Within a futuristic world, it has been several years since Andy Mars changed his name and entered what he calls his third life as a farmer on Eden, the home of the Plant God, where a series of events have led to an interplanetary war with an Empire determined to conquer all humanity.
One day when a vulnerable Andy becomes yet another victim of the poisonous plant, the Chalda Thorn, he must rely on wisdom from an unlikely source to survive. As he recovers, he feels stronger and buoyed by a strange feeling that he will only come to understand later. But little does he know that his wife, Myra, is harboring secrets and the nature of the Plant God is about to be revealed as the future of the Empire and galaxy hangs in the balance.
The Plant God shares the suspenseful and exciting tale of a space traveler's journey into a changing universe where he discovers mystery, romance, and wild adventures.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.44(d)|
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The Plant God
By Roger Lee Vernon
iUniverseCopyright © 2016 Roger Lee Vernon
All rights reserved.
Preparing for Interplanetary War
Andy Mars wandered through the narrow twisting streets of the Grand Bazaar of the old city. He was a stranger here in a dangerous land, and therefore alert, his senses sharpened, his mental antenna out, watchful. He wondered why the Galactic Empire allowed this warren of shops and hovels to exist here on Glaxius. The very presence of this conclave advertised that the Empire too had its power limits.
Andy had bribed for information at the spaceport hotel; he had his map of the city; and even so the green door he was seeking eluded him at first. He retraced his steps again to search the endless portals, the streets without a name, the houses without a sign, and the innocent appearing green door with no number. When he found the entrance, he knocked with impatience.
"What is it you will have," came the woman's voice from within.
"I wish to trade." It was the true answer, the signal.
"We have little to sell," was the teasing reply. The greatest arms merchant on any of the Free Planets kept up such a front.
"I will buy what you have," he answered.
"What is your name and with what will you buy?"
"I am called Andy Mars. I will use a credit ring." Truth was truth. He had adopted for his last name that of the solar planet he had fled more than a decade ago when his adventure began. He was just one step ahead of the troops of the Empire then. Did everyone hate the Emperor and his Empire? The Empire was all-powerful and now he would fight it and die.
Still there was hesitation inside the green door. The flash in the alleyway where he stood probably indicated sensors and analysis at which he could only guess. The door finally opened, unsealing too quietly, revealing that the entrance was not only protected but also armed.
The woman inside was almost medieval in dress, yet young in years and breathtakingly pretty. She wore a conical hat, a flowing blue dress, incense that filled the room, but in her gray eyes was the narrow searching glint of the trader. She was fragile, with a narrow face, intense appearing, obviously startled by the silver protective uniform of the spacer, and especially by Andy's appearance, the wideness of his shoulders and his great height. She motioned to an oversized purple pillow at the little table opposite her. "Please be seated," she directed.
Andy sat. Perhaps he appeared less threatening that way. "And your name is?" he inquired.
"My name is Sheila Quest." It was an obvious assumed name, as was Andy's. But what was Sheila's quest? "Will you have sadow?" she asked.
"Yes, plain only." The enhancement of the stimulant was fine, but he wanted no mind clouding or consciousness expansion; there was especially no need to reach a mental high and low simultaneously while perhaps going sideways instead. His own drugs might protect him and then again ...
The room was ordinary, walls without pictures. Heavy dark green drapes hung behind the slender seated woman, drapes that concealed rooms behind. The plants in the corners were the solitary decorations and some of these were no doubt sensors also. Yes, the room was certainly fully activated, electronically alive, taking his measure.
Andy Mars carried only an ornate dagger as a weapon, and while it was far more than a dagger, yet even this dagger and his protective uniform could not shield him from this room.
His only defense was that he was an unknown quantity, carrying nothing that would make killing him worthwhile.
Sheila Quest nodded, pouring the purple elixir into a glass as might any welcoming hostess. She poured for herself from the same vessel. They toasted. It tasted right. The bracelet on Andy's left wrist glowed blue. He was not being poisoned. Not yet.
