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The Legend Of The Moppi: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

March 3, 2019 | By | Reply More

‘This your pet?’

I squinted up at the local law in the smoke-filled room. I had a good hand for suspense poker, too. I looked down at his scan-plate and the permit card. A detective. I wasn’t surprised. It was the Moppi. It had caught up with me again.

‘Not my pet. He just follows me around. I thought I lost him five planets back.’

‘Want to tell me about…what is it? Male, female or it?’

‘Can be any or all of them. I can’t keep up. Can I finish this hand first?’

The detective nodded, reluctantly, sizing up the players and the pot in the middle of the table. They were big chaps. Even bigger than him. He wasn’t going to argue with them.

‘Oh and get a bottle of the local booze. It’s going to be a long night as I tell you about it.’

I looked at the other players. ‘Nothing to do with the game, guys, just an explanation of something that’s been following me around. You’re welcome to listen in but this has to be my last hand.’

There were grunts from all of them. They were more interested in this version of poker than my problem, just as long as I finished the hand. Although I doubt if they’d be happy when I won the pot.

‘Shall we call?’

Looking them all in the eyes as we each placed card by card down, briefly glancing down at what each had to offer. Suspense poker. Who would have the nerve to keep going to the end or hold their hand back when they saw the odds of their winning drop by percentages. Some aliens had heart attacks waiting for the final cards, hoping they had the winning hand. I always figured if we were prepared to wait for the final reveal then you needed to win. If I was going to move on again, some money in the bank wouldn’t go amiss and a lot of mine was in this pot.

We were down to our last cards, each of us looking at the hands on the table and each other as we worked out the odds of who actually had the best hand. It wasn’t a disgrace to back down, but the suspense was never good for the heart or hearts if I recognised one of the alien species right. More so as there was side-bets as to who was going to have the better hand. They didn’t know me and all had bet against me. Even I bet against me, just to make them comfortable that they had a loser at the table.

‘Anyone want to double?’ I finally offered.

All five of them looked at each other at that. Was I being too cocky? Hopefully they wouldn’t try anything with the detective coming back to the table. I put my final card down, as did the others. I pinched myself between my eyes. My hand. Best hand. I’d won across the board. Be still my beating heart. Although was it for the game or the detective?

As I got up and dragged the money into my hat, I looked at each of them. ‘If I can convince the detective early, I’ll come back, OK?’

Fat chance of that, but I might be lucky. I certainly was on a winning streak, messed up by the local law. At least they wouldn’t be too eager to want me back neither.

I strolled over to the table where the detective was now waiting. He was also smoking something so I’m glad I had my nose filters on. Not all of these cigarettes were for mild drug addiction. For some, it provided something that the local atmosphere didn’t have. This was an old planet. As I was an oxygen/nitrogen breather, much of the time it was keeping some minor gases out of local atmospheres. He poured two glasses as I sat down.

‘You weren’t hard to find.’

‘I wasn’t hiding. I like playing cards. I take it you’re not here to arrest me?’

‘Why? Have you done any crimes except win big at suspense poker?’

‘Not unless there’s something I missed in immigration.’

‘Importing an illegal alien for one?’

‘I think you’ll find that I arrived alone. It came under its own steam or whatever it uses to travel between planets.’

‘Yes, I checked. I also checked your name once this…creature was found eating our garbage waste.’

‘That’s decent of it.’

‘So we thought until a zoologist identified it as a Moppi. She said it locks onto someone and follows wherever they go. That meant it was following someone on planet so we did a name check of who it was following. Up pops Joe Stanton Carson, the man with a name. Your name. So how did you get a Moppi tracking you down?’

I took a swig of my drink. Some spirit that tasted like whisky. It must be suitable for the alien detective. Most colourless spirits didn’t have any harmful additives.

‘This is going to take a while. Let’s eat…on me, OK?’

I raised a finger and a waiter came over with menu cards. A few words as to what was safe to eat for both of us in this alien restaurant. I also ordered a couple of bottles to be sent to my poker buddies. They had also gotten someone else to play but it was a nice gesture to show I hadn’t forgotten them and appreciated the game.

‘I take it you want a condensed version?’

The detective nodded. ‘At least for a start.’

‘I was visited the area of the Prancing Nebula, surveying a planet and came across this egg. It hatched and whenever I turned, this small creature was following me. It hasn’t grown yet. Still a hatchling and ate any old rubbish it found. Literally, any rubbish. A walking dustbin. Its shape was flexible and took a long while to grow.

