By: James Rumpel
Boris Sloppner was, in all likelihood, the least qualified trillionaire in the galaxy. He made his credits simply by winning the Super-Intergalactic Lottery. The only skill he possessed was the ability to, on one miraculous occasion, pick the correct twenty-seven numbers and five Corrilian communication symbols required to win the grand prize.
Instantly becoming one of the richest beings in the universe changed Boris' life dramatically. Suddenly surrounded by many new friends, he went through his winnings quickly. Boris had worked hard for most of his life, loading and unloading interstellar spaceships. The hours were long and physically demanding. He told himself that he had earned the right to enjoy life to its fullest.
It came as no surprise to anyone when he decided to pay the astronomical fee charged by EFEC, the Entertainment Fantasy Experience Company. For an exorbitant amount credits, he would get to spend a week experiencing life as a guest character in one of his favorite childhood video shows. EFEC promised a completely realistic experience. Every last detail would be authentic.
As the shuttle carried Boris to the secret location, an EFEC representative explained the details.
"Since the show you wish to be a part of took place on a deserted planet, we are transporting you to an undisclosed, uninhabited world. You will be dropped off and spend one week with the characters, experiencing everything as it would be if that show had been real. Everyone will look and act exactly as you remember them."
"You call them characters," interrupted Boris, "aren't they just actors playing the roles. Will there be breaks and time for me to get to know the actors? I always wanted to meet Bill Aspen."
The blue skinned EFEC representative shook his head. "First, you must realize that the show you picked was filmed over fifty years ago. The actors you refer to are no longer available and, if they were, they would be much too old to play the parts. Second, we promised a realistic experience. There will be no breaks. The characters will be exactly who you expect them to be at all times. They are not actors; they are the actual dramatis personae."
"I don't get it. How do you do that?" asked Boris.
The EFEC rep ignored Boris's question and continued the briefing. "You will be dropped on the planet, near the characters' encampment. They will have just received a transmission about a famous reporter having gone missing. You will play the role of that reporter. When you tell them that you are going to do an expose' on them and that one of them will be featured in the story, they will each go overboard trying to impress you. Hilarious hijinks will ensue."
"Can I tell them who I really am?"
"You could, but they will not understand or believe you. It would just ruin the authenticity of your experience. It is best if you stick to the plan. After a week, we will return and pick you up, leaving them stranded once again."
Boris smiled. "I can't believe I get to spend a week on Gimmigan's Planet. This is going to be so much fun."
Boris trudged his way through the underbrush. The shuttle dropped him a short distance from the small settlement and pointed him in the correct direction. As he walked, he went over his backstory.
A scream from the top of one of the nearby trees roused Boris from his reverie.
"Captain, someone's coming!"
Boris watched as a young man started to climb down from his perch. About half-way down the silver-colored tree trunk, the man lost his grip and fell the last five meters. He hit the ground with a loud thud followed immediately by a second thud as a large round nut fell from above, striking the poor man squarely on the head.
The young man grabbed the hand that Boris offered and rose to his feet. He looked to be about twenty years old, ten years younger than Boris. Gimmigan was about the same size and build as himself. He had pictured the castaway being smaller.
"You look just like him, maybe a little taller than I expected," said Boris.
"Look like who?" asked Gimmigan, scratching his head.
"Oh, nobody," replied Boris, trying to get back into character. "I saw you fall and thought you might need my help."
"Thank you. I think I'm okay," said Gimmigan. "Who are you?"
Before Boris could answer, six other people came running from the settlement. Boris recognized each of them instantly. Leading the group was the Captain, a gruff, heavy-set man. Next to him was Doctor Noitall, the scientist who constantly came up with amazing gadgets to help the group survive. Two women followed close behind. One was Ginette, a beautiful space-lounge singer. The other was Ellie. She looked plain and simple compared to her glamorous companion, but Boris had always found her to be attractive in her own way. Lastly, came Mr. and Mrs. Richland. They were very wealthy and carried themselves in a manner that made their wealth obvious.
Once everyone arrived, Boris went into his planned monologue.
"Greetings, I am Boris Sloppner, a reporter for the Intergalactic Times. You must be the seven castaways who were lost in space two years ago. I have been searching for you."
