There I was, sitting in my office, more or less minding my own business. I had my feet propped up on a partially extended desk drawer and a glass of 12-year-old Kentucky bourbon in my hand. It was a hot day, and the air conditioner was running full blast.
I had nothing else so pressing to do since I am a guide and hunter of Big Game. I was between jobs, and didn’t expect one until next season unless something unusual came up.
Suddenly, an apparition appeared in my office opposite my desk. In only moments, it coalesced into a creature charitably described as WEIRD! It was approximately eight feet tall and was very green. Not only that, it had an impressive tail which ended in a hunk of bone that looked like it made an excellent mace. Other than that, it had two legs, two arms, and a head on a neck.
The face reminded me of something out of Jurassic Park or a similar movie. The creature had two eyes, a nose to go with its extended facial structure, and a large mouth with an impressive set of carnivore’s teeth. I guess that the only thing that stopped me from pulling out my .45 automatic and blasting away was the fact that the creature was wearing what looked to me like a space suit.
Dammit, maybe this was a customer, so I had better start acting like the person I normally am. “Good day, Sir. How may I serve you?”
“Good day, Mr. Emil Scaggs. I am here to discuss a business proposition if you are interested.”
“Certainly, Sir. If I may inquire, what is your name?”
“Oh, I beg your pardon, Mr. Emil Scaggs. I am...” there followed a series of musical notes that I could not hope to duplicate. “I know that your vocal apparatus is not configured for pronouncing my name or ever speaking my language, so I think that it would be best if we stick to English. Is that acceptable?”
“Of course it is. I do need a name for you, though, that I can pronounce and that does not offend you. How about Alien Contact, or more familiarly, AC. You may call me Emil, and that will get us started on a comfortable footing.” That was when I realized that his voice was not coming from his mouth, but from a contraption at his chest.
“Excellent, Emil, I can see that we will get along well. Now, let me explain why I am here. I represent an entertainment company that wishes to hire you to do some big game hunting on several planets. We wish to record your hunts so that we may play them back on our version of television.”
“Okay, AC, that sounds like something that I can do, as long as the hunts take place on planets where the conditions are close enough to Earth. That would be my first and main requirement. Is that practical?”
“Yes, it is. In fact, we would prefer that ourselves. That way, our audience can feel more like they are a part of the hunt.”
“Good, then the next question is how many people, and I use that term to include any creature on my side of the hunt, would be going with me?”
“Our plan, at the moment, would be for you to work alone. The creatures that you will be hunting are much too dangerous to allow amateurs to be involved in the production.
“Don’t worry about backup. We would be ready to snatch you away from any trouble that you could not handle, though, naturally, we don’t want that situation to come up very often. That certainly would interfere with our production schedule.
“Furthermore, we will provide you with a device that we call a replicator that can supply you with all of the material needs that you can imagine. In other words, you will not need to carry such items as food and water or camping supplies. All you would need to do would be to request what you wanted from the replicator.”
“Okay, that sounds good so far. Would there be any limit to the types of weapons that I would use?”
“We would prefer that you stick to the weapons that are common to Earth. That would be one of our selling points for the series. In every case, you would be able to preview your quarry to be sure that your normal weapons would be sufficient. If there were a problem, we would try to adapt to that situation.”
“Very well, that sounds reasonable. I do have a question about the animals, though. I am sure you know that there are many animals on Earth that are on what is known as the protected list. No hunting is allowed for them, and there are some individual animals which have developed a popular following that would be death to your series if I shot. In both cases, I would not undertake to kill either type of prey.”
“Excellent, Emil. That falls into our assessment of your character and one of the reasons that we have come to you. When will you be available for our first hunt?”
“That question does not have a quick and easy answer. I am not committed to another employer at the moment, so that is not a problem. However, I must have some time to study the prey and the location where I will hunt. This could be as short as a few days or as long as a month. Oh, I would expect to be paid while I am preparing for the hunt.”
