By Ellis Ryder
We are the elite; we explore the farthest reaches of
the universe, finding new worlds, cataloging alien species and
taking deadly action against all those who threaten the CORE. We
will follow the orders of our commander, even if our life is
lost. We are Spacemen.
THE X GALAXY- 20:30, YEAR 4019, DAY 323
The planet was small, an eighth of Oriox; even from outer space, he
could tell it was heavily forested. As the Spaceman eased his
thrusters forward a little, his ship purred louder and zoomed
quicker. His hand went up to his headset, switching the channel to
“This is Spaceman 1313 checking into Command 66,” The spaceman
waited for a response.
“Go ahead, 1313, this is Commander Ryke,” The response was full of
static; 1313 was in uncharted territory, far from Command, so the
signal was bound to be weak.
“I’m entering the atmosphere of planet X-34. I’ll be following
standard mission protocol, just wanted to make sure there aren’t any
new details or orders.”
“No. This should be pretty standard…our satellites haven’t detected
any intelligent lifeforms on the planet…a good first mission,” There
was a pause. The spaceman knew what was coming next. “…you have the
Spaceman 1313 glanced at the red cube securely fastened to the wall
on his right. He didn’t know what it was, but he knew it wasn’t
good…he was afraid of it…afraid of what he might have to do with it…
“Then you’re all set to proceed.”
1313 pulled back his jacket sleeve and glanced at the blue watch on
his wrist. It didn’t work anymore…but he didn’t wear it to tell
“I pledge allegiance to Mr. Colson, the almighty, and
grand leader of CORE. Let him protect us from evil and bring our
enemies to their knees!”
ORIOX-14:32, YEAR 4013, DAY 201
“Please, come in,” Commander Jon Ryke smiled. He sat at his desk,
his fingers working busily at a Greyholt pistol.
The man who walked in was tall, with wide, strong shoulders,
jet-black hair and a chiseled jaw. “Hello, sir. My name is--,”
“—I don’t want to know your name.” Jon pulled the barrel back about
midway, then gave a slight tug. The barrel popped off. “Sit down.”
The man glanced nervously at the gun Ryke was disassembling, then
took a seat beside the desk.
“So, you want to be a spaceman?” The Commander managed to snag the
laser fuse with his fingernails and began to slowly jimmy it out.
“Why?” Ryke ran his brush up and down the Greyholt’s slide, barrel
and laser fuse, scrubbing away all grime and smudges.
There was a brief pause from the man, then the rehearsed lines began
to flow. “I want to serve the CORE—,”
“No bullshit please. Let’s have an honest conversation,” Commander
Jon snapped the pistol back together with fluid motions.
The man looked down at the ground, nervous as hell. Then, with a
sigh: a flood of honesty began. “My son has the Varlon disease…we
don’t have the money to pay for the treatment…”
Ryke glanced at the boy in front of him and read him like a book:
his whole life story open to the commander’s eyes just by examining
the clothes, the facial expressions, and his general mannerisms. The
man had been born poor and had lived poor his whole life, but had
been much loved by his mother, his only parent. This love made him
weak, pathetic. But Ryke liked a challenge. Weakness can be
transformed, and from the ashes would be born total dedication and
strength, a blazing, red phoenix of might and power.
Commander Ryke sighed and set the Greyholt on his desk. “In the 9th
grade, you displayed a flagrant tendency to rebel against the CORE,
refusing to pledge your oath to Mr. Colson and calling the Grand
Usurpation a horrendous massacre… ” Jon tsk tsked. “I bet you still
have the scars to remind you of those days.”
The man gulped, his eyes widened, brow moistening with salty sweat.
“I…,” The man paused, his breath ragged with nerves. “I was young—,”
“—I do not care what you did as a child,” stated Ryke. He stretched,
grinned slightly, and picked up the Greyholt pistol and pointed it
directly at the man. “I care what you do now.”
The Commander sat there in silence, letting the terrified man stew
in his trepidation.
“You can be a Spacemen if you wish. Your family will be taken care
of. However, if you show any signs of rebelliousness, I will kill
you and your family.”
X-34-20:39, YEAR 4019, DAY 323
“Levels of stress and unhappiness are elevated,” the ship computer
tells 1313. “Shall I tell you a joke? A termite walks into a bar—,”
“No, I don’t want to hear a joke.” The spaceman interrupted. “What’s
“My computer operating system is Recon9000XL. You can call me
“Right. Recon. What can you tell me of X-34?”
“One moment. Scanning planet…” There was a pause. “You sure you
don’t want to hear the rest of the joke? It’s very funny.”
1313 sighed. “Just the planet report, please.”
“Fine. X-34 has a gentle climate, summers varying in degrees from
10-24 onx, winters 5-12. It is 90% forest, while the rest of the
land consists of lakes and rivers. At the bottom of the food chain
is the grilk, a small furry creature with no teeth or claws. At the
top of the chain is the gror, a massive reptilian creature with huge
tusks and over a thousand spikes covering its entire body,”
“Is there an intelligent species on the planet? A civilization?”
Spaceman 1313 asked.