Boris knew he sounded unnatural, but it was the best he could do.
"I am going to write an exclusive expose' about your adventures. My ship will be back in a week to take all of us back to civilization."
Cheers erupted from the castaways.
"We get to go home."
Boris continue, "I will spend the week talking to you and watching how you were able to survive on your own for so long. I am also going to use the time to decide which one of you I will feature in my story. It is going to be huge."
The seven stranded humans rushed to shake Boris' hand. They each introduced themselves; not knowing that introductions were unnecessary.
Eventually, the Captain suggested that they go back to the camp for a celebratory meal. He put his arm around Gimmigan. "Hey, tiny pal, could you find us a goobanut. It would be nice to have one with our food.
Gimmigan rubbed his head, "I think I already did."
Mr. Richland offered Boris another glass of champaign. "This is the best stuff money can buy. It's from the Norilian Solar System, two thousand credits a bottle. I purchased a case of it before we decided to take a short planetary tour."
Ginette slid closer to Boris, placing her hand near his knee. "So, how does a strong, handsome, man like you become a reporter? I'd think you'd be a movie star or a space-sphere player."
"Let me finish the story," called the Captain. "We had just jumped into hyperdrive when a wormhole opened up right in front of us. If Gimmigan and I hadn't managed to turn the ship, it would have been lost. When we finally dropped into normal space we were in an uncharted region. We were very short on fuel and lucky to find this planet."
"I managed to make a water purification unit and a transmission receiver out of some vines and rocks," added Dr. Noitall.
"We've managed," chimed in Ellie, "but we really can't wait to get back to civilization."
Gimmigan emerged from the kitchen hut carrying a large tray of assorted fruits and baked goods, balancing it precariously in his arms. "Hey, tell him about the time I found a chest filled with Arturian micro-robots "
Before he could finish his sentence, Gimmigan tripped. Food items flew in every direction. One of the pies landed directly in the Captain's face.
What could be seen of the Captain's face instantly turned a deep shade of red. "Gimmigan, I'm gonna "
The Captain never got a chance to finish his thought. A thunderous explosion drew everyone's attention. Boris and the castaways looked up to see a large ball of fire shooting across the night sky. The ground shook slightly when the fireball hit the ground a short distance from the camp.
"What was that?" asked Gimmigan.
"It looked like a crashing ship," replied the doctor.
"Oh, I hope it wasn't your vessel," said Ginette as she batted her eyes toward Boris.
"My ship isn't due for a week."
"Well, we better go investigate," said the Captain.
"I don't recognize that race at all," whispered the Captain.
"They appear to be robots of some sort," added Dr. Noitall.
Boris, along with Gimmigan, the Captain, and the doctor, peered over the crest of a hill. A trail of burnt and toppled trees extended before them, stopping at the shore of a large lake. The top of a shiny metal spaceship was slowly sinking into the water. Three metal, humanoid-shaped automatons were busy carrying debris from the ship to the shore.
"Let's go talk to them," suggested Boris as he started to stand.
The Captain reached up and pulled Boris back to the ground. "Are you crazy? What if they aren't friendly?"
Boris laughed. "It's perfectly safe. Nothing bad can happen to us. I'm sure it's part of the experience."
He shook free of the big man's grip and began walking toward the aliens. Gimmigan shrugged and followed close behind.
"Greetings," yelled Boris, waving his hand in a friendly gesture.
The one robot that was on shore at that time, stopped and turned to face the visitors. In one motion, it dropped the crate it was carrying and raised its arm toward Boris.
"See, it's peaceful "
A loud clanking sound could be heard as the automaton's hand suddenly transformed into a gun barrel. Without warning, it fired a red laser toward Boris.
Instinctively, Boris dove to the ground. The heat of the laser beam burnt his left ear. A muffled scream came from behind. Boris looked back in time to see Gimmigan fall to the ground, a large hole burnt in his chest.
The Captain scrambled from his hiding spot and raced to Gimmigan. "My tiny pal," he cried as he grabbed the motionless body by the armpits and began dragging Gimmigan back to cover. The doctor took hold of Boris' arm and pulled him to safety.
