Flash Fiction Friday: Xanadu

“Ah, Commander. Such a surprise to see you!”

Commander Konrad stepped out of the bio-tube that connected the terradome to his ship. He raised his eyebrow at the mousy, agitated man who had come to welcome him.  “A surprise, Director Miles? The U.N. schedule these inspections months in advance.”

“Quite right. Welcome to Xanadu, Commander!”

Konrad frowned. “‘Xanadu?’”

“Oh, it’s what we like to call our stately terradome here.”

“Not ‘Ganymede Outpost IV’?”

Miles blinked, laughing nervously. “Does it matter what we’re called? Life on Ganymede has been good to us, Commander. Ganymede’s subterranean oceans actually can supply us with all the water we need for terra-forming. Ah, such good…good…water, once we’ve distilled out the salts—which are useful, admittedly.” His eyes widened. “But those are only a side benefit.”

“You’ll need to share your good fortune with the other Outposts. They’ve been unable to access potable water. Everything they’ve uncovered is so contaminated with cyanide—”

“They distill their water improperly,” Miles snapped, as if the other Outposts’ mistakes were an affront, “and the cyanogen in the atmosphere reacts with the water. We ran into the same problem at first. Many died.”

Furrowing his brow, Konrad looked askance at Miles. “Why haven’t you shared this information with them?”

“Share? Why would we share the Paradise? It belongs to him.” Miles’ eyes grew even wider, his pupils hugely dilated.

A chill shot up Konrad’s spine. “What on Earth are you talking about?”

Miles let out another nervous laugh. “Well…the distillation process can’t take the Paradise out of the water.”


“Yes, the Paradise. That which brings vision and clarity.” Miles grabbed at the air as if he were catching a butterfly. He held out empty hands. “Do you see it?”

Konrad stepped back. “Are you saying there’s a psychoactive substance in Ganymede’s ocean?”

“It belongs to him,” Miles said, moving forward. “He decides who has it and who does not.”

“Who is he?” Konrad slowly reached for the stunner on his hip.

“The Poet. The Prophet. The One who has drunk the Paradise Milk.”

“Paradise milk?”

“When fermented, the Paradise turns to milky white. Only the Poet, the Prophet, may drink of it.”

“Very interesting, Director.” Konrad backed slowly toward the bio-tube.

“Where are you going? Now you are here, the Poet, the Prophet, demands to see you.” Miles snatched Konrad’s arm.

Konrad pulled out his stunner and fired. The electrified cables hit Miles in the chest. Convulsing, he fell to the ground. Konrad turned, heart pounding, and ran for the entrance of the bio-tube. He stopped short. A dozen people in defaced Ganymede Outpost uniforms dashed in front of the bio-tube, their hands extended.

Beware, beware,” they called, their eyes as wide as Miles’ had been. “Beware, beware: his flashing eyes, his floating hair! The Poet! The Prophet! The One!”

Konrad grabbed for his comm and hit the ship’s channel. “Captain Taylor! The colonists—”

Miles clambered up from the ground and knocked the comm from Konrad’s hand. “You will bend to his will!” He hissed like a cat and sank his teeth into Konrad’s wrist.

Konrad yelled. In seconds, he was surrounded by the chanting colonists, each of them grabbing at him with clammy hands. He thrashed and struggled, screaming for Taylor and praying the comm was still open. One of the colonists landed a heavy fist on Konrad’s skull.

Everything went black for a moment—then Konrad’s eyelids fluttered open.

He had been bound and pulled deep into the terradome, to the place where Ganymede’s ice layer slowly crept over the dome, giving the impression he was inside a great cave. A momentary flash of distant sun lit up the ice like sparkling glass. Droning music like a dulcimer floated through the air. A shadow fell over Konrad’s face, cast by a wild-looking man with bright eyes.

Weave a circle round him thrice!” the colonists chanted. They began to revolve around the man at a feverish pace.

“I have drunk the Milk of Paradise, Commander Konrad,” the man said. “I am the Poet. The Prophet. The One.”

Konrad strained against the ropes that bound him. “When the United Nations find out about what’s happened here—”

“Once,” the Poet said.

“You will all be under arrest and taken back to Earth for psychological examination!”

“Twice.” The Poet pulled out a long sharp knife. It glistened like Ganymede’s ice. “Have you ever considered how much like a melon the human head is? Like a great honey-dew melon.”

“I demand you to—”

The colonists froze in place.

The Poet grinned, baring red-stained teeth “Thrice.”

