Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Red Licorice

Part of a Series. The first entry.

Laura bounced around in the jungle, swinging through the boughs of the highest trees, carelessly using her prehensile tail to balance as her hands and hand-shaped feet slid from vine to vine. Earlier that morning, while scraping some termites out of a mound with a stick, she had seen a flash in the sky, brighter than the two suns above. She heard the crash in the distance.

Now Laura glimpsed the pod, shining white against the bottom of the deep green canopy. It had burned through several webs of vines but had cooled enough that it hung suspended in a bundle. The metal went ping.

As she clambered around the pod, she noticed that it was entirely smooth except for a small, concave set of thrusters, the type used on deuterotrident drives. An ancient technology, and curious to see it used instead of her society's own hurlotronic inertia rockets.

The door opened with a hiss as the atmospheric pressure equalized, and out emerged some sort of monkey, except from the shoes that it wore it appeared to have some sort of duck feet.

"What the hell are you?" Bertram said, startled, around a mouthful of red licorice that he was eating.

A second duck-footed monkey, significantly curvier than the first, emerged.

"It appears to be a native lifeform," Helena said.

Laura leapt to a bough out of reach of the interlopers, having once spent an unpleasant several minutes in a trapper's net before she had immolated the net, the trappers, and their ship with her uncombinator ray that made all of the target molecules suddenly undergo catastrophic disassocation. She'd rather not have the ringing sensation in her ears from all that uncombination again.

"Who are you?" Laura asked, hoping that her neural implant possessed a key to the language of these duck-footed monkeys. Her hand drifted to a small pouch concealed in her fur with the uncombinator nestled within.

"Holy shit, the monkey speaks our language!" Bertram said, bits of licorice dancing out of his mouth.

"Would you stop eating that?" Helena asked out of the corner of her mouth, smiling at Laura.

"No, because you said that I could bring it. Because you said that tracking down the ejected hibernation pods was more important than that sandwich that I was making."

"Please just-"

"...and then it took longer to find my licorice than it would've taken for me to finish the sandwich but you didn't seem interested in logic."

Helena reached over and slapped the fistful of red licorice out of Bertram's hand and it cascaded into the trees below, making faint crackling sounds as it collided with enormous leaves designed to suck up as much of the sunlight that filtered down to that level.

"Please don't interfere with my planet," Laura said, pulling out the uncombinator and pointing it at Bertram. "We had to uncombinate interlopers before, and now we live in a paradise untouched by outsiders. You will go pick up your red licorice and leave. We already had some fool drop an enormous pod on our planet, apparently thinking that we would act as a landfill for whatever junk they no longer wanted."

Bertram paused. "When did it arrive?"

"Only yesterday. We are dragging it to a launchpad to eject it towards the Little Sun when the planet is in the correct position. Now make with the picking up of your garbage."

Bertram bent down and, grumbling, began to retrieve his licorice.

"Wait! You can't shoot it into the sun!" Helena said. "We need that pod back!"

"So it is yours? You are irresponsible. This will teach you a lesson, then. That you should keep better track of your things, foolish meddler," Laura said. "Man-child, hurry up."

"There are countless lives that will be lost!" Helena said.

Laura shrugged. "More or less than the countless lives lost if we do not enforce the purity of our planet?"

"How hard would it be to eject it towards our spacecraft? Look, I have the coordinates here-" Helena began, reaching for her pouch. Laura fired the uncombinator at Laura, which would have uncombinated her except that Bertram hurled a handful of licorice in the way. It made a popping noise as the molecules disassociated faster than a political party from a politician who said what they believed. Followed by a brief crunching noise as Bertram socked Laura in the nose and sent her spiraling down into canopy below.

"Bertram! You've never done something like that for me before!"

Bertram chewed on a piece of licorice thoughtfully. "Ya, I guess not. Now how do we find the launchpad?"

Helena pulled out a small computer and typed in several commands. "I can deploy some satellites from the ship and get some data."

Bertram fiddled with the uncombinator for a few minutes until Helena interrupted. "The launchpad is actually just a few yards through this canopy, it's just so thick that we can't see."

"Okay," Bertram said. He uncombinated his way through some thick foliage, and as the haze of molecules cleared they could see a clearing and at the center was their pod in some sort of gigantic slightshot.

"Don't use that thing indiscriminately, moron!" Helena said. "You don't if it will make things unstaaaaaabbbllllleee," she said, as the branches below them gave way and they swung through the air and out into the clearing, smushing quite a few bugs, berries, and bugs that looked like berries. They rolled, covered in ichor and cut from lots of whippy branches, out into the clearing. Several of the monkey people gazed at them confused for a moment.

"Please don't hurt us!" the nearest one said when he saw the uncombinator. "We know your demands to shoot this pod into the Little Sun! We agree that it is a foreign abomination!"

"What? We just want the pod back."

"But you have Laura the Uncombinator's weapon."

"Laura the Uncombinator? Is that like Vlad the Impaler?" Bertram asked.

"I don't know who that is," said one of the monkeys. "Laura demands that we do not allow others to interfere on our planet, that they will taint us. We are enslaved here to clear cut the forest to build weapon emplacements to defend our paradise."

Bertram and Helena noticed that, sure enough, the trees were being clear cut and floated down a stream that was covered in a rainbow of oil.

"Laura's out in the trees somewhere. We just want our pod sent to these coordinates," Helena said.

"And I want more red licorice," Bertram said, sadly, having just chewed the last of it.

"You mean, the sweet red vines that grow like weeds?" the nearest monkey said, pointing to nearby hanging creepers that looked, smelled and tasted just like red licorice.

The Moral: to make mistakes is human, to pull an uncombinator on a human for accidentally ejecting the cryopods of an interstellar ark is tyrannical space-monkey

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