Toast of the Town
by Richard Tornello
The captain of the star ship Je-Nna reread the star chart screen. It
indicated that the planet they were orbiting had not been visited in
centuries. Add to that, the planet was so distant that its existence
was lost somewhere deep in the historical archives. It had no name.
Only a single expeditionary flight had been made but there was no
report in the record other than contact had been made. It was by the
dint of a data entry mistake in the navigation software that the ship
was orbiting here.
The weapons engineer scanned for RF and sensor transmissions.
Computer analysis indicated a low level of technology but at least they
had radio. The Captain sent a message broadcast over a number of
frequencies indicating their arrival, location and some other data. She
kept the shields on full just in case and waited for a response.
She didn’t have to wait long. The computer translated the message
as “Welcome to the Je-Nna captain and crew. We haven’t seen outsiders
for a very long time. We welcome your arrival and look forward to
celebrating with you. Arrangements can be made securely. Please
respond, signed Planet EH Welcoming Committee.”
“Well, now we know its name, Planet EH, ” laughed the captain. And
to the crew she stated, “It appears as if we’ll be the toast of the
town. I’d like to get 10 volunteers to transport on-planet with me.”
She always had an upbeat character. There was always a demand for her
ship when there was an opening. The whole crew volunteered requiring a
lottery to be drawn up.
The co-captain and weapons engineer decided not to pull rank and to
remain on board while monitoring the celebration below. She transmitted
their location and the procedures being undertaken to the home
federation. For some reason there appeared to be a problem and the
transmission engineer was on-planet with the rest of the visiting crew.
“Shit” she said. “Can anyone fix this?”
A junior engineer stepped forward and offered his service. “Ma’am,
I’m not an expert but I have some experience in this sort of thing.”
“Please have at it,” she commanded.
Meanwhile on planet the landing party was being given a parade
through the planets’ capital. A feast was planned for later the next
day. Screens throughout the planet broadcast the arrival of the
off-planet guests. The pictures were transmitted to the starship Je-Nna
too. Businesses shut down for the declared holiday.
The co-captain decided to research the history of this planet. In
the ship’s library for hours, she stumbled upon a section dealing with
odd and possibly dangerous locations and this planet with no name
showed up. She requested classified access. After reading the data she
felt she needed to contact the captain immediately.
On the non-local sub quantum com she raised the captain. “ Sir, you
must leave the planet immediately. You and the crew are in possible
The captain laughed, “Yeah I know. It’s a planet of cannibals.
Well, it was at one time and that’s why we never heard back from that
first exploratory ship. They explained it and have been very
apologetic. They changed their ways centuries ago. It was based upon a
nutritional deficiency that they had no medical technology to overcome
and just lived with it. A cure was discovered and now, like any family,
they have skeletons in their closet that they usually don’t discuss.
We’re on our way to a dinner invitation with the premier of the planet.
In fact, I’m in his palace presently. Check the coordinates. He says
we’re the “toast of the town”, to use one of our expressions. It seems
they have been monitoring us for some time. I’ll get more data on that
technology as soon as I can. They reverse engineered the technology
from the ship that landed here centuries ago and would guess a few
other unlucky crews too. It appears rather advanced. Funny our sensors
didn’t pick it up.”
“Yeah, funny,” replied the co-captain sarcastically. “I’d get off
there. It seems our COM systems are jammed, compromised or some such
nonsense. And how many times have I been wrong? I don’t trust them.”
“You’re always such a buzz-kill. Just stay linked. I believe this
is beyond their tech levels. Captain signing off.”
Now off line, the co-captain tapped the weapons engineer stating, “
I don’t trust these creatures. I have a strange feeling they’re hiding
something. I’ll pull the ship out some and make some excuse regarding
our transmission malfunction. I bet they had something to do with it.
You get the shields up on anything you feel warrants it.”
“Yes ma’am sir. I’m ahead of you.”
“Engineer do you have a fix on the problem?” She asked.
In the mean time, the premier had listened to the whole
conversation between the captain and co-captain. He looked at his aide
and asked, “Well, what do you think?”
The aide replied, “They underestimate our technology. That’s good.
We’ve jammed their deep space transmissions for now. I believe they are
developing a work-around so we have to make a decision. I know we
haven’t gone cannie in centuries but sir…”
Just then the Captain walked in. She said, “Your majesty we are so
pleased to be here. You are a joy to be with especially after so many
years in space and just being so formal and all that. This is the first
place in years that I feel so alive.”
The aide whispered to the premier, “Look at that smile. Look at
that well formed body, the muscles and my god she looks good enough to
eat…for old times sake?” He wiped his face of a bit of drool.
The premier was taken by the captain and in a split second decided.
As The Je-Nna left that planetary system, the captain and crew
never knew how close they came to actually being the toast of the town.
© 2021 Richard Tornello
p>Richard Tornello began writing short stories and poems about 14
years ago. He has self-published four children’s books including one
self-illustrated book of poems.
Rick was the art editor of Quantum Muse and has been
Aphelion-webzine.com, Orion’s Arm.com, ShortHumour.org.uk, Poetry
a Chinese & English Bilingual Journal, and has few stories in the
anthologies “A Flash of Aphelion,” “Fantastical Savannahs And
Jungles”, “XENOBIOLOGY” and most currently “BLEAKEST TOWERS”.
assisted with the translation of some poetry for a Chinese poet.
He studied at The Art Students League in NYC and later picked up
a degree in History with an advanced certification in Asian Studies
from Rutgers University. Postgraduate studies concentrated in Chinese
He with and two partners started and owned one of the first
nationally based resume database companies specializing in high tech,
computer security and various advanced systems of specialized nature.
He continues to have a strong interest in propulsion physics and
XXXXXXXXXX CLASSIFIED Alien XXXXXXX CLASSIFIED systems.
Rick also competed in off-hand pistol and bench rest shooting for
over 20 years and continues to shoot, draw, and write after retiring
from headhunting two years ago
Find more by Richard Tornello in the
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