was the ugliest mutant in Spock City.
Now that is saying something. Spock City, after all, as anyone who’s ever gone there
is aware, is crammed to the brim full of mutants, and no wonder too, given the
amount of hard radiation raining down on it all the time. In fact, there are so
many mutants that a normal homosapien like you or me is so rare as to be almost
an object of suspicion. And, of course, mutants are ugly.
But even among them Moolora was unique in
“That Moolora,” a Spockian would say to
another when they saw her pass. “Her looks would melt the teeth off a
“We should stick her out in the Chekhov
Desert and watch the sandworms run for their lives,” the other person would
Now, of course, this was very unfair, not
just to Moolora but to the sandworms, who, as everyone knows, are despite their
huge size gentle beasts which wouldn’t hurt a fly, if only there had been any in Spock City – or on all of
Enterprise for that matter. But nobody thought of what was fair or otherwise
when it came to making fun of Moolora.
All this, of course, probably made poor
Moolora very sad, but she never said anything. One of the reasons she never
said anything was that she found it difficult and exhausting to talk; the other
was that it would have done no good.
Nobody wanted to listen to anything Moolora
had to say.
Nobody was even sure where she came from, who her parents had been, or anything
else about her. She seemed one day to be just there, hanging around the corners of the town, dressed in ragged
clothes too big for her. Even she didn’t have any memories of the time before that.
Most people thought she was the child of one of the mutant families living in
the slum settlements around Spock City, who had abandoned their daughter in the
town rather than bring her up themselves.
They didn’t blame the parents. Times were
hard in Spock City, and one couldn’t expect them to bring up a half-dumb
daughter with a face that could stop a clock.
But though they didn’t like her, and they
made fun of her, they didn’t, of course, harm her in any way, for mutants know
perfectly well they must always stick together. They even fed her and took care
of her when she needed it, giving her their cast off clothes. And as the years
passed, she grew tall and gangly, her hair the colour of a red giant star, and
uglier and more silent than ever.
This was all before the discovery of
shatnerium on Enterprise, of course, and the planet was still very poor and
hardly anyone ever went there, and even fewer to Spock City. So Moolora grew up
almost never seeing an offworlder, and possibly unaware that such beings even
How did she spend her days? Nobody seems to
know much about that. She slept on the streets, curling up in corners where it
was warm, and adamantly refused shelter when offered it. Most of the time she
seemed to spend hanging around the machinery spaces – the workshops, the
ventilation systems, the powerhouses – which kept Spock City going, until the
machinists all became so used to her that they learned to ignore her
completely. She never said anything, never got in the way. She seemed happy just
to be there.
They decided that she was crazy, but harmless, and best left alone.
And then one day the pirate invasion struck
Enterprise. The pirates came down from space, their longships shrieking through
the air as they glowed white-hot from the friction of their passage, spraying
mindbombs behind them as they went like malevolent dew. By the time the last
had landed outside the towns, almost all the minds of the people had been
temporarily neutralised – with a few exceptions.
The mindbombs had been constructed to be
used on homosapiens, of course. They didn’t work on those mutants whose minds
were too mutated, too strange. One of those mutants was Moolora.
Now the pirates hadn’t used their mindbombs
just to wipe out resistance. Part of the way they made money was in the slave
trade, which, as you doubtless know from history classes, was an unfortunate
feature of that dismal time. The pirates would wipe out the minds of their
captives till they could reach the markets where they could be sold; it made
them easier to manage and transport. Once the effects of the mindbombs wore off
the captives would recover their faculties, but by then it was far too late
It had been a hard time for the pirates,
too, otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered with mutants. Mutants didn’t fetch a
high price in the slave markets of the Core.
Unsurprisingly, the pirates faced no
resistance to their invasion; but they soon grew aware that there were still
some minds still functioning, and they set out to track them down, one by one. They,
naturally, had brainwave detectors which let them know exactly where to look.
And one by one they got them all, pulling them out from wherever they were
hiding, and crammed them into the slave cages aboard their longships.
Then there was only one left, and they
found her easily enough.
So they came for Moolora where she sat with
her back to the steam pipes on McCoy Avenue, near where the heating vents from
the deep power plants underground opened out into the city. They crowded around
her in their tough metal suits and their helmets with the visors pulled down to
cover their faces as she sat, her tall, frail body almost lost in the folds of
the clothes she wore.
“This is the one?” one of the pirates asked
the one who carried the brain wave monitor. “Are you sure?”
The second pirate, who was a longship
captain, glanced at him scornfully. “Of course I’m sure,” he said. “Look at the
“But who would find a use for such a
creature?” the second pirate said, looking at Moolora. “Nobody will ever buy
something so ugly. You can barely tell it’s even meant to be human.”
“Let’s see,” the captain said. He prodded
Moolora with the toe of his boot. “Hey, you!”
Moolora turned her head slowly towards him.
She didn’t say anything.
“Who are you, slug?’ the captain asked. “Do
you have a name?”
Moolora didn’t say anything. Her voice
didn’t want to work in her throat.
“Too stupid and too dumb to be of any use,”
the captain said, disgusted. “I’m amazed it has any brain at all.”
“Let’s kill the damned thing,” the second
pirate suggested. “It’s too ugly to let live.”
“No,” the captain said. “We can’t spare the
ammunition – or the time. Get the booty on board and let’s go.”
