"Derek, will you tell me that story about the Pluto people again?", four-year-old Michael Brock asked of his older brother.
"You mean the old legend about the Squambarill and the Ragaska?", Derek asked.
"Yeah.", Mikey replied. "Them"
Derek laughed slightly. "But you've already heard it a million times. Are you sure you want me to tell it again"
Mikey nodded anxiously. "Yeah, yeah"
"Well, all right.", his brother agreed. "Thousands of years ago, before Granddad's grandfather was even born, the planet Pluto contained a race of beings called the Squambarill..."
The Squambarill were highly intelligent beings, having developed technology that rivaled even the advanced scientific knowledge that we have today in 2062. Their skin was scaly and gray, and due to the scales covering their entire bodies, Squambarill never grew hair. They had pointy ears and ebony eyes, and their bodies were actually quite similar in structure to those of humans; they were built with bilateral symmetry, and even walked upright on two legs.
The Squambarill race inhabited Pluto, but they were not the only ones. On the opposite hemisphere, away from the gray-skinned creatures, lived a race known as the Ragaska. The Ragaska were generally taller, larger, and more muscular than the Squambarill; while the Squambarill were stronger intellectually, the Ragaska were stronger physically. They had rough, coarse skin that was maroon in color, and a long, prehensile tail that extended up to eight feet from the rest of the body. With two small, dark slits that served as eyes and jagged claws on all appendages, the Ragaska bore a frightening appearance.
The two races of Pluto were constantly at war with each other; it had begun when the Ragaska started running out of the natural resources that they required to survive. The Squambarill, however, being highly intelligent and proficient in advanced technology, had developed techniques of preserving the resources they had and acquiring more when necessary. When the Ragaska requested to purchase some from the Squambarill, the request was denied, as the latter had always looked upon their neighbors as primitive savages, incapable of civil or sophisticated behavior. Enraged, the Ragaska declared war on the Squambarill, hoping to wipe out the opposing species, take control of their technology, and dominate the planet. The war had been going on for two or three centuries when the major events of the legend began to unfold. At the time, the Squambarill had the upper hand in the war. They had recently developed a weapon which seriously injured close to three hundred Ragaska (at the time, each species had a population of only about twenty thousand, so such a weapon was, in comparison, a very valuable asset for the Squambarill). However, their advantage would not last long.
There was a Ragaska named Eclarn Frocci. He hated the Squambarill a lot more than any of his fellow Ragaska, due to the fact that one of his good friends had been among the three hundred Ragaska killed by the Squambarill's weapon. Enraged by the violence, he began taking matters into his own hands to wipe out the Squambarill and win the war for his people. Armed with weapons and explosives, he committed several acts of what would today be known as terrorism against the Squambarill. From his violent efforts, roughly eight hundred Squambarill were killed. After one of Frocci's malicious attacks, the Squambarill king called together a council of his most trusted advisors to decide what to do about the Eclarn Frocci threat. He wanted it to be something somewhat drastic, both as punishment for Frocci and as an example to any other Ragaska who might try to imitate him. The king's second-in-command made a proposition: using the heat-resistant transport ships that some of their scientists had developed, they would take Frocci and cast him into Neganus, the relatively nearby sun of what is today known as the Andromeda galaxy. His suggestion was met with a unanimous agreement, and a team of Squambarill soldiers was sent forth in search of Eclarn Frocci.
About a week later (Earth time), Eclarn Frocci was captured attempting to assemble a bomb somewhere in Pluto's southwestern hemisphere. One of the soldiers, whose name was Narvelg Yash, was chosen by the king himself to pilot the vessel and carry out Frocci's fate.
