful, my nights thoughtful! Pray you, fill this world with your spirit! Bring forth life!"
Inspired, the planet then outdid its sky-trick. Out of the ground, in the manner of a slow dustspout or tornado, rose a cone of smoke that could have been produced by Cecil B. De Mille. Twisting and turning with angst and potency, lightning and thunder issuing from its head, the planet's mist-manifestation spoke for the first time in the presence of the Sonsuangian entourage in language both the blueskins and the Terrans could understand:
"I have pondered, lo these many years, the character I would assume for my venture into corporeality! I am the grand illusion of this planet...its fifth dimension! I will make a creature, sweet in nature, soothing to the sight, and delicious to the mind!" Thunderclaps of a diminished magnitude could be heard as punctuation overhead. "She will utilize this becoming quality to set about duplicating her own kind with a bestial, aggressive, but tentatively self-controlled counterpart. In a balance of irresistible affection and a playful desire to devour, these two will produce small ones that will rise to take their part as I retrieve their elements unto myself when their time is through!"
Mondidi: "You do not bequeath immortality upon these two, like unto yourself? Why is this, o great one?!"
"If they prove to remain pure, I will relent, but for the nonce, their method of replication, as I have designed it, will prove the flaw that will overwhelm that possibility! But hold! Their days will prove interesting...The cerebral components of this very motivational force will cause them to commit great folly, and that will eventually tax their not inconsiderable talents to compensate for the effects of this fatal flaw!"
The production was truly awe-inspiring. Words could never describe the profoundness of the planet-spirit's own performance, which far outstripped either Anny Monday's or Vendredi's, as competent as they were! All the spectators were spellbound, both by the command of its voice and the spectacle of the staging. Mardi could not restrain herself as the next step in the production started to congeal:
"Incroyable! He is actually making two human beings, right before our eyes!!" Mardi and Ralph were wide-eyed as a truly perfect, demur, feminine form materialized from the cone of smoke, followed by an ideal male form, rippling with sinew and fascinated with itself...
"Fahnsoma At Twilight"© 2004 Stephen Turner
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