“Again, that is good for us, too. I think that now is a good time to discuss your salary. Our proposal is that we pay you the equivalent of $500 per day in gold for every day that you are in our employ, starting with today. Also, we have medical facilities that would amaze you. We can repair anything short of death. You would be covered by a medical plan that includes that, also starting today. When can you transport to our spaceship so that we can start planning our first hunt?”
“Whoa, AC! I always work under a written contract. How long will it take to have one prepared?”
“Oops, Emil, I am sorry that I forgot. I have a contract right here. It is only one page long, so I assume that you can read and sign it right away.”
I read the contract, and it specified everything just as we had discussed it. I signed three copies, and so did AC. I did not have a secretary since I spent so little time in my office, so all I had to do was to call my answering service and make the usual arrangements with them. That took less than 10 minutes. “Okay, AC, I’m ready to go.”
The next thing I knew, I was sitting in an office in a very comfortable chair. AC was sitting behind a desk on a backless bench to make room for his tail. “Emil, the first thing we will need to do is to send you down to the medical facility to have your body scanned by our medical instruments. That will give us a baseline to work from to keep you in good health, and it will also tell us if you need any immediate treatment. Before you leave there, you will be fitted with a universal translator so that you can communicate with anyone you meet.
“When you come back to this office, we will discuss your first assignment. There are three immediate possibilities which you can choose from. Our current plan is for you to visit all three places, but the order is currently up to you. I’ll call for your escort; she has a universal translator, so you can ask her questions as you go. I’ll see you again in about 45 minutes.”
AC had pushed a button, and another of his species walked in. I’ll take their word that this is a female of the species because I cannot see any obvious differences to mark one gender from another. She appeared to be nude, but that made no difference to me: any creature that looks so much like a T Rex does nothing for my sex hormones.
We must have traveled the length of the spaceship because it took about 15 minutes to travel each way. My time in the medical facility was taken up by walking through something that looked like the magnet on a cat scan machine and then spending about 10 minutes getting the universal translator sound bug fitted comfortably to my ear. Suddenly, I could understand what the medical technicians were saying about me, and not all of it was complimentary. I ignored them and let the young lady guide me back to AC’s office.
“Ah, good, Emil. I hope you are not too fatigued by your little trip. Our gravity is adjusted to 105% of that of Earth, which is what we are used to. Hopefully, you will not have much difficulty adjusting to that. Please have a seat; the other members of the production team will be here shortly.
“While we are waiting, here are three pictures of the proposed quarry. They come from three different planets, and none of them are endangered in any way. In fact, they are a serious problem for the people living on those planets, and that is why we picked them as our first targets. Hopefully, we will engender the feeling among our viewers that we are doing something useful for the people on those planets.
“The pictures were made from photos of actual adult animals, and your picture taken when you were in the medical area is shown beside them for scale. As you can see, all of the creatures are two to three times as tall as you, so there will be no feeling anywhere that we are picking on small game.”
“Okay, these pictures are helpful, but I need to know which are their most vulnerable parts, such as heart, lungs, etc. Also, whether or not there is a vital organ that I am not familiar with. Furthermore, it would be helpful if I could have a picture of their skeletal structure so that I can see if there are any blocked paths for a bullet.
“There are helpful things I need to know, such as can I stop a charging animal by shooting it in the leg or hip. If the bones of the legs or hips are too massive, there is no point in shooting there, and I would live longer if I knew that before facing one of the beasts.
“It seems to me that an animal this large warrants a .50 caliber bullet, possibly one that is armor piercing. If I do need such a bullet, then I cannot expect to get more than one shot at the animal before it tramples me. I hope that these are the largest animals that I will be expected to hunt, because I will need a .50 caliber machine gun to kill anything larger.
“Well, I guess that I might use a rocket propelled grenade (RPG), but that would probably leave little but a blotch of chewed up bone and flesh lying on the ground. Are you expecting me to pose in front of the dead creature for a series of photos or for an interview discussing the hunt from my point of view? I can do that, but that would eliminate any thought of killing it with an RPG.”
“Emil, it seems to me that you know more about how this program should be staged than we do. Perhaps you should take over the job of technical director, or even full director. Of course, we would pay you for that effort in addition to what we are paying you as the hunter.”