Narvelg Yash was a burly, strong-looking Squambarill who stood a bit taller than most of the others. Because of his position in service to the king, he wore a bright blue robe embroidered with silver, customary for this day and culture. Narvelg was very serious about his job and also very skilled at it; he knew full well that Eclarn Frocci had to be stopped and he was eager to do whatever he could to aid the cause. The head of the police force spoke to Narvelg in Sdrawkcab, the native language of the Squambarill. He said, "Uoy evah neeb nesohc ot etanimile Eclarn Frocci." You have been chosen to eliminate Eclarn Frocci. "Ereh si tahw uoy tsum od." Here is what you must do. "Uoy lliw og ot eht nus fo eht txen yxalag dna worht mih ni." You will take him to the sun of the next galaxy and throw him in"
If you've ever taken a class in galactic history (which most schools in now in 2062 require) you'll know that the only colonized planet in the Andromeda galaxy at the time was Klan'burr (even today in 2062, it's the only one that's populated by native Andromedans; the rest have been colonized by astronauts from the Milky Way galaxy). The inhabitants of Klan'burr were called the Klan'burras, and they were very primitive for this particular era of time. Their technology then was similar to that of Earth's in the mid/late 20th century. The television was a new invention, and individual, personal, computers were a thing of the future. But their primitive technology wasn't the only reason that the Klan'burras were held in low respect by most other civilizations; they were also known for being a bit crazy. They didn't seem to realize that other galaxies bore intelligent life, and strangely, like the people of a much earlier era in Earth's history, they believed that their planet was flat. The strangest thing of all, though, was their belief that Neganus contained magical powers, which would be bestowed on anyone who touched the star's surface. None of them had been able to do this, however, since they hadn't the technology.
Four days after his capture, Eclarn Frocci was taken to Neganus in a heat resistant aircraft, piloted by Narvelg Yash. Yash was up front in the cockpit, while Frocci was chained up in a heat-seeking escape pod that would detach from the ship at the press of a button. When the craft was about twenty miles away from Neganus, Yash spoke his parting words to the terrorist. "Uoy evah dellik ynam, uoy esrevrep reredrum." You have killed many, you perverse murderer. "Won uoy llahs yap rof ruoy semirc. Doog ecnaddir." Now you shall pay for your crimes. Good riddance. With that, Narvelg Yash pushed the button and released the escape pod. Through the craft's front window, he watched it plummet down, down into the blazing ball of fire. He watched it land on the star's surface and be consumed by the flames. He watched as the escape pod disintegrated forever, and noticed a small, reddish-brown object where the pod once was. That's strange, thought a confused Narvelg. Could it be that Frocci's body didn't burn up?
Unfortunately for Narvelg, and the entire Squambarill population, that was exactly what it was.
The soldier's first reaction was panic. This criminal was apparently so powerful that somehow he did not burn up in a sun of several million degrees. Something as strange as this would scare anyone, but what really got Narvelg frightened was that Frocci's body had inexplicably begun to glow an eerie green.
I'm getting out of here!, thought Narvelg, turning the craft around and heading back to Pluto at full speed. Since he was turned around, however, he couldn't see the green illumination of Eclarn Frocci ascending from the sun and following his ship. The glowing green body had two pale, piercing azure eyes. They stared intently at the space craft, focusing all their energy on it and its pilot. And then, without warning, both ended in a very violent explosion. Both the ship and Narvelg Yash were gone, and a very powerful evil was loose in the galaxy.
Narpo Frijj was a scientist, and a very intelligent one at that. He had an impressive intellect, even for a Squambarill, which had enabled him to accomplish amazing scientific and technological feats, such as matter transformation. That was what he called it, anyway; converting one material into something else. He had figured out how to turn things into wood, stone, and a few metals, including steel, which largely helped him to fund further research (steel was a rare mineral at this time, and considered of high value like gold and silver are today). Right now he was trying to figure out how to convert things into crystal.
Narpo was at his lab very early one morning, at a time when most other Squambarill were asleep. He looked around his lab at the abundance of beakers, chemicals, mechanical devices and other scientific paraphernalia that cluttered the stone-walled room. He reached for a cannon-shaped device that was only about half finished; many of its wires and inner workings were still exposed, and there was only a small amount of metallic covering on the outside. Narpo got out his tools and equipment so he could continue his work. However, before he started working, he happened to glance out the window and was one of the first to see the green glow coming over the horizon.