“Yes. They call themselves the Wajii. Though technologically
primitive, they are intelligent and have an advanced social and
The spaceman closed his eyes. He ran his finger over the crack on
the glass of his watch. “Command told me there wasn’t an intelligent
“Well, they were mistaken. There seems to be a main tribe that is
the governing body of the planet. All other villages are smaller and
seem to follow the same customs of the capital.
There are over 100,000 citizens in these towns and tribes,”
Spaceman 1313 sighed, eased the thrusters forward and broke through
the clouds of X-34, revealing the heavily forested landscape. He
could feel the red cube staring at him, boring into him and filling
him with dread. He did not look at it. He was too afraid.
“OK, Recon. Finish your joke.”
Immediately, Recon began: “A termite walks into a bar, goes up to
the counter and asked if the bar is tender.”
There was a pause.
“Did you get it?” Recon asked expectantly.
“Yeah, I got it.” 1313 shook his head, smiling at the stupidity of
“Then why aren’t you laughing?”
X-34-21:04, YEAR 4019, DAY 323
“X-34 is a lushly forested planet,” Spaceman 1313 said into his
microphone; every mission required a complete log of all events. “I
have encountered three creatures so far: the grilk, the gurlg and
the grunk, all of them harmless. I decided to land my ship away from
the main tribe so as not to appear threatening. It’s better for me
to go in unarmed and to attempt peaceful negotiations.”
The spaceman stepped over a tumblewood log, and began to descend
down the steep hill. “Recon,” he said, grabbing onto a jutting rock
and slowly easing himself downward. “I’m heading toward the main
“According to my scanners, yes,” Recon said through the spaceman’s
1313 landed on the ground, pushed away some brush and walked into a
clearing where a massive gror was feasting on the body of a grunk.
“Don’t make a sound!” Recon alerted in the spaceman’s ear.
“OK,” Spaceman 1313 whispered in reply.
The gror stopped mid-chew, its ears perked.
“You made a sound.” Recon sighed.
The gror whipped its head around, eyes glowing fiercely and purple
intestines dripping out of its mouth, searching for whatever made
the mysterious noise. 1313 had already hidden behind the trunk of a
tree. He closed his eyes and waited for the creature to resume
There was a long moment of silence and the spaceman half expected
the gror to come from behind the tree and rip him to shreds, but
fortunately the chewing resumed. He was safe for the moment. Quietly
as possible, he left the creature to its dinner.
“Grors. Very sensitive to noise.” Recon informed.
“You don’t say,” 1313 grumbled sarcastically. “Mark that location on
The Spaceman was about 200 feet from the village. Perched on a hill,
a pair of binoculars in hand scoping the surroundings and trying to
make sure he was not going to be killed upon entering. The main
tribe consisted of around 500 small huts made out of drejweed and
mud. There was a wooden wall surrounding the town, but it seemed to
be more for organization than protection. The Wajii were grey and
scaly, with purple eyes and small sets of horns protruding from
their foreheads. They were short, around four to five feet tall, and
appeared quite formidable. Everyone seemed to be rugged and ready
for a fight; their scales thick and their arms heavily corded with
After watching their movements and actions for twenty minutes,
Spaceman 1313 assessed the Wajii as capable of being reasoned with.
He walked down the hill and toward the tribe.
“1313,” Recon’s voice came on over the spaceman’s earpiece. “I see
you’re heading toward the tribe. If they attack you and you need
help, just say Glorfindel, and I’ll come immediately.”
The spaceman was a hundred feet from the town and he had been
spotted. Guards began pouring out, running to confront him. “Why
Glorfindel?” He asked.
“I like J.R.R Tolkien. What can I say?”
“He’s over 2000 years old,” 1313 said as the guards began to
“Doesn’t make him any less good,” Recon replied simply.
“You’re the weirdest goddamn spaceship I’ve ever met.”
The Wajii had circled the Spaceman, long spears all pointing at him.
They were all wearing the same thick, spiked armor; 1313 guessed
they were the tribe’s soldiers.
The spaceman smiled warmly and began negotiations. “Greetings Wajii.
I am Spaceman 1313, here to negotiate terms with your civilization
and mine.” His English was automatically translated into the native
One of the soldiers poked the man in the stomach and grunted
something in Wajiik.
1313’s earpiece took the alien language and turned it into…rough
English. The system wasn’t flawless. “What it?”
“Don’t know. Smells funny.” Another soldier leaned in and sniffed.
“He speaks Wajiik language. Why?”
“I do not know…what we do with it?”
“No…we’ll take him to Tarok.”
The soldiers grabbed the spaceman and began walking him through the
village. 1313 saw a wide range of emotions coming from the Wajii
people as he walked: disgust, anger, sympathy…but mostly fear.
Tarok’s hut was slightly larger than the others and it was
surprisingly well furnished inside, with a large couch, huge wooden
table and beautiful paintings covering the walls. Two Wajii were
standing above the table, one of whom (possibly Tarok) had a large
crown made out of some sort of gem, the other with a smaller crown
made of bones. They were both looking over an expansive map of what
looked to be the planet.
The one with the big crown glanced from his map up at the spaceman.
He didn’t look surprised to see the strange human enter his hut. In
fact, he seemed as if he had been expecting 1313 for a long time.
