The PFL by James Rumpel
The PFL by James Rumpel
Despite the simplicity of its name, Alvera Space Port Lounge was the preferred gathering place of the most powerful beings in the galaxy. Devoid of the limits of time and space the lounge was the perfect meeting site for a vast assortment of gods, planetary rulers, and all sorts of other omnipotent life forms.
At this particular moment in time, the lounge was bustling with activity. Seated in a booth were two demi-gods sharing a bottle of ambrosia. They stared into each other’s unblinking eyes and wondered what their futures would hold. Near the door, a trio of spheres of intelligent energy played a simple game. They took turns firing bolts of power at a presumably uninhabited planet. Whichever being caused the planet to explode was declared the victor. In a back corner of the bar, around a large meeting table, gathered eight drastically varied creatures, each consuming a meal of delicacies from their specific planet.
“It is so great to get together once again,” announced a massive lizard creature as she stuffed a fistful of insect larva into her expansive jaws.
“It certainly is. We need to do this more often,” added Hoggus Corinth, eying the three-quarter pound cheeseburger which covered a significant majority of his dinner plate. He contemplated the seemingly impossible task of fitting the burger into his tiny human mouth.
A large bear-like monstrosity, sitting adjacent to Hoggus, slapped him on the back. “And I think it was an excellent idea that Hoggus came up with. Having us come in the form of each of our drafted planet’s primary inhabitants has proven hilarious.”
“Speak for yourself,” declared a tiny fish with two short legs sprouted just below its head. The plate of worms and plankton that sat before the creature was barely touched.
“You’re just upset that you lost last time,” noted the apparent leader of this contingent. The green-skinned alien had baseball-sized black eyes and a tiny mouth. He or she, stood at the head of the table, before an enormous monitor that was attached to a minuscule computer held by the three freakishly long fingers of the creature’s right hand. “At least you are immune to elimination this time.”
The leader continued. “As league commissioner, I declare this meeting of the Planetary Fantasy League officially open. Before we go over this session’s results, I have a couple of announcements to make. If any of you have not paid your entry fee, please remit payment to Borooc as soon as possible.” The alien nodded in the direction of a gelatinous pink glob seated to its immediate left.
“Also, note that we have reached the league semi-finals and, therefore, no additional interference with planetary development is allowed. If you didn’t use all of your options during the regular season, that is your own mistake.” At the conclusion of that comment, most of the faces, or semblances of faces, at the table, turned toward Hoggus.
“Hey, I don’t think I had to. They were doing very well without me,” defended the faux human. “My planet was leading in rate of technological development and population growth for most of the season. Military ability was right up there, also.”
“Yeah, but your planet has been falling apart lately,” interjected the bear creature, a large toothy grin occupying most of its hideous face.
“We can continue the trash talk after the results are posted.” The commissioner attempted to get the meeting back on task. “Today, we will be eliminating the bottom two remaining planets, meaning only four will continue. The two eliminated planet owners will each, as tradition states, be responsible for buying a round of drinks and for rebooting the population of their planet.”
“Have fun with that,” interjected the fish-like creature. A comment that produced all sorts of bizarre-sounding laughs from around the table.
“Ahem,” the leader waited for the cackle to subside. “As I said, the four top-scoring planets will proceed to the next round. The computer will display the current ratings for the five categories. Each planet receives one point for each other planet below it in the rankings. As always, I have set the program to give results in order from the top down. Here goes.” With that, the olive-colored being flipped a switch on his hand-held device. The monitor burst to life and results appeared on the screen, one category at a time.
The first list displayed was the planetary rankings for industrial development. Hoggus looked on with great concern as four other planets made the list above Earth. The only planet to finish below Earth was Bloop, the planet Borooc was in charge of. The pink gelatinous cube moaned, ever so slightly, as the rankings concluded.
Hoggus was pleased with the results for population growth. Earth finished second in this category: surpassing four other planets. “Good thing humans like to procreate,” thought Hoggus.