A green glow?, he thought. Odd, I wonder what it is. Some kind of natural phenomenon, maybe? I'll have to investig-
At that moment, Narpo Frijj and the entire Squambarill population were instantaneously erased from existence.
Eclarn Frocci smiled at his evil deed. Using his newfound power, he had just, quite literally, wiped out the Squambarill race. He had just gotten his power and wasn't sure exactly how he'd done it, but he wasn't complaining. It was the ultimate victory for him. Or was it? He thought about it for a moment. They had all undergone a practically instantaneous death, and probably hadn't felt a thing. What's the fun in that?, Frocci asked himself, satisfied but not pleased.
He concentrated all his energy on bringing Pluto, along with all its inhabitants and everything on it, back from nonexistence. This time, he intended to have some fun.
A green glow?, he thought. Odd, I wonder what it is. Some kind of natural phenomenon, maybe? I'll have to investig-
At that moment, Narpo Frijj felt something strange, as if for one second he hadn't been alive, hadn't even existed. It had been like the planet itself was unconscious. When he looked back up, the green glow was gone.
Definitely a phenomenon, thought Narpo Frijj, now slightly unnerved. His suspicions were then confirmed by the loud voice he suddenly heard in his head.
Greetings, Squambarill, you putrid race. This is Eclarn Frocci, and I'm talking to you telepathically. How am I doing that, you wonder? Well, remember when you threw me into that ball of fire? Well, it seems like those crazy Klan'burras were right--there is something unusual about their sun! Now that I seem to have some sort of magic on my side, I'm here to get my vengeance, so listen carefully! Here's what's going to happen first: I'm going to release wild gluffrens on all of you and see how you fare. Eclarn Frocci focused all his energy on using his abilities for exactly what he had just said, and within seconds, it had been done.
The scientist frantically searched his mind for a way to stop the terrorist. He had invented several unique devices, there must be something that could be used as a weapon of some sort! He then realized that even if he did have a device capable of defeating an ordinary, average Squambarill, it wouldn't necessarily do a thing to the magically empowered Eclarn Frocci. Narpo didn't know the full extent of Frocci's power, but he wasn't giving up. I have to keep thinking, I have to try! It's Pluto's only hope!
Suddenly, he had an idea. He knew exactly what to do.
He activated his telescreen and told it to contact the Squambarill police force. Almost instantaneously the machine could be heard dialing the police office's number. Soon a holographic image of a large, tough-looking Squambarill appeared on screen.
(Translated from Sdrawkcab, the native Squambarill language:) "Look, mister, incase you haven't noticed, whatever's going on here is supernatural.". said the police officer. "It's out of our hands, we can't control it! Believe me, we've already tried! So look, I'd love to help you out, but"
"You don't understand!", Narpo Frijj interrupted. "You see, I'm a scientist--Narpo Frijj, perhaps you've heard of me. I have a device which may be able to stop Eclarn Frocci--I'm not sure exactly how great his power is, but we've got to try--and if you take me to him, we may be able to save Pluto"
"Look, you're crazy"
"Please let me try!", Narpo exclaimed in frustrated nervousness.
The officer paused. It was a long, annoyed pause, accompanied by a deep, exasperated sigh. Finally, he spoke. "Very well.', the officer agreed. "What's this device of yours"
Narpo told the officer what it was.
"What?", the officer replied in astonishment. "Well, why didn't you say so? It could be just what we need! But will it work against Frocci"
"I don't know.", Narpo admitted somewhat sheepishly. "We don't know the limits of his power, but even so, shouldn't we at least try"
The officer paused again, but this pause was not annoyed or reluctant like the last one had been. This pause was thoughtful, and admirable of Narpo's determination. "We'll let you try.", the officer consented. "But it's going to be dangerous, and there's a pretty good chance that you won't come back alive. Are you still willing to do it"
"If I didn't, I would let us all down.", Narpo replied nobly. "I'll do it"
"Very well, I'll send one of our pilots to your location. He can pick you up and bring you to Frocci. Can you have it ready for loading in, say, half an hour"
"Yes, certainly.", Narpo Frijj replied.
