Canto 74 – Jungle Jingles (The Green Thread)
The planet Stanley was beautiful in a primitive sort of way, but covered with an endless, nearly unbroken jungle on its entire land surface. Strange reptilian birds fluttered through stifling, pollen-saturated air. Primitive Lemurians called out from height to height in the tops of the jungle canopy. Their simian cries spoke of fear and death and loneliness, the need of the semi-intelligent to cling to each other in the face of the predatory jungle darkness.
The pinnace rode upward on a pillar of repulsor force, using magnetic pulses to push away from the planet’s wild green surface. King Killer, Dr. Hooey, and Willie Culver watched it go with grim faces. Marooned on a jungle planet full of unknown creatures that hunt all that lives and breathes.
“What will we do now?” asked Willie.
“We’ll be fine,” assured Hooey. “What Admiral Tang doesn’t know is that I’ve already read how this turns out. There is an Ancient archaeological site in the southern hemisphere that contains an Ancient artifact known to the Time Knights as a “transmat”. It turns anything that steps onto it into a tachyon stream that can physically transport anyone or any physical thing to any other time and place in the galaxy that has another transmat.”
“What are you saying?” said King. “You are planning to scramble our molecules and send them on a particle beam across space? You really know how to do this? You’ve done it before?”
“Well… no. I’ve never done it before. But the book says I will figure it out in time to save us from certain death. You and I will be fine, King.”
“What about me?” asked Willie. “Do I make it out too?”
“Well,” said Hooey, “you’re kinda the one-episode character. The kind the writer sends along on the mission to allow for a terrible death without killing off a main character.”
“What! I’m gonna die? AAARGH!”
“Don’t panic yet,” said King. “We are quite capable of surviving this. All of us.”
“Yes, quite,” said Hooey, “now we need to head for the archeological site.”
“Is it close by?” asked Willie.
“About eight hundred kilometers to the south.”
“Good Lord!” growled King. “You aren’t making this any easier, are you?”
“What do you mean?” said Hooey. “I just have to follow the right timeline. I didn’t choose any of this.”
At about that moment something large gave them a glimpse of itself in the undergrowth. It was the creature soon to be known as the Stanley Damnthing. It was a large porcine predator with ears like an elephant, a mouth like a toothy wolverine, and the overall body shape of a ten-ton hog.
“Oh, gawd!” sighed Willie. “That thing is hunting us, isn’t it?”
“Yes.” King looked grimmer than his usual grim.
“It won’t be able to catch all of us, though,” reassured Hooey with an eerie smile.
Willie Culver wet himself.