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SITURAN

by Peter Zenger
Art by Peter Zenger

An unusually authentic space opera

 

Remi Corwin and his two sidekicks stand in the street against a background of urban overdevelopment with mountains in the distance.

Remi: Going to town was better when there was a Main Street. Now we have even a rocket port. This is too much unlike the old days.

Tom Farnham: What did you like about the old days?

Remi: It was idyllic.  I’ll tell you of it:

The streets were narrow like the narrow Path.

When you counted your cattle nobody laughed.

There wasn’t noise, and there was no confusion;

People were honest, didn’t live in illusion.

The only law was honest trade;

Men were men facing life unafraid.

Now with machinery and travel exotic

Bargaining’s shaky and men are neurotic.

When you ask about women I won’t even see ya;

Concealed are my feelings and my daughter Lucia.

Some townsmen start gathering, and Jose Cowdry, the other hireling, explains to them:

Jose: Remi often speaks in rhyme, to match the modern pace. Also he’s demonstrating English, which he sometimes speaks in preference to our current language, Esperanto.

Townsman: But what of the man’s daughter?

Remi:

She is lovely beyond compare,

Voice like a dove and a winning air.

But no man can heir to her fortunes be

Despite my amassing a large dowry.

She remains untouched by the modern age,

Walks her pristine moment on life’s tawdry stage.

A tall, rangy man attired in the uniform of the Space Venturers, steps up.

Venturer:  Yet I make bold to express an interest. I’m everything you don’t like, a space explorer; I’ll take her on a spaceship to a neighboring planet.

Remi: That would be difficult to do without her dowry.

Venturer:  But I’ve imagined a way to have that dowry. Talk about our situation in the space race has led to our current project being called Situran. Situation Sat-urn or wherever the project gets ran is what it means. The effort is thus incorporated and you could invest. Then it would be only too logical for your daughter to take a space flight. And as your investment pays off, you part ways with this dowry.

Remi:  It does sound good. A paying proposition. What I loathe will become a means of increasing my livelihood. Very well, be here at noon when I reveal Lucia, and you shall express your suit yourself.

Scene: the populous city. A crowd has gathered. Enter Remi Corwin.

Remi: Gentlemen, my daughter Lucia.

Lucia steps through a portcullis in a display park.

Lucia: Alone is the way I feel on the ranch. Why, it wouldn’t even exist, but people still need its produce. Nothing, they say, will modernize or refine out the necessity of eating a square meal. You can ask the hydroponics crowd if they are capable of motion on a plankton diet. They’ll answer, if not too listless, that the old ways have their place and purpose and are inextricably a part of life. And so I continue wealthy, but alone. Yet I would not much value city living.

The spacer already introduced, Skyways Elison, approaches.

Elison: What about the new and unexplored realms of space?

Remi: No spacer will have my daughter.

Lucia:  And yet, he has awakened an interest.

Elison:

Do you feel estranged on life’s uncertain stage?

Vie with a new frontier and history’s turning page.

For New Frontier it is; John F. Kennedy

Established that with seal of his identity.

And Frontier is the life you used to lead;

Get the lead out and pay the future heed.

Come, my sweet thing, and let’s entwine our lives;

The Spacemen’s girlfriends will be their future wives.

Remi: Yes, that’s quite a bit of interest, yet I am loathe to trust the safety of a far mission. Any business done will have to be conducted here.

Lucia:

Oh, cruelty! I have the wanderlust.

I yearn for space; are this man’s strictures just?

I feel confined in Earth’s mundanity;

A view of Mars is what I’d like, my man, to see.

I’d like to go and orbit around it thrice

But here I am, imprisoned in a vice.

And then we’d go around it thrice widdershins;

Time would regress, we’d go back where we’d been.

I would thus return to my heritage

And travel both ways cross history’s bold page.

Remi: Nice vision, but I’ve stated the facts.

The lovers are left alone on stage. They converse, in a duet.

Skyways:

Oh little thing, you claim my innocence and youth.

Lucia:

‘Tis against space rules, but has aught of life’s truth.

Skyways:

I yearn to set you free, as you would be.

Lucia:

I dare not make petition for this liberty.

Skyways:

I’ll make some plans, I’ll have you by surprise—

We shall elope and go to the skies.

Lucia:

I dare say that I like the plan.

I shall be waiting until you come again.

They part.

II

Skyways comes to the lady’s window and ascends a ladder. She descends it with him. Cowdry, who has watched them do it, says to Farnham, who has turned his back on it:

Cowdry: Their words are only known to lovers; this night they’ve made clear their intentions. Surely they have the regards of nature, if not Corwin, but the fulfillment of night and its romance makes up for the lack of ceremonial attendance of the girl’s father. Surely also, luck will attend their flight, since the other qualities of life will not attend it. It is a splendid elopement, made all the more colorful by the early spring season.

True love shall last, or it’s not true.

Skyways shows what the fires of youth will do.

If any man condemn the act,

Let him succumb to a grand mal attack.