"Good.". said the officer. "And remember, the entire Squambarill population is counting on you! I may think you're crazy, but even in this brief conversation we've had I can tell that you're braver than anyone I've ever met. I'd give a lot to have half of the courage you've just displayed. Thank you, Narpo Frijj"---at this point, the officer actually bowed---"Even if we all die today, your fellow Squambarill owe you a great debt." Without giving Narpo a chance to thank him for the encouraging comments, the officer turned off his telescreen. Narpo did the same. The scientist whimpered aloud at the realization of what he had just agreed to.
Twenty-nine minutes later, Narpo Frijj heard a voice inside his head, as did every other Squambarill on Pluto.
(Translated from Sdrawkcab:) Greetings once again, Squambarill. This is Eclarn Frocci. My supernatural calculations have told me that the gluffrens wiped out three-hundred of you in the past half hour. Certainly a noble deed on their part. He wasn't sure, but Narpo thought he actually heard a cruel little chuckle inside his head as well. I'm taking them away now though; after all, I wouldn't want to end the party so early. You might say, though, that I'm bringing you out of the frying pan and quite literally into the fire.
Narpo Frijj saw, from his window, a police craft land behind the lab. Frocci's sinister message continued. You see, in exactly one minute, one hundred and fifty randomly selected Squambarill will burst suddenly into flame. It will not be put out by water like any normal fire would, and any one of you who tries to put out another's flames will most likely be engulfed yourself. Another of Frocci's sick, sinister chuckles. One minute, Squambarill. Have a nice day.
Fire?, thought Frijj as he wheeled his device out to the police craft. Please, not me. If I die, who will save Pluto? Who else could save it?
He checked his timeband and saw that a minute had passed. And he had not burned. In his relief, Narpo let out a breath that he hadn't realized he had been holding. He reached the aircraft, wanting to leave for Frocci as soon as possible. "I'm here.", he said, opening the cockpit. "I have the device and I'm"
He gasped in horrified shock. In the seat of the cockpit, Frocci's evil magic had caused several scorching flames to transform the pilot's body into a misshapen, unrecognizable carcass.
No!, he mentally cried. This is just as bad as if the fire had gotten me! Now the fire has destroyed most of the cockpit, and if I put it out, Frocci will still kill me! The only thing left of the ship is the computer screen with Frocci's coordinates and-
Wait! The coordinates! I know where he is...But it would never work. The only vehicle I have is an old, slow, junky Nhillo Starcruiser. It would never work.
Narpo Frijj let out a long, almost reluctant sigh. He knew that if Pluto was to survive, he would have to drive the sluggish piece of junk to Eclarn Frocci. Dreading intently what was about to take place, Narpo picked up his device, got into the tattered, shabby front seat, revved up the creaky, temperamental engine, and took to the ominously foreboding sky.
About an hour later, Frijj was making good progress. According to the coordinates, Frocci was hovering about forty feet above ground, forty feet above the exact spot where Narpo's starcruiser was right now. The Nhillo Starcruiser, being considerably less able than the police craft he had been sent, was only meant to go up about fifteen feet in the air. Narpo himself had never exceeded twelve. He wasn't sure what exactly he would do, but once again, he knew he had to try. He had to try.
During the past hour, Frocci had brought down another plague: he had multiplied tenfold the population of wild gluffrens, forcing the animals to leave their natural and now very overcrowded jungle habitats and come into cities, where they had attacked and devoured many Squambarill. Narpo was more than glad that he hadn't been among them, knowing that it would be difficult for the gluffrens to reach him when he had so much altitude. However, after the gluffren plague, Frocci had also said that he had added a little 'surprise', a plague of some sort that he would let the Squambarill population find on their own. It was this which worried Narpo, because he knew that it could be anything and could possibly affect him even in the relative safety of his hovercraft. He was distressed that as hard as his mission would have been under relatively normal circumstances, it would be even more difficult, not to mention dangerous, with Frocci's magical interference.