So the pirates left Moolora where she was
sitting and went back to their longships. And after loading what little there
was to loot, and pushing the remaining captives on board, they rose up through
the atmosphere, the fading screams of their engines echoing long after they had
Then Moolora got up slowly from where she
had been sitting, and began wandering through the deserted city. As she walked,
she began picking up things at random – here a broken chunk of metal, there a
smashed piece of electronic equipment left over from the brief pirate
occupation, and from somewhere else a length of corrugated pipe and a mass of
cable. Eventually, laden with her booty, she reached the metal scrap dealers which
were located on Scotty Boulevard back then, and where the old drop tanks from
derelict space freighters used to be cut up. There she dumped it all and went
back for another load.
Then, when she had apparently found all she
needed, she took a cutting torch from the nearest workshop, crawled into the
biggest of the drop tanks, and got to work.
pirate mothership Jack Sparrow had already
left the system and was settling down for the cruise through interstellar space.
In the control room, deep in the heart of
the huge mothership, Grand Captain Rajinder Singh Redbeard had just begun
congratulating himself on a successful mission. The planet had not been a rich
one, and so there had been little booty, but the haul in slaves had been worth
the effort. Even though they were only mutants, once they’d all been sold in
the markets of the Core, there would be enough money to finance a larger
expedition to a more lucrative target.
Yes, Grand Captain Redbeard was almost
content. And he was not at all pleased to have that contentment disturbed by
the news that the scopes had picked up something coming up very fast from
“How can anything be chasing us?” he
demanded. “There were no warships in all the system. We checked.”
“See for yourself, Redbeard,” his second in
command said, and indicated the screen. “There it is.”
Together they watched the blip in the scope
grow larger and more distinct.
“It’s far too fast for a warship,” Redbeard
said at last. “I’ve never seen anything that could move so fast, not even a
“It’s too small for a warship, too,” the
second in command observed. “Let’s see if we can get a look at it.” He pressed
a couple of buttons and the blip in the screen grew larger and yet larger,
until it wasn’t a blip any longer.
“I can’t believe it,” Redbeard said at
last, looking at the grey ovoid object on the scope.
“It’s a drop tank.” The second in command
peered at the screen unbelievingly. “We’re being chased by a drop tank.”
“How can a drop tank even move by itself?”
Redbeard asked. “It’s impossible.”
But it was clearly not impossible. The
object grew and grew, until it filled the screen. It was so close now that
every dent and ripple in its metal hide was clearly visible to the two pirates.
“All rear laser turrets,” Redbeard ordered,
“We can’t possibly miss,” the second in
command said, and pushed the firing button.
He was perfectly right. They didn’t miss.
But even as the turrets bathed the pursuer in their lethal beams, its grey
surface changed instantly. One moment it was rough, pitted metal; the next,
brilliant silver, a perfect mirror which reflected the lasers harmlessly away
into the void.
“Rail guns!” Redbeard yelled. But the rail
guns fared no better than the lasers, their pellets glancing off the smooth
surface of the pursuer. In fact it was so close that some of them ricocheted
off and struck the Jack Sparrow
“Full speed ahead!” Redbeard screamed. But
even he could see it was too late. The silvery object behind was already upon
And then it happened. From the bright
mirror-surface came snaking metal tentacles, tipped with hooked claws. They
crunched into the back of the Jack
Sparrow. The claws cut into the hull as though it was made of cardboard,
and then they closed tight.
Then the drop tank reversed direction and
began dragging the giant mothership back towards the system it had just left.
“Full power!” Redbeard yelled. “Full power, by the moons of Mercury!”
It didn’t help. It didn’t even slow down
the rate at which the pirates were being dragged back towards Enterprise.
The intercom was filled with panicky pirate
voices, demanding to know what to do. The second in command, too, looked
helplessly at Redbeard. “Captain?”
Grand Captain Redbeard swallowed. “Abandon
ship,” he said. “Let’s take to the longships and get the hell out of here.”
“But,” the second in command argued, “the
longships don’t carry enough fuel to take us back home, us and the cargo...”
“To hell with the cargo,” Redbeard snapped.
“Let’s get out of here while we still can. Abandon the cargo!”
So it was when Moolora returned to
Enterprise, she was towing behind her not just the Jack Sparrow but all the captives – the entire population of the
planet, every single one of them. And with the departure of the pirates, they
had begun to recover from the effects of their mindbombs. By the time they were
down on the planet, they were all fine.
Nobody knows what happened to the pirates.
Presumably they managed to get home and resume their criminal activities, but
they never returned to Enterprise. And shortly afterwards, shatnerium was
discovered, so Enterprise had money enough to afford protection. It never had
to fear pirates again.
Moolora’s drop-tank spaceship is still
there, outside Spock City, preserved to this day as an honoured relic. If you
ever go to Enterprise, it’s the one place everyone will insist you visit. It’s
almost holy to them, and no wonder, since they owe their existence to it.
Well, of course the scientists tried to find out how it worked. When the
story got out, they came from all over the local cluster to take a look at it,
and the Navy people came too. But try as they might, they could never get it
started again, and nor could they understand just how Moolora had taken a drop
tank and a load of junk and made them into the fastest, most invulnerable craft
the galaxy had ever seen.
Did they ask Moolora? Of course they did.
They asked and begged and pleaded, and they would even have threatened if the
Spockians hadn’t told them they’d be thrown off planet without benefit of
spacesuits if they touched a hair on her straggly head. But Moolora never said
a word. It hurt her throat to talk.
And if anyone ever brought up the topic
again, she would just shake her head and smile.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2014