Detour to Qwark

Space is death. An empty nothingness wherein nothing can survive if exposed. Most beings exposed to the cold vacuum of that nothingness begin to bloat without any atmospheric pressure to keep the water in their bodies in a liquid state. Their skin begins to burn and their retinas are fried blind by the unfiltered rays of the nearest star. This is of course followed by rapid cooling as the water in their eyes freezes over while their blood starts to boil - the the boiling point of blood drops to body temperature in the complete lack of pressure. This is usually followed by death. And yet advertisements were able to survive in space with little discomfort. They made their way from spaceship to spaceship, transmitted virally affecting all on board. It was still unknown how advertisements were able to travel in the dead void of space far beyond their broadcast range. But it was well known that the only cure for aggressive marketing was to ignore the content of advertisements at all costs...

 

Of course it was Zo’s idea. Although he had been completely resistant at first, once they had all decided to hopscotch across the galaxy, he wholly embraced planet-hopping along the way to the fable lost planet. And when he saw the holo-brochure virally appear on the projector within his room, he was adamant they had to go. His reasoning was pretty sound. They had all just escaped the clutches of the Neuzuan space pirate fleet. They had all had quite a number of surprises lately. They had all been thrown together aboard a stolen ship and hadn’t had a chance to slow down. Didn’t they need somewhere to relax? Why shouldn’t they go to a planet with luxurious beaches and natural hot springs? There was also hover-polo if anyone was interested (no one was). They had all seen the holo-brochure and agreed it was a real impressive holo-brochure. Zo was sure he almost felt a warm salty breeze and strong desire for one of those tropical drinks with a tiny umbrella in them when he clicked on the beach section. He didn’t even like tropical drinks with tiny umbrellas in them but he now wanted one.  The fact it was also close helped,  just on the outskirts of the Arbeth sector, only a short trip from where they had escaped from the Neuzuan fleet. Convenience and effective marketing won out and so they made their way, Kara altered course with a swipe of her finger and a couple of flicked switches. Zo still had no idea how to fly the Zeppulian and watched her with studious intent. He knew that that she would flick certain switches at certain points in time and pull levers at others but the reason why eluded him since he didn’t know what the various switches and levers pertained to. He also was unclear on how the steering app worked, he knew it had to be open to steer the ship. To his right, Qin was naturally happy to go and sat excitedly in anticipation. Bor stood behind the semicircle of chairs on the command bridge. He seemed merely content to follow where the rest of them led, not saying much, his muscles rippling under his smooth violet skin. Zo didn’t know what quite to make of Bor yet. He had heard that Gorlothins were all alike but Bor seemed more alike than most. Zo didn’t like that thought. Or rather, he didn’t like that he had it. But there was something about Bor that he couldn’t put his finger quite on that made him feel uneasy in the Gorlothin’s company. Kara told him that she looked forward to the hot springs.

“I haven’t felt properly warm since my nap in the cryogenic freeze bed,” she explained.

 

How long that nap had been she wouldn’t say although Zo saw a slight twitch in her eye as she dodged the question which signaled it was long enough to long for bubbling water. One side effect of sustained cryogenic freezing was a feeling like you can never be warm again, although it was said the sensation was said to fade with time. Zo decided not to press the issue. In any case, they had arrived in the planet’s orbit.

 

And so it was that the ramshackle crew of the Zeppulian found themselves on the planet Qwark. Most people found themselves on Qwark wondering how they got there since surely there was some mistake. Once there, very few people actually wanted to find themselves on Qwark, including most of the people who lived there, a people called the Phocidi. Qwark’s interplanetary tourism holo-brochures like the one Zo found boasted luxurious beaches which stretched into the horizon, natural hot springs to soothe away any worry, and a rather exciting hover-polo league. Therefore it was a shock to most visitors to Qwark to find that the beaches were closer to clumps of grainy dirt unceremoniously dumped next to a dull gray ocean than fine sand lapped by lazy waves. A common complaint of beach-goers across the universe is that sand gets everywhere but the grainy dirt found on the beaches of Qwark actually spread like a contagion, creeping over the body until one was entirely covered in sand. And the beaches could only be said to stretch far into the horizon in the sense that ‘the horizon’ was a type of rock which sat at the end of each beach and bore the warning of “DANGER - Creeping Sand” in bold holographic text. There were natural hot springs though. Well,  lukewarm hot springs. The sort of temperature which was too warm to be called cold but not actually hot enough to be enjoyable in any way. But at least they were natural, that part was true. Mostly because ‘natural’ isn’t a protected term in marketing and can be used to describe anything, whether it is actually natural or not. The fact that slightly heated water no one enjoyed was pumped through steel pipes from a water cylinder took nothing away from how ‘natural’ they were. To its credit, Qwark did in fact have a thriving hover-polo league. However it was hover-polo, and like most things concerning hover-polo, most people gave it a miss and scarcely a second thought.

 

Zo and Kara stared at the grainy dirt in front of them, their mouths agape. Bor and Qin had been left aboard the Zeppulian, which was still in orbit in case they needed a quick getaway. They would take turns exploring the planet although both Zo and Kara were seriously reconsidering whether they should let Bor and Qin experience the disappointment they were currently feeling.

“This must be some kind of mistake,” Zo despaired. He felt his gills starting to dry as his face became flushed. “I mean, it must be. The holo-brochure, I mean you saw the holo-brochure,” he appealed to Kara, still staring dead ahead.

“More likely a mistake than a lying holo-brochure?” Kara replied, the disappointment palpable in her voice. She didn’t berate him for suggesting they come here. They had all decided it would be a good idea. That was how marketing worked. It affected one person who spread it to other people by word of mouth until everyone was infected.

“Do I even want to check out the hot springs?” she asked,  clearly not expecting a reply. Zo certainly didn’t want to give her one. He had faced enough disappointment for one day.


“A bit zersflit, isn't it?” someone snorted behind them.