Here I am., thought Narpo Frijj a few minutes later. I'm directly under Eclarn Frocci. The only place to go now is up. Up, to end the evil that haunts Pluto. He was very much aware that he could die in the attempt. But he also knew that if he didn't try, his whole world would die a slow, painful death. It was now or never. He had to try. Up!
He was twenty feet above the ground now, and the hovercraft seemed to be holding out fine. He accelerated to twenty-five. Once again, no sign of a problem. Then he went to thirty...and the engine completely burned out.
Down he fell, down towards an imminent doom. No!, he cried mentally. It can't end like this! Not after all this work, it cant-
He stopped falling. But he hadn't crashed. And he could tell that he wasn't dead. He looked out the window and saw that he and the hovercraft were both hanging in midair. Could this be part of Frocci's plagues?, he wondered.
(Translated from Sdrawkcab:) Greetings, citizens of Pluto!, came the voice inside his head. I hope you have enjoyed the extra gluffrens I've provided. But now to business; my new powers have alerted me that one of you, an inferior, helpless Squambarill, is trying to kill me! Me, who survived Neganus! Absurd, isn't it?
Narpo groaned. No doubt Frocci was referring to him. Considering all that the evil being could possibly do, Narpo half-regretted his heroic decision and wished he was still plummeting to the ground. Frocci continued. Absurd, but amusing. So here's what I've decided to do: I will allow this individual to use whatever weapon, force, or power he had intended to kill me with, and I will give him one clear shot at me. I will let all of you see this in your minds, just as I have been speaking to you in your minds.
Upon hearing Frocci's second-to-last sentence there, Narpo found himself still floating on air, but higher up and facing Frocci. The hovercraft was nowhere in his sight, but the device he had brought was floating to the right of him.
"Now, here's how it works.", said Eclarn Frocci (Narpo was now in Frocci's presence, and thus he heard Frocci actually speaking instead of conveying thoughts telepathically). "If his foolish ambition is successful, then obviously, I will be dead, and all of Pluto will be freed. If he is unsuccessful, I will cause his body to rot away slowly, more and more each day, but I will allow him--no, force him to live for one thousand thousand years; he will not die unless I say so. Backing out and not trying at all will have the same result as failure to kill me"
Naturally, Narpo was scared. In fact, he was terrified. His first instinct was to run away, try to escape whatever it was that was allowing him to levitate, and go into hiding for the rest of his life. Then he remembered that it wouldn't do him much good, since Frocci had clearly stated that even if he did give up, he would still rot away for a thousand millennia. His only hope was to try. Here goes nothing, Narpo thought, picking up his device. Sweating profusely, shaking with fear, he took incredibly careful aim and fired.
Now before we learn the outcome of Frocci's little contest, there are a few things you should know about Eclarn Frocci's magical powers. His powers enable him to do just about anything. But if he doesn't specifically try to do it, it won't happen. For example, Eclarn Frocci could put up a titanium wall, an invisible force field, or any number of things to protect himself from any kind of attack. If he does not take the effort to create any form of defense, however, then he is just as vulnerable as anyone else of his race. Due to his arrogant nature and utter overconfidence (not to mention his lack of knowledge about his powers, since he has just gained them recently), Frocci had neglected to establish any form of defense whatsoever.
A bright blue beam shot out from Narpo's device and hit Eclarn Frocci, enveloping him (though only for a moment) in azure luminescence. For a moment the terrorist was surrounded in blue light; then, the light, along with Frocci's very body, dissipated. All that remained was a small green crystal, for the device which Narpo had brought was the very one he had been working on that morning-the crystallizer. Narpo picked up the crystal and examined it closely to see if the device had done its job.
"I did it!", Narpo screamed in victory. "I saved Pluto! I defeated Ecla--" Suddenly, he started falling, rapidly plunging toward the ground once again. Narpo realized that without Frocci's powers, he was no longer able to float on air. Frocci had probably known this too, he thought, and purposely placed it this way so that he would have a win-win situation. Narpo screamed, knowing that there was nothing he could do about it.