"This couldn't happen," said Boris. The lifeless body of Gimmigan was laid out on a table, covered by a black blanket. "This isn't part of the experience. We have to call EFEC. You must have some way to contact them if something goes wrong."
"You're not making any sense," said the Captain. "What is EFEC?"
"The company that hired you to play the role of these characters. It's okay for you to break character. This is an emergency."
The Captain stared, his eyes puffy and red. Boris had to admit, this guy was an outstanding actor.
Dr. Noitall emerged from a nearby hut. "I just don't get it. I've tried everything I can think of to make a weapon out of goobanuts and vines. Nothing works. I clearly remember it working before. It's as if the laws of physics have changed."
"That's because you can't make any sort of weapon out of nuts and vines. This is the real world. Quit pretending to be Noitall. We don't have time to play around. Those things could come after us at any moment."
A huge hand grabbed Boris by the shoulder and spun him around. The Captain grabbed him and leaned in close, putting his nose mere centimeters from Boris' face.
"Now, you listen to me," the Captain said. "I don't know what your story is, but you are going to shut up right now. I'm usually a pretty easy-going guy, but I am sick of your rambling. Since you showed up everything has gone crazy. Mr. and Mrs. Richland are locked in their hut drunk out of their minds on Norilian Champaign. Ellie is crying her eyes out. Ginette is sitting in a corner, rocking back and forth, quoting Shakespeare. Suddenly, the doctor can't build things and worst of all my tiny pal is dead. This is all your fault!" The Captain pushed away, causing Boris to trip and fall backward onto the ground.
"This can't be real," cried Boris. "It's just a show. Gimmigan can't be dead." He climbed to his feet and ran off toward the alien landing site.
Boris peeked over the top of the knoll. The three large alien robots stood around a makeshift campfire. They were motionless and miniature hatches were opened in their backs. Sitting by the fire were three diminutive, little pink creatures. The incredibly skinny aliens could not have been more than fifteen centimeters in height and appeared to be eating a meal of small fish. These were the creatures that had killed Gimmigan and destroyed the lives of the castaways.
Boris jumped up and sprinted toward the alien camp. "You murderers," he yelled as he kicked one of the minuscule aliens and stomped on another.
The battle was over almost immediately. When Boris came to his senses, he found himself standing in the middle of three lifeless alien bodies. Purple blood stained his shoes and hands. Gimmigan had been avenged.
Boris began walking back toward the castaway's camp. Maybe they would forgive him now. Things could return to normal on Gimmigan's planet. He was about three-quarters of the way to the cluster of huts when he found himself bathed in bright lights. Looking up, he saw the outline of a large space shuttle.
"Don't move," called a voice from above. "You are under arrest for the murder of three Pilution citizens."
Even with the best lawyers that money could buy, the trial did not go well for Boris. The jury had agreed that the Pilutions were wrong to have shot Gimmigan, but the ruling stated that the aliens had acted in self-defence. Boris, on the other hand, had committed premeditated murder. The sentence was fifteen years in suspended animation.
The EFEC entertainment division director glanced briefly at the report before handing back to his assistant.
"I guess the little incident on Gimmigan's Planet has worked out very well for us."
"Yes, Sir," she replied, "the murder trial has sparked a resurgence of popularity with the old show. We have four more guests scheduled to spend their vacation on the planet."
"That's great," said the director, nodding his head and flashing a huge grin. "It's works out well that we already have the cast in place. Reprogramming their minds to make them forget about everything that happened with Mr. Sloppner should be an easy procedure."
"Yes, it's already complete," replied the assistant. "Everything went smoothly. As far as they know, the incident never happened."
"The only issue will be Gimmigan. Have we found a suitable replacement?"
It was the assistant's turn to smiled, her pointy teeth bordered by dark blue lips. "That's the best part. We were able to purchase the sentence of Mr. Sloppner. He is the correct size, and it only took a few surgeries to make him an exact double for Gimmigan. The mind reconstruction is nearly complete. He should be ready to be dropped off on the planet a full week before their next scheduled visit."
The director couldn't help but flash his own toothy grin. "Well, he said he wanted to experience what it would be like to live in that show. He's definitely going to get his wish."