If any disdain the epithet’s wit,

Let him fall down in a dancing fit.

Corwin need not rue the act and deed;

It spreads his empire and his seed.

Let all nature with joy cry out

And all who witness it, stand and shout.

Skyways looking back:  PAEANS…and glad HOSANNAS!!!

Lucia:  Let us go forth, my love, into life’s eternal voyage of discovery.

A coachman arrives.

Coachman: Don’t look back.

One should look to the future and not the past;

Then the future’ll come around at last.

But if you gaze on haunts of yore

You’ll end up in where you were before.

And if you dwell on legacy,

Recall what’s saved can’t be spent free.

But meditate your journey’s end

And legacy will come again.

Skyways:  Well said.

They proceed to the spaceport.

III

They strap in and the rocket boosts with a mighty and a thunderous overture. Starsongs attend their liftoff.

Skyways and Lucia stand in the view-room, watching the stars and singing songs to them which compare them to the affair the two are having, a  thing of many worlds and eternal light.

The ship is intercepted and boarded by pirates, led by Captain Steele.

Steele: I am Captain Steele, dam ye to the unknown past Pluto; accede, or you take my rays.

Whatever you feel when you meet Captain Steele,

Stand where you are or feel rays.

And if you should reel toward this pirate ordeal

You’ll disappear in a blaze.

Skyways:

When things get rough

There’s no fight tough enough

That it’ll tough the stuff of our men.

I must not have heard you the first time you gave note,

Get in rote and say it again.

You cannot take our ship

For we value our trip

And your unjust cause is lost;

So get in gear

Get away from here

Or you’ll wind up in the exhaust.

Steele:  Have to, then, Vagrom!

They fight. While they do so, three of Steele’s men kidnap Lucia and lock her in the stateroom. When the spacers use their superior mastery of their own ship to render this untenable, they do worse: they take her into their own ship, and then demand everything of worth the other vessel has on board. Skyways goes out on a cable and enters the other vessel’s temporarily dormant tubes. These he sabotages so that they will not function. He comes back into his own ship.

Skyways: You can tell them to take off if they like. That ship will never move.

Before you tell them to jet, though.

There is a place where I must go.

That’s across into their ship—

Harm might come to Lucia, you’re hip.

If they get mad at how I did deflect them

I’ll say when women are involved, one has to protect them.

He goes across. His crew faces Steele, on the communications screen.

Steele (to the Captain): One last chance. Come across with your goods, or we’ll take off with the woman. And she’ll bring a good price in the Jupiterian slave markets, too, or an even better one if she’s ransomed.

Captain: That’s your reasoning, and typical of it. As a matter of fact, she won’t bring a good price at all. Anyway, we’ve had a full discussion of it, and you can blast off. Nobody that isn’t involved will come across with any of their loot.

Steele:  We have Skyways over here too, now. You’ll lose them both.

Captain:  There still isn’t anything I can do. They never will agree.

Steele:  All right, blast off! There ought to be some slave labor Skyways can do, too, that’ll profit us!

Skyways:  The only way I could profit you is some text about the straight and narrow, but that isn’t profit you’re asking for right now.

The ship fires up. It gets exactly nowhere.

The pirates:  Curses!

Captain: You’re dependent on us now. Let the two you have aboard back on our ship, and we’ll help you repair yours.

The deal is made, but when the repairs are finished the pirates shanghai three of the workers.

Pirate:  We know they were only repairing damage that you did!

Captain: Well, how much work would it take to repair the damages you pirates do?

Pirate: Better hope it won’t be so much—you might be who has to do it! We never will!

The discussion becomes so interesting to the men involved that the captives get free of them and use their propulsion systems to get back to the ship.

Captain:  Goodbye, pirates.  The sound of his engines is heard.

Pirates: Well, it was worth it—we learned something of the methods of the Space Venturers.

They arrive on Mars.

Skyways:

Ha! I love you, my Martian belle!

On the strange new turf we both shall dwell

Until the wanderlust strikes again

And we fare off with our ships and men.

And all our women will come along;

We travel space, they furnish the song.

Lucia:

It’s good to dwell on Mars with you.

I see two moons, and I see the Earth, too.

Though a scope would give it better focus,

It’s bigger than Mars and I have its locus.

Nor is Mars so infernally overcast;

Through this thin atmosphere, the Cosmos is vast.

I almost call myself Marswoman born,

Though I regret the family I leave forlorn.

She need not have felt that much regret, as the agents her father sent after her tell her themselves.

Agent to Lucia: What makes you think you’re that good? No one back there even misses you. But they don’t like people coming and taking part of their estate away.

Skyways:  I’ll bet they don’t. But did you ever hear tell of Blue Money? Take a look at all this—we have accumulated it with our sands development project and territorial cultivation. It’s not like she ran off with a slack worker with no prospects.

Scene: Earth. In a grand ceremony Corwin gives Lucia to Skyways, and claims his returns on his investments. Now he is a shareholder in Mars colonization.

 

 

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