"May I view your credit ring?" she requested. If he did not speak the truth, there was hardly a reason to continue the conversation.
Andy Mars held out his left hand. The ring appeared to be of fine gold and contained an inscribed stone that flashed a little even in this artificial light. The credit ring was safe. Its predecessor might have gone back to the beginning of Earthly human traditions, to the Sumerians, over six thousand years ago or 6,000 B.S.A. as they taught them now in school, "Before the Space Age." The wealthy Sumerians wore a ring that had cuneiform carvings that could be pressed upon a clay table as a type of signature, proving who they were, literally sealing transactions. Yet now in spite of progress, in this year 543 ASE, men were still men and women still women. Problems of fraud remained.
Only Andy Mars's ring was more special then the bands of the ancients. When activated it could charge credits against his bank account, guaranteed by the Free Bank, the giant universal credit corporation based on the inner Free Planets.
The credit rings were especially interesting because they were so personal. He could press down the gem upon a parchment agreement and the deductions in credits could be transferred instantly. But if he were killed, the ring would permanently deactivate. If his finger were cut off, which was the only way to remove the ring without his permission, the same thing would occur; the ring would be worthless. Similarly, he could by an effort of will, deactivate the ring. There was no way to steal it or use it for any other purpose than that for which he wished.
Of course he could be threatened, but Andy Mars had long ago decided what to do in difficult situations. He would fight until it was hopeless and then the ring would go. They could kill him, but would receive nothing.
"It is enough. What do you wish to buy?" Sheila inquired.
"I understand you deal in many things. Space craft. Satellites. Even force screens."
Sheila observed the stranger. His smooth skin made the curved scar on his cheek more noticeable. The brown hair showed no gray. He was still young, even after ten years as a star ship navigator. He was also very sure of himself. Sheila decided he was not an Imperial spy, for the court would have chosen someone who did not stand out so much in a crowd. "You are not interested in boxes of blasters for the revolution?" she inquired.
Andy decided that she saw him as toying with her. The blasters would be the major stock in trade for revolutionaries. "It is all contraband," Sheila Quest continued. "What especially are you interested in?"
"Let us start with a force screen."
"You start at the top. You mentioned space craft. A type seven space cruiser with elude," she paused for she saw his eyes narrow. "Yes, with elude, that is twenty billion credits. Are you buying for a confederation in the outer zone?"
She wanted more information than she was giving. "Yes. In a way. A planet in the far outer zone," Andy answered.
"Twenty billion credits might exceed the budget of some frontier planets. We need cash in advance."
"You would have the cash. Would such a ship hold a covering force screen?"
"A personal force screen ..."
"No, a ship size force screen, outfitted around a space cruiser with cloaking elude?"
Sheila sat passively a moment. She was calculating. "You are talking in the range of three hundred billion credits."
"And would this invulnerable ship with its force screen, be able to hold and transport the boxes containing a planetary sized force screen component back to my land in one trip?"
Sheila blinked. Her eyes seemed to glaze now. "Do you at all realize what you are talking about? You have not begun to bargain with me, but even so ..." She appeared angry.
The rule of thumb was that you could obtain the goods in the bazaars for half the original quoted amount, but weather that was specifically true here with an arms merchant on quality items of this magnitude was another matter. Andy Mars had done research, but he did not know. Besides he was in a hurry. "Name a figure," he suggested.
The heavy drapes behind Sheila Quest parted. It was obvious the black bearded man in the long purple gown who entered now had been listening all along. He gave no pretense that it might be otherwise. "Stay Sheila," he suggested, gesturing. "My name is Sam. Sam Quest. Sheila is my sister. We are not of this planet." He held both of his hands up next to his face, palms out in the universal gesture of salute. Andy Mars remained seated, but returned the gesture.