Close your eyes with holy dread!” the colonists said with one voice.

Konrad squeezed his eyes shut, knowing what would come next.

But not why.

“Xanadu” copyright 2017 by A.L.S. Vossler.

Constructive criticism welcome in the comments.

Image courtesy of NASA via PublicDomainPictures.net

Why I Love Star Wars

I love Star Wars.

Unfortunately, I do not know if I have the right to say that I am a fan. I was actually raised a die-hard Trekkie, and my friends and I, at the tender age of 11, would argue fervently over which was better: Trek or Wars. Of course I watched the original Star Wars trilogy. I enjoyed it a lot. However, I always maintained that Star Trek was more interesting. Then, the infamous Star Wars prequel trilogy came out—and I disliked all of them except Revenge of the Sith. This only reinforced my opinion that Trek was the better of the two. Because, you know, Captain Janeway kicks serious butt, and Anakin is a whiny space brat/creepy stalker dude.

But you see, love changed all of that. I met my knight in shining armor (actually, it was a Yankees t-shirt), and we fell in love after arguing about The Silmarillion for a good hour or so. It was the fun sort of argument where we talked about the Sons of Hurin and whether or not Turin was an idiot. Then, the true battle began. Stuff got real. My newly minted boyfriend was a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Shock. Horror. Drama.

My father, upon learning this, cautioned me that mixed religion marriages always fail. However, I disregarded him, and embarked on my mission to make my boyfriend see the light—the holy, mighty, Star Trek light.

It sort of backfired.

It took seven years of marriage, but slowly, my faith in Star Trek was eroded. Still, I tried to cling to my tenuous belief, trusting the Great Roddenberry in the sky to renew my spirit. But then came along the thing which finally ensnared my stumbling feet in the briers of Star Wars fandom: Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels. It was innocent enough at first, my dabbling in the false religion—a Saturday morning replay of  the episode “Empire Day.” I watched it and thought, “Interesting. I could watch more of this.” Of course, once something piques my interest, I have to pursue it, and pursue it I did. I had soon watched all of the Star Wars Rebels episodes available. I waited with giddy anticipation for each new episode, falling in love with each of the characters. The season one finale was amazing. I had seen the light—and it was awesome. I wanted more—but alas! There was no more. Season one was over, and we had to wait for season two. I was like a junkie in withdrawal.

So, my husband and I watched Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Netflix. I was hooked on Star Wars even more. I actually liked Anakin, because the show gave him some decent character development. (He’s still a creepy stalker dude, though. I will maintain that for all time.) I started branching out. I read the Kanan comic books, and I read Star Wars: A New Dawn. (Though I am not sure if you can really call that branching out when they were about characters from my new obsession of Star Wars Rebels.) When Episode VII came out, I raced to the theater. When Rogue One came out, I sat in the theater, too excited to eat my Junior Mints. And I loved it. I loved it all.

Now, I will never be as much of a Star Wars fan as my husband is.  But I have come to the conclusion that I really, truly, love Star Wars. It’s for a simple reason: Star Wars is set in a deeply flawed universe.

I do not mean that the universe is full of plot holes or badly written. I mean the milieu is a galaxy filled with flaws. There is greed. There is political deception. There is a reflection of the true state of humanity that simply does not exist in Star Trek’s idealized Federation. So, because of all of these flaws, the stakes in the Star Wars milieu are much higher. In Star Trek, there are some high stakes now and then, but we are only ever given the viewpoint of the Federation. In the Star Wars universe, we are allowed to see both sides of things. The politics are more complex in Star Wars, too. The politics are interesting—I didn’t mind them so much in the prequels. (It was everything else that annoyed me.)

In short, while Star Trek has exciting episodes and great conflict and occasionally deep philosophy, the milieu is boring compared to Star Wars. Plus, I love the spiritual element of the Force and the more fantasy-oriented ways of the Jedi. There is no way to deny that laser swords are just plain cooler than a compression phaser rifle. I will always love both of these franchises, but I’m afraid (or happy) to say that Star Wars finally won. So, as I said, I am not sure if I truly get to call myself a fan. I’m more of a turncoat, really. A johnny-come-lately.

Nevertheless, I love Star Wars. And I am going to celebrate the month of May by featuring a review of something Star Wars related every Tuesday. I’ll also be posting original Science Fiction themed flash fiction stories on Fridays to keep things in the Sci-fi spirit.

So which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? Sound off your opinions in the comments.