‘It took a while for me to discover it was a Moppi. Something pretty rare. It also impresses on whoever it sees first. It was me. I left it on its planet and moved on. Kept popping up on any planet I was on, growing up along the way. It’s been following me ever since.’

The waiter returned with the two meals. I think mine was some form of steak and vegetables. The detective had some sort of fowl. Not sure if I could eat something with its feathers still attached.

‘Right now it’s eating a lot of our ecological waste.’

‘You would want that. It shits out the material back into its purest state. It’s a good deal. You want to pay me to hang around? It will follow me when I leave on the next ship’

‘That I’ll have to ask my government. It’s the other reports I’ve heard what worries me?’

I took my time to chew some meat. Unlike some aliens, I only had one mouth and speaking had to share its time with it.

‘What reports?’

‘That when it finishes the garbage, it gets on to the rest of the world. An insatiable appetite.’

‘Oh that. You’re never likely to run out of rubbish. I’ll move on before that happens if that’s what worries you. Of course, it might want to lay an egg. That doesn’t hatch for a millennium. Just in time for when you’re in the throes of a serious ecological disaster which makes what you have at the moment small in comparison. It just has to breathe in and exhale and purifies your air. It’s a great purifier. What’s not to love?’

‘You make it sound like the perfect garbage removal machine.’

‘Animal, not machine, The Moppi wouldn’t like to be called a machine.’

‘It is intelligent then?’

‘Somewhat. It follows after me but I don’t think it can be compared to a lapdog. I’m thinking of trying to teach it some language or just enough for the com-ear to make sense of whatever it says. It thinks more about its stomach than anything. What are you letting it eat?’

‘We’ve just got the Moppi started on our nuclear waste.’

I stopped in mid-chew. ‘How much and how long?’

‘You seemed concerned.’

‘Remember the Moppi returns waste to its purest state. What do you think it will do to wasted nuclear material?’

‘Rejuvenate our nuclear fuel.’

‘And all that fuel together will also have critical mass if too close together.’

This time, it was the detective who stopped eating. ‘Critical mass?’

‘Relax. You probably haven’t given him enough to eat yet to cause a problem yet. How far from here?’

‘About 200 kilometres.’

‘That close? Can you send some orders to these scientists. Tell them to feed the Moppi some lead. It might stop an accident if he belches. They certainly need to keep the nuclear material divided by lead.’

The detective looked speechless. ‘You mean it will explode?’

‘You don’t know much about nuclear material then?’

‘No? Does it affect the Moppi?’

‘Nah! It can eat anything. You just have to take care of the glowing shit bricks.’

‘I’ll pass the word.’ He pressed some command into his scan-plate.

‘Look, I’m planning to move on in about a week or so. The Moppi is bound to follow me.’

‘We could do with him for a few more months.’

I gave him my dropped face. ‘Even with fissionable material?’

A shadow loomed over the table.

‘Mr. President.’

I looked up as the detective stood up. As I didn’t hold any alliances, I stayed sat. I’m just a tourist. I studied their president. A bigger version of the detective was looking down at me. Was this an escalation of developing trouble? This was beginning to feel like a pincher movement but I held the cards. I wonder how their hearts would be when the detective passed my message.

‘You are planning to leave?’

‘As I told the detective, tomorrow or in a few weeks. Depends on when the next flight arrives. I do have business elsewhere.’

‘And the Moppi?’

‘Soon as he knows I’ve gone, he’ll follow.’

‘There we have a dilemma. We have a lot of waste to get rid of. We could lock you up?’

‘On what grounds? Any lawyer would get me out in a day or so. The Moppi is just as likely to come and find me. He likes me to be in a good state of mind. Me being imprisoned upsets him.’

‘He didn’t say that before, Mr. President.’

‘You never asked. It’s a little difficult to decide which is the pet and he is bigger than me.’

‘Of course, we could pay you. Free hotel accommodation. Free food.’

‘And expenses?’

The president sighed. ‘And a gold credit card.’

‘It’s a small price considering the Moppi is sorting out your wastage problem. I’ve already given some free advice.’

‘He said something about mixing lead with nuclear material to stop it going something called critical mass.’

‘You have forwarded this information yet?’

‘I was waiting for your orders, Mr. President.’