The greeting over, Sam Quest sat down on one of the oversize colorful pillows beside Sheila. He had almost savage eyes that he used to good effect now, searching Andy's face. "You have been talking of buying much, and you have flashed your ring, but we do not know if your credit limit is ten or a million. Perhaps you could run a little credit check for us, so we know if we are talking of a blaster or a cruiser or ..." Sam Quest did not finish the sentence.
"Just one more piece of information," Andy Mars requested. "The Empire has planet sized force screens. There are not many planets that even the empire has designated as deserving such a defense, but is it possible to procure a full planetary force screen? Otherwise there is no use running a credit check or anything else. Because while I would like to buy a star cruiser with elude, a planetary force screen is what I am really after. How long would it take to obtain such an item? And what would be your price?"
"That is three questions. The answers are: Yes, we could get one. They are obviously beyond anyone's budget to keep in stock. In fact you must know there are none on planet. It might take twenty standard days. And it might take longer.
The price would be in the neighborhood of eighty trillion credits. I have never had an inquiry on a planetary force shield before, because most wealthy traders stop at covering a city. The military budget of the Galactic Empire was one hundred trillion credits last year. That has been an average budget as the Empire expanded." This last comparison was said with something of a sneer.
"How would this force screen be obtained?"
Sam Quest was angry now. He crossed his arms and sat back in the chair. "Sentinel Industries produces these. They are on the inner free planets, the Citadel Group. They sell them to anyone who will buy. But not directly. There are agents. Even the Empire allows it, because no one but the Empire and the Citadel Group can afford to purchase even one planetary force screen. Why did you not go to Sentinel Industries for your purchase?"
Andy Mars smiled. "I did not go for the reason you have just mentioned. I contacted Sentinel Industries and they gave me a list of agents. You were the first on the list. They do not want to sell such things because they would come under the ban of the Empire. They are already in danger, for the Emperor would like to own their planets too. But if Sentinel Industries sell through agents; they can say they did not know what the use might be."
Sam Quest leaned forward. "All right. There has been much talk. Now, buy something from me, to start our trust in each other, even if it's only a glass of xotil, or get out."
Andy Mars smiled more broadly. "Will you tabulate on your computer your estimated price for a planetary force screen, please."
"Long ago you said one question. You have received much information, and you have given none in return. Who are you really? Is this some form of entrapment? Whom do you represent?"
"I represent the planet Eden and the Chalda Enterprise System. Let us run this credit check."
Sam Quest nodded. His face worked, bunching together. Chalda was known. Everyone bought Chalda. Still, it might be a fraud. But this was interesting. People wanted to feel good, live longer, and stay disease free. The Chalda was bought everywhere and spreading. That was the overpopulation problem now, long life and a healthy old age.
"All right then, let us compute," Sam grunted. Then he looked down at the black flat table between where Andy and Sam were sitting, a table that became a keypad at his touch. He punched out the top figure, before the real bargaining. "Eighty trillion credits. Thirteen lovely zeroes." Sam Quest said aloud, smiling. "This is amusing." Then he sat back and waited.
Andy Mars leaned over the plastic table keypad and pressed his ring down. The corner of the screen glowed green. The full amount was in the Free Bank and guaranteed, available for instant transfer!
Sam Quest turned pale. He felt limp even as his mind buzzed with the possibilities. This was incredible. Even the Emperor, Alexius V, probably could not raise that kind of money without destroying his currency. A wealthy person might have a million credits in a bank. A consortium from a planetary enterprise might have ten million or a hundred million in ready cash, if they were waiting for a major transaction. But this was trillions! Yes, and this was money waiting for a major transaction. It apparently was for real.