Miraculously, he landed in the hovercraft. Narpo wasn't sure how the hovercraft had still been there. He suspected that Frocci had brought him up directly above the hovercraft, but decided it was best not to question the matter and be thankful that he was alive.
Narpo soon parked the hovercraft and returned to his home to see his family and assure them that he was fine. They persuaded him to keep the little green crystal as a momentum to how he had saved their world.
Or thought he had.
You see, though Eclarn Frocci was now gone, his terrible legacy still remained. The damage had been done and a great toll had been taken on Squambarill life that day. The wild gluffrens were still a big problem and in addition to all this, Frocci's surprise plague had been discovered; a species of fatally poisonous mushrooms had been planted in numerous areas all across the planet. Their poison caused one's internal organs to rot away over a period of days. The mushrooms also possessed some qualities of weeds, rapidly consuming the food supply from surrounding plants and popping up in their place. Worse, they would sprout up again wherever one of their victims had died, and since many wild animals had eaten the deadly fungus (also diminishing Pluto's food supply) , the mushrooms continued to spread. Ironically though, Eclarn Frocci's lack of general intelligence had caused him to neglect putting up any kind of immunity for his own people; the mushrooms killed many Ragaska and Squambarill alike.
Narpo Frijj was among the last sixty or so civilized beings to remain alive; the two races had wisely elected to put aside their differences and join forces to do as much as they could to prevent them both from extinction. Being a very intelligent scientist, he attempted to create a vaccine from the mushrooms, so he and other Squambarill would be able to eat them without dying. Unfortunately, the test subjects (usually domesticated animals) showed no positive results and sometimes seemed to die even more quickly than those who had simply eaten them. Eclarn Frocci had known what he was doing when he created these mushrooms.
The scientist had kept the green crystal that had once been Eclarn Frocci, as a reminder of what had happened. However, it had never occurred to him that the crystal might still contain Frocci's mystical powers, which is why few people today believe that it actually does. As the legend goes, though, it still has all of Frocci's powers, making them available and accessible to any one who holds the crystal. That being is capable of altering reality in any way, earning the magical item its name, the reality crystal. It is also said, however, that Frocci's evil soul still lives on inside the crystal, tainting the mind of anyone who uses it and filling them with an uncontrollable lust for power, driving them to use the crystal's magical energies for personal gain, and eventually leading to much more sinister purposes. The legendary reality crystal is supposedly still somewhere on Pluto, since the legend also says that its magic prevents it from being destroyed, except by the fires of Neganus, its original source. However, modern explorations of Pluto have shown no proof or evidence that the reality crystal is there.
Not much later, the Squambarill and the Ragaska both died out completely. Though he had been defeated, Frocci's sinister legacy had haunted and eventually killed all other inhabitants of his planet, completing his twisted mission for him. Today in 2062, there are rumors and some vague scientific reports of human-like creatures living on Pluto. However, most people know that Pluto's climate and temperatures are entirely too cold to support any such form of life.
"Well, that's pretty much it.", said Derek Brock, who had just finished telling the tale to his brother Mikey. "What'd you think"
"It was sad.", Mikey replied truthfully. "And kinda scary. But I liked it"
"Derek!", scolded their mother. "Are you telling those silly stories of yours to your little brother again"
"Silly?", Derek repeated. "Come on, Mom, they're fun"
"I think they're dumb and full of nonsense.", his mother said. "An ancient civilization on Pluto? A machine that could turn flesh and blood into a crystal? And how could anything survive a star as hot as Neganus"
"It's real, Mom!", said Michael. "And when I grow up, I'm gonna be an astronaut and go to Pluto, and find the reality crystal"
His mother chuckled softly, her opinion of the legend still unchanged. "We'll see, son. We'll see." Glossary: Gluffren-A wild, catlike creature native to Pluto, striped blue and purple. Timeband-Squambarill equivalent to a watch; time is requested vocally, and displayed by a holographic projector.