‘You people are familiar with nuclear fusion, aren’t you?’

Both aliens looked at each other.

‘Radiation poisoning at the least?’

I saw my free credit card drifting away. Why don’t these so-called advanced races remember what made them advanced in the first place? They rely too much on their technology without anyone looking after the most basic things. Scientists my eye. I bet they didn’t know any better.

‘Can you at least order an evacuation of the area. The Moppi might absorb some of the blast but if you want to save lives then at least do that.’

‘It’ll keep eating while it’s on our planet?’ the detective asked.

I nodded. ‘He goes where he’s fed when he isn’t following me.’

‘Kill it!’ The President seemed to suddenly brighten. ‘You have no alliance to this Moppi.’

I finished eating. ‘You don’t think that’s not been attempted before? It just sees your ammo as something else to feed on. Even if you did manage to rupture it, think of all that radioactive material in its gut. Even if it doesn’t reach critical mass, it’ll certainly contaminate the area for a few centuries. A bit of wind turbulence and the radiation will contaminate this continent.’

‘So why doesn’t reach critical mass now in its gut?’ the detective asked.

‘The Moppi’s digestive juices. It keeps everything in motion.’

This time, the detective whispered in the President’s ear rather than speak aloud. His leader replied in a similar way. I didn’t need to think too much about what they were plotting.

‘If you’re thinking of killing me and throwing my body out in deep space thinking the Moppi will follow me, I wouldn’t. I did my research when I found him following me. The last planet that tried that with a different Moppi doesn’t exist anymore.’

The shock on their faces was enough to know I hit a chord.

‘Now getting me off planet isn’t a bad idea. Can you give me a spaceship? I doubt if you’ll want me to wait around for a commercial flight.’

They were waiting for me to continue now.

‘Land it near the Moppi and I’ll take it with me if you think that will speed things up.’

‘You have a pilot’s licence?’

‘No. I’ve been meaning to get one, but I’m a quick learner.

‘We will supply a mechanical pilot.’

‘Just make sure it has a decent cargo bay. I imagine the Moppi is a little bloated right now. Doesn’t know how to stop eating and take a rest.’

Again, they conferred. This detective was a higher rank than he led me to believe. He handed his phone or whatever they called it to his President who rapidly made a call.

‘We will land it near the Moppi within the hour. You will wait there with this beast until then and persuade it not to shit any more radioactive bricks.’

‘Make it thirty minutes and an anti-rad suit.’

‘Anti-rad?’

‘Anti-radiation suit. You must have had some back in the day. You don’t want me contaminated and the Moppi go on the rampage down here, do you?’

The word ‘rampage’ had the effect. Another call was made. Several calls came back, each showing various pictures. They didn’t know what they were looking for until I pointed at a silvery suit with a helmet. Nearly my size but I wasn’t going to be in it long.

Getting up, I crossed over to the game and gave them my apologies and followed the President and detective out to a waiting aero-car. Amazing. All the advanced tech and no one really knowing how to run it all properly.

We grabbed my anti-rad suit along the way and I think they were grateful when they dropped me off by the Moppi. He did look a little over-stuffed. Massive in fact. They must have kept handing him more food. The Moppi could go biped but with all that extra weight he would be on all four legs with that tail extended to support its weight. Its head was large an bulbous with a mouth large enough to swallow a bus. No, I’m exaggerating. Maybe a small car when it really extends itself. It would crush it in its neck before swallowing.

I lifted my helmet so he could see it was me, narrowly dodging its extended tongue wanting to kiss me, closing it again. The anti-rad suit had an in-built radiation counter and it was already going off the scale. Not a moment too soon as the spaceship came into land. At least that aspect of their technology worked.

The cargo bay opened up and, grabbing my bag, I walked up. The Moppi seeing me followed. Someone had left some waste in the hold. Good. Best not to let him get hungry. I pulled off my helmet as the airlock closed.

‘Empty your stomach. I’m interested in seeing what you’ve brought,’ I told the Moppi.

I took the quick lift up to the bridge where the mechanical pilot was waiting. We were already in the air and nearly in space. It was following orders rather too quickly.

‘How are you going to get down?’

‘I am an automated pilot, sir. I am obeying orders. I pilot this vessel.’

‘I take it you can leave if I tell you to?’

‘I can leave by the airlock, sir.’

