Chapter 18 Bonus: Professor

“This place is awful,” Rhys said, not for the first time in their last two hours of trekking through jungle. His initial iterations of the complaint had been peppered with more cursing and metaphors, but the twin daggers of effort and heat had sapped his creativity. Eve wasn’t sure if it was the lack of alcoholic beverages or the scorching sun relentlessly beating down on him that had Rhys in such a foul mood; she just knew much more complaining and he’d drag her into one as well.

“Shut yer yap already. I know it’s hot, everyone knows it’s hot. That’s why no one ever comes here. Save for the lone nut that the cap’n is after.” Eve trusted Fiearius implicitly, so when he told them to undertake this side-mission, she hadn’t batted an eye about accepting the task. Then he’d told her what they were after, and she wished she’d spared at least a few bats to have some wiggle room.

Rhys growled, but hacked away at the dense brush, clearing out a path for them to advance through. “What kind of tech does he think we’ll find in a place like this?”

“You’d have to ask the cap’n. Our job is to talk to this recluse and bring back what he’ll sell us,” Eve replied. “There’re rumors of his work from Carthis to Satieri, they say he comes up with inventions like no one has ever seen before.”

“Think he’d have invented himself out of here if that were true.” Rhys grunted with effort as he pulled at a tangle of vines, finally ripping them down to reveal a large clearing.

It was a massive opening in the jungle, with the river they’d been following dumping into a small lagoon. In the center of it stood a sizable hut made from trees and vines. Next to it, half-rotted by time and neglect were several smaller huts built in a similar fashion. The most eye-catching piece of the opening was neither the water nor the huts, however. It was the crumpled, grown over remains of a crashed spaceship that rested at the clearing’s edge. Eve could only guess, but she’d have wagered heavily that it was the ship’s impact that created the creating and made a crater that became the lagoon.

“Wow.” Rhys was nearly struck speechless, with one word more coming out of his mouth than Eve could conjure. She too stared in wonderment as the front of the hut opened and a man with wild, bushy brown hair stepped out into the torturous sunshine. He spied them immediately, and bolted back into the house.

Eve cursed under her breath, smacking Rhys and getting him moving. They hurried across the clearing without breaking into a full run, lest they come off as threatening. Rumors said this man was prone to vanishing when visitors came, unless they caught him in just the right mood. With war on the horizon, they needed every advantage they could get. If he wasn’t in the mood, then Eve would put him in it. By force, if necessary.

“Hello?” She knocked carefully on the door, rapping against logs that had been strapped together by vines, rattling it so bad she feared it would fall off its hinges. “We’ve come to talk about trading with you, mister…” Only after she’d started to address him by name did Eve remember that no one knew what his name was. For the first time since the ship had dropped them off though, she caught a break.

“It’s Professor, not Mister.” The voice that came from the other side of the door was surprisingly cultured, not at all what she’d expected from the wild man living in the jungle.

Rhys rolled his eyes, for which he caught an elbow in the gut from Eve. “I’m sorry, Professor. Forgive me, I don’t know yer name either, and I’d like to not mess that up too.”

Slowly, the door parted, revealed the unkempt man. Eve nearly took a step back as she stared into his eyes. They were wiry, bold, nearly flashing with intelligence… and perhaps madness as well. Those lines often blurred with the brilliant, and she suspect that with him they were little more than greasy, ill-defined streaks.

“The name is unimportant, it was given at birth and holds no merit. Only the title was earned. You may call me Professor.” A slice of white broke through the sea of brown that was his facial hair. “It makes me a bit nostalgic to use that title anyway.”

He opened the door the rest of the way, motioning for Eve and Rhys to come in. They did, albeit with a bit of hesitation. The inside of the hut was surprisingly full, as more wood and vine furniture sat along the floors. Also adorning the walls were strange devices, made of a dark, hard material Eve had never before seen. She quickly recognized a clock, a phone, and even what seemed like an interstellar homing beacon, all seemingly homemade.

“Admiring my work, I see.” Professor walked up to a device she didn’t recognize and tapped it lightly, producing a loud knocking sound. “When my tour ship was first stranded her, I considered it the greatest tragedy of my life. Cast away in a wasteland of intelligence, with only dullards and simpletons for company. Then I discovered the spacoco. A rare, hardy material indigenous only to this planet. Amazing stuff really, capable of filling in for all manner of more advanced technology, when applied by the right mind.”

“So we’re heard,” Rhys muttered. He clearly didn’t trust this man, and Eve couldn’t blame him. There was something… wrong about him. Even if she couldn’t put her finger on it, Eve had been around enough danger to know what it felt like. Still, it was for Fiearius. She couldn’t give up without trying.

“Yes, I’ve had to make a few deals here and there to fund my continued research. Getting on and off planet isn’t cheap, after all. Thankfully, I’ve since accumulated all I needed to move on to the second phase of my spacoco research. The juices of it have incredible properties. Healing, sustaining, why, my fellow cast aways and I were able to survive off nothing but the spacoco for years.”

“What are these… ‘spacoco’ you keep talking about, anyway?” Eve asked.

Instantly, Professor’s eyes darkened and he took an angry step toward them. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you! Come here, have me tell you all about my research, all about my work. Just like all the others, trying to steal my findings. Every one of you a spy. Even my own ship mates, all of them spies! Well you don’t fool me. I’ll show you what happens to thieves.” He slammed his hand down on the device he’d knocked, sending a wave of energy crashing down from the ceiling, separating himself the others.

In the distance, Eve could hear a sound that was like howling… but distinctly not.

“The spacoco has incredible properties, the way it interact with a body is wondrous. After years of study, it would have been criminal of me not to see what it could add to genetic manipulation. Sadly, the first subjects did not turn out so well, but that is the price of science.”

“Eve, I think we need to go.” Rhys gripped her arm and looked out the still open door. Off in the distance, a few of the trees were rustling.

“By all means, run,” Professor encouraged. “I do so feel bad for not giving my old friends enough entertainment. All they can do is skulk around the jungle and The Minnow’s remains, which is not at all the same as keeping proper exercise.”

“Eve!” Rhys tugged on her dragging her to the door. Shadows of some… things were stalking through the trees. If they let the things get in ambush positon, there was no hope of making it back to the ship.

They headed for the door, but before they reached it Professor called out to them one last time.

“Since it won’t matter soon, I suppose I owe you this much,” he said, that once soft grin now a wide, mad white blade in the center of his face. “Spacoco was a shortened term one of my moronic cast aways came up with. It was an allusion to another fruit that resembled what he found here. Spacoco, the secret to my technology and the source of your own deaths, is simply two words jammed together: space coconuts.”

The Professor’s insane cackling followed them as they raced out the door, through the clearing, and into what remained of the once cheerful crew of the Star Ship Minnow.

APRIL FOOLS!

The crazy, zany, and completely NOT CANON! interlude you’ve just read is part of the Serial Fiction April Fool’s Day Swap, 2015 Edition.  The mindblowing gag post you’ve just read was written by Drew Hayes, who normally writes the story Corpies ,   found at http://www.drewhayesnovels.com/corpiesindex/ .

Khronos,  who normally writes this story, today has created her own piece of tomfoolery for Anathema found at https://anathemaserial.wordpress.com/ .

For a full list of all our April Fool’s Swappers and their stories, as well as dozens of other serial novels that will tickle your fancy, check out The Web Fiction Guide at

http://forums.webfictionguide.com/topic/2015-april-fools-master-list

Thanks for reading and remember, the best way to support your favorite serial novelist is to tell all your friends about them. 

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