Sam Quest had once done a four billion credit deal with the Scandia Alliance just with a credit ring alone. Four years ago in his largest sale, the city-state of Xenia had bought a force screen from him to cover their ten thousand square kilometer base for one trillion credits. It was a deal that Xamia was still paying off in annual installments. This was eighty times larger and all cash. Could it be true? The Free Bank was guaranteeing it. Only there could be no trust on either side with an agreement of this magnitude. No, even a guarantee of the priestesses of Palan would not be sufficient. No group of insurance firms would guarantee it. But the Free Bank said the money was there. It was not just worth pursuing, it was a business deal to retire on and then run and hide in the out worlds before the spies of the Emperor caught up with him. Sam Quest felt his very palms begin to perspire.
He had to issue a warning, a disclaimer to this stranger. Suddenly a great light of understanding seemed to come into Sam Quest's eyes. "I take it, Andy Mars as you call yourself, that the Empire is about to attack Eden and the Emperor Alexius V wishes to take over your Chalda trade? You wish to seal yourself up and resist. I will sell you what you want, but it won't be enough. Nobody defies the Empire successfully."
"Perhaps, but the great game must be played," Andy Mars replied.
The bargaining now began in earnest. "What are your costs?" Andy demanded. "What is your profit margin?"
In an hour they had agreed on 55 trillion, for the ship with elude and its full force screen plus, more importantly, the multi-boxed planetary force screen to be delivered to the ship in twenty days. The installation would be extra. The profit for Sam Quest would be 5 trillion credits, which would allow for transport and bribing the necessary officials. Then Sam Quest would leave for the Far Out, and set up on his own world. Five trillion profit! He would not admit to such a profit even if cornered.
But the details remained. "The credits will be transferred to your account only when I am back on Eden with the force screen," Andy Mars demanded. "The full amount of the money will be encumbered, but placed on hold until then."
Sam Quest began to ruminate upon other matters: "The Empire had to allow the Citadel Group to force screen themselves," he declared. "But there are those on some planets who have thought to safeguard cities with force screens, and some of those cities have seen what happened afterwards when they crossed the Emperor in their pride. Armed forces landed and burrowed beneath the screened city and blew it, screen and all. The Emperor will not take kindly to anyone closing themselves off completely on their entire planet. Do you know what you are doing? If a planet bought a force screen and were in no danger to the Empire and had nothing Emperor Alexius V wanted, they might get away with this. But you have something everyone wants, the Chalda Plant and its elixir. So the Imperial troops will come. And they are persistent. You may well be able to have time to get this planetary force screen installed, but its purpose will be known."
"Force shields are purely defensive," Andy Mars declared smiling. "That is the nature of force screens."
"True. But it will be like a beacon to the Galactic Empire, a challenge hurled down. I can not sell you this without warning you. I personally will take my profit and run."
"Understood. There will be major trouble. But I am about to have trouble in the form of an invasion in any case. I am preparing for interplanetary war. Of course the free cities that manufacture the screens are allowed to be secure. They have installed their own planetary force screens. They have nothing else the Emperor wants for now." Andy Mars smiled again. "I have seen trouble before. There is one other thing. I would ask that you and your sister Sheila come with me to Eden to stay until the goods are delivered."
Sam nodded. There was so much at stake. Could he make this work for this crazy rich man? And Sam knew he would have to make sure Andy Mars did not keep them both prisoners, beyond the possibility of escape, with a planetary force screen. Once the wrath of the Empire descended upon them, Sam and his sister had both better be long gone.
"Am I chattel to be shipped off as part of this agreement?" Sheila
Excerpted from The Plant God by Roger Lee Vernon. Copyright © 2016 Roger Lee Vernon. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. Preparing for Interplanetary War, 1,
2. Eden, 11,
3. The Navigator of the Stars, 36,
4. The Pilgrims, 45,
5. The Chalda Thorn Elixer, 58,
6. The Plant God, 67,
7. The River Rats, 76,
8. The Merchant of the Stars, 84,
9. The River Lizards, 91,
10. The Secret of the Woman of the Ring, 102,
11. The Summons to the Empire, 119,
12. The Imperial Fleet: The First Encounter, 141,
13. The Imperial Fleet: Space Battle and Defeat, 160,
14. The Imperial Palace, 167,