‘Were you given any other orders? Target co-ordinates like your star for instance?’

The robot pilot immediately stopped when into turmoil. Order conflict between obeying its people and me as captain.

‘Resume.’

Immediately, the pilot returned to normal.

‘You have a conflict of orders. To get rid of both of us against obeying my orders. Obey your former masters and eventually die. Obey me apart from their last order. I doubt if they anticipated this. Counter-order command over-ride 100375. Does that help?’

The pilot nodded. ‘I am totally yours to command.’

‘Continue in that direction but prepare for hyperspace. Find some populated planet here with a waste disposal problem. We have a hungry Moppi on-board. I’ll find something to convince them we were destroyed, is that understood?’

‘Yes, sir. I should point out that this spaceship’s reactor is not adequately protected. We have never been over-hauled.’

‘I figured that. It doesn’t even have to be deliberate. If they don’t know enough to stop nuclear material chain-reacting, then the same here. Are there any bombs on-board?’

‘One in the hold, sir.’

‘Perfect. Don’t hyperspace until I give the order.’

‘Yes, sir.’

I returned to the hold but glad I kept my rad-suit on.

The Moppi had lost much of its mass as it vomited out the various materials it had eaten. In stacks around the cargo bay were blocks of various metals. It was easy to spot the yellow gold. Much of the rest was silver-coloured. One area was a block of lead. Looks like we came out a lot better than normal with enough radioactive matter to power a reactor.

‘I thought you were going to leave the radioactive stuff behind?’

The Moppi stood up on its hind legs. It was only twice my height now. The tuffs of hair on its head were now showing and growing out.

‘I bought little. Not mass critical.’

‘The pilot says there’s a bomb down here.’

The Moppi pointed at another corner and belched. ‘I not eaten yet.’

Its voice was guttural but understandable. I was hardly likely to tell them that I’d taught the Moppi enough language for com-ear.

‘Can you coat this ship’s reactor in more lead and if you its giving out too much radioactivity, replace it with whatever you have in that lead blocks over there.’

‘Thought they gave sound shit…ship.’

‘As if we’d go back. Once the reactor is safe, have a chew of that bomb and vomit it out. Let me know when you’re doing the last one. You can throw it out and we’ll jump and let them think they succeeded.’

‘Yes, Joe. Did we do well?’

‘Sooner than expected but that’s their stupidity. You did well.’

Why are you looking surprised? I was telling some truth. The Moppi impressed on me. It follows me around and has an appetite for anything, especially rubbish. Land on any planet and we’d have to move on sooner or later. A lot of planets have a lot of waste but even they get carried away and get the wrong things back and ask us to move on. Of course, we take some of the pure elements as well. Space travel is expensive. This time we got our own spaceship. How to be a saint and pariah in one sentence.

To others that have been Moppi companions, they saw it as being a burden. So I thought, why not make it work for both of us. Have some fun on a planet before we leave. Shame that detective came so early. Would have won big.

While I waited for the Moppi to come back, I had a look at the bomb in the cargo bay. At least it had no timing device. They wanted us far away. Probably mass detection and that meant closer to their star.

It didn’t take long for the Moppi to return.

‘All sorted up there.’

‘Not pure. Ate and rebred and added lead, Joe.’

‘Ah…good. Want to do the same with the bomb?’

‘Need vacuum, Joe.’

‘I’ll go to the bridge. Don’t fall out.’

The Moppi was only going to give a couple chews, spit and detonate. We should be far enough way not to be caught in the blast.

On the bridge there was no sign of the pilot. Had it jumped ship after all?

The ship shuddered as it got caught in the bomb’s shockwave. They weren’t playing around. If they couldn’t get rid of one or other of us, do their darndest to get rid of both of us.

I checked the ship’s log. No sign that the airlock had been opened.

Fortunately, some of the controls were easy to understand. I hit the intercom button.

‘Moppi, where’s the pilot?’

‘I was hungry.’

Always hungry.

‘Had nuclear core, Joe. Would have exploded.’

‘I thought I’d over-rode his orders.’

‘We’re heading towards their star and no hyperspace co-ordinates.

‘I do it, Joe. No problem.’

Right now, it isn’t the Moppi that’s shitting bricks.

 

end

 

Joe Stanton Carson, The Moppi

All rights reserved

After being borrowing

or I’ll send the Moppi after you.

© GF Willmetts 2019

Category: Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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