The smaller crowned Wajii, however, seemed very angry about his
“Hello,” the large crowned individual said in English. “My name is
Tarok. This,” he indicated toward the Wajii next to him, “is Taryx.
What’s your name?”
“I am Spaceman 1313. I have come—,”
Tarok interrupted; “That is not a name.”
“Nevertheless,” 1313 said. “It is mine.”
Tarok smiled. “I do not think so. You are from the CORE planets,
The spaceman nodded. This was very strange. How could Tarok, an
alien millions of miles away from the CORE galaxy, know its language
without any sort of special technology?
“Filthy CORE scum,” Taryx growled.
Tarok raised a hand to shush the other Wajii. “And you are obviously
part of the Spaceman Program, here to enforce Mr. Colson’s will upon
us and collect taxes, correct?”
“I…” the spaceman was dumbfounded. How could he know so much?
“You are surprised I know so much. The Wajii are not so primitive as
you might have thought,” Tarok smiled. “I’m afraid we will not be
associated with the CORE or its taxes.”
1313 felt dread pool inside him. “I beg of you, please reconsider,
the CORE influence is—,”
“I’m sorry, we will do no such thing.” The Wajii walked up to the
spaceman and patted him on the shoulder. “Goodbye, Spaceman 1313, I
hope you remember your name.”
The spaceman nodded, knowing there was no way to persuade the
leader. Taryx had been growling the whole time and as 1313 left the
hut, he could hear the Wajii whisper to Tarok: “He will destroy us.
We must kill him…”
X-34-22:25, YEAR 4019, DAY 323
The spaceman had been walking for about ten minutes when Taryx
attacked. He jumped from above, slamming 1313 off his feet.
Disorientated, the spaceman was confused as the Wajii pounded huge
fists in his face. He lied there, almost hoping the Wajii would kill
him, would overpower him. However, the six years of spaceman
training kicked in and with lightning speed, 1313 drew a pistol from
his ankle holster and fired it at Taryx. The Wajii lunged out of the
way, and the shot fired harmlessly into the forest.
The spaceman was on his feet, now, fists raised, eyes narrowed.
Taryx made the move with a powerful right swing, which 1313 easily
sidestepped. The Wajii warrior stumbled forward, giving the spaceman
an opening. He lunged forward with a set of two quick punches to the
Taryx angered and bloodied, grabbed hold of the spaceman’s shoulders
and swung his head into his enemy’s. The skull’s crown smacked into
1313 who fell backward, over the edge of a steep hill.
As he landed heavily on the ground, the spaceman’s headset gave an
alert: that he was near the map marker he had set a few hours ago.
Taryx was descending the hill, looking angrier than ever. 1313 made
a quick calculation; he knew he was no match for the Wajii warrior,
but had an idea how to defeat him anyway.
Taryx was at the foot of the hill only a few feet away from Spaceman
1313 and was brandishing a long, jagged knife. He seemed ready to
use it. The spaceman didn’t really feel like being gutted by a
Wajii, so in one fluid motion, he kicked Taryx in the groin and
leapt to his feet. Not waiting for a response, he turned and
sprinted toward his destination. The crackling of twigs and the
sound of hoarse breathing indicated that Taryx was closely
They ran for about twenty more seconds until 1313 made a sharp left
turn. Taryx did not expect this and he tried to follow the turn but
tripped on a root. As the Wajii soldier was on the ground catching
his breath, the Spaceman whistled as loud as he could. Before Taryx
could even get up to defend himself, a massive gror broke through
the brush and snapped its massive jaws around the warrior, sending a
spray of blood onto the spaceman. With a delicious meal in its jaws,
the gror retreated back to its lair.
Spaceman 1313, shocked, exhausted, and covered in Wajii entrails,
did what he always did when he was worried. He looked at his blue
watch…but it wasn’t blue anymore; it had been soaked in red blood.
What started with trembles, turned into sobs as he fell to his
knees, clutching his wrist. He began to panic and question all the
decisions that led him to this point. He focused on remembering what
he had been like before 1313. He had had a wife, a child…they had
given him the watch! His wife telling him “Don’t ever change, OK?”
as he walked away from her forever. He could remember the time his
trainer tried to take away the watch, how they had broken it, and
how he had fought them.
“My name is James Starlon,” he stated emphatically.
That’s when the gror slammed into him. James flew backwards, landing
heavily on the ground, the wind knocked out of him. The gror was
charging toward him and Starlon was gasping for air. He managed a
faint “Glorfindel” before he passed out.
When James woke, the gror was dead, a huge hole in its side. Recon
was parked next to it, its engine thrumming gently. With a groan,
Starlon grabbed hold of the ship for support and stood up slowly.
“Recon,” James breathed. “I need to ask a favor…”
“Anything,” Recon replied.
“Can you make a long distance probe for the Starlon family? I need
to know they’re OK.”
A few seconds passed until Recon came back with results. “The
Starlon family is marked as EXECUTED.”
James felt a massive void open up inside him. He closed his eyes for
a moment and then the void filled with anger.
He looked up at Recon. “I need to ask you another favor.”