“I don’t know, AC. I guess that I could do that if I knew the members of the production crew. This sort of program was once very popular on TV on Earth, and I have seen a lot of them. I have even been the subject of some of them, so I do know what we of Earth consider a good program of this type.
“The only reason that I am reluctant to take on a directing job is that I don’t want to put someone else out of work. Let me see who I have to work with before we make a final decision.”
“Very well, Emil, we will hold off on the decision of you taking on more responsibility, but I can see that you have a valid point. The rest of the crew will be here in a moment, and you can start getting an idea of what you have to work with.”
After an hour of trying to get something useful from these clowns, I was ready to start tearing my hair. All of these guys had experience with situation comedies and quiz shows. None of them had ever done anything as serious as this series, and their lack of understanding of what I needed was obvious and galling.
Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer. I stood up and said, “AC, I need to take a break. Maybe these people should, too. I’m beginning to have trouble focusing on why we are here. In fact, I need something to eat. I can feel my blood sugar fall, and that is bad at any time.”
“Oh, Emil, I did not realize that you had to eat so often. We rarely eat a meal more often that once every five days. Yes, we will take a break so that you can eat some food. You guys go find something to do for an hour or so. I’ll call you when you are needed.”
Once they were out of the room, I said to AC, “Are those guys really as ignorant of how a program like this should run? Right now, I would not trust them with putting on a situation comedy, much less a program where my life is on the line. Can something be done about getting new people?”
“Yes, we can do that if you feel so strongly about it. Frankly, I thought that they could do a better job than what they just showed. These were people who were sent to me by the personnel department, and I’ll bet that they picked individuals from the bottom of every list. I will speak to the head of that department and have some new people for you to talk to by tomorrow morning.
“However, I now wish that you would take over the job of director. This show is going to cost more money than our company normally spends on shows, and I have a feeling that it is going to fail if we don’t have better leadership.”
“Okay, I’ll give it a try. I’ll be the director and the star of the show, but I want two people working with me right away. One is a script writer who is worth teaching what I need and the other is a woman, preferably young and pretty, to be the host of the show. I assume that you do put women in front of the camera. On Earth, they are often what brings in the audience at first. Women watch because they want to see a woman in a position of importance, and men watch just because they want to see a pretty woman.”
“We have the same kind of reactions, so I will push the personnel people to get two people selected for tomorrow morning. Now, if you will excuse me, I’ll get to work on that right away.”
“Fine, can I have that woman who took me down to medical help me with some research that I need to do. She seemed intelligent and she certainly was friendly.”
“Certainly. (Some musical notes) is my daughter. I’m pleased that you like her. I, too, think that she is intelligent, and she is looking for a way to break into program production. Maybe this will be the key for her.”
(Some musical notes) was called in and asked if she would take over the job as an assistant for me. She jumped at the chance, so we were off and running. I remembered an old Earth musical that had the female lead named Lola, so I asked if I could call my new assistant that. She laughed when I told her that Lola was known as a woman who could get what she wanted. Lola and I left for an empty office that she found for me.
I wanted to do some research on the planets and the animals that were suggested as my first prey. I could not read the written version of the aliens’ language, so I had Lola type for me into the computer and to read what the computer had to say in answer to my questions.
We picked the largest animal to start with. By a rather arbitrary system, I named this animal a Sismac. It bore a slight resemblance to a Terror Bird and ranged from 13-18 feet tall. A Terror Bird was a prehistoric animal that stalked the Earth up to about two million years ago. It was around 6-8 feet tall and was a carnivore. It killed its prey by hitting it with its monster bill that was about the size of a small suitcase. That was its only offensive weapon, but it must have been an effective one. It couldn’t fly, but must have made up for that difficulty by being able to run very fast.
The Sismac was a real terror bird in its own right. It was native to the planet I named Holith, the same way I named the animal a Sismac. I prepared a list of questions for Lola to answer for me, and she started immediately searching their version of the internet for answers.
The intelligent natives of Holith bore some resemblance to humans, so I could feel myself drawn to their problem. Unless there was some compelling reason otherwise, Holith was going to be my first stop.