In the category of military strength, Earth once again fell to second from the bottom. For the second time, the only planet to fall below Earth was Bloop. Borooc’s moan was even louder this time and was accompanied by faint a dripping sound as tiny drops of goo fell from his body to the floor below.
Next, the screen displayed the order of finish for interplanetary exploration. Hoggus had hoped that the few unmanned vessels that Earth had sent into space in the last few decades would garner some value. Unfortunately, the other planets had developed much more impressive means of space travel. Earth’s last-place finish brought a heavy sigh from Hoggus and a muted cheer from Borooc.
With only the category of artistic creativity remaining, it appeared that Earth was locked into the position of fifth out of the six remaining planets. Hoggus made a quick calculation and determined that the only planet Earth had a chance to catch was Gongorth. That planet belonged to Torcu, the imposing lizard-like creature. Hoggus could only hope the lizard-people of Gongorth didn’t possess an affinity for the arts.
To Hoggus’ great surprise and joy, Earth placed second in the category. Apparently, the computer rankings thought of superhero movies as art. The four points earned for this finish gave Earth a slight chance to make the semi-finals. It all depended on where the lizard planet finished in the standings.
The monitor ploddingly revealed the remaining planet rankings. To Hoggus, it appeared that the computer had slowed its rate of revelation to create increased tension. The third and fourth place planets were revealed, neither of which was Gongorth. Hoggus found himself holding his breath; an interesting state, considering that in his true form Hoggus did not breathe. After a painstakingly long wait, the fifth-place planet was revealed: Bloop. Torco let out a sharp growl as Gongorth appeared in the final spot.
“So, let’s take a look at the final standings for this round of competition,” announced the commissioner.
The screen went blank for a brief moment and then was replaced with the total points for each planet.
FIRST PLACE: BORION 23
The bear creature let out a yell of joy, slapping Hoggus on the back, knocking the burger from his hands.
SECOND PLACE: XTRPILY 16
THIRD PLACE: ALTRUVIA 14
FOURTH PLACE: TIED: EARTH 10 GORGORTH 10
SIXTH PLACE: BLOOP 2
“Oh, schapt,” exclaimed the pink glob. A few additional pieces of goo fell from its body, splattering onto the floor.
“So, BLOOP is eliminated. Borooc, you can destroy the population of your world and restart evolution any time you want. As far as the tie goes, the league charter clearly states that we will decide which planet is eliminated by a vote of all members. Each owner is allowed a brief period of time to plead their case. Torcu, you may go first.”
The creature resembling a lizard stood up, her tail sending a chair tumbling backward. “Hey, GORGONTH has really come on lately. They have developed interplanetary flight and have conquered two nearby planets. They have tried to set up colonies on those worlds. They were nearly successful on the second one. The population is stable and food is abundant. They have also found a nearly infinite power source which should allow them to continue developing through the next phase of our playoffs. Besides, I know you guys all like Hoggus better than me, I don’t think this should be a popularity contest.”
“Oh, come on,” called out the bear. “You’re just being paranoid.”
Toruc gathered up her chair and once again settled in at the table.
“The league will ignore that last comment. OK, Hoggus, your turn.”
Hoggus rose slowly. His mind raced, attempting to come up with a line of reasoning that would lead to victory. He did not want the humiliation of elimination after having led the league through the regular season. “OK, Earth has done a lot in the last one hundred of their years. The population has grown to nearly eight billion. They have achieved space flight. They have developed cures for many major diseases. They also have communication devices that they can take with them anywhere and have easy access to information. They can learn about celebrity pairings and sports scores almost instantly. They have developed binging. This gives them the ability to watch years of television in a matter of days.” Unable to think of anything else, Hoggus shrugged and returned to his seat, secretly hoping that he was more popular than Torcu.
“Alright, show of hands. Raise your hand, or paw, or fin, or glob if you think Torcu’s planet, Gongorth, should advance to the semi-finals.” Hoggus could barely watch as Torcu and two other league members signified agreement.
“Those of you in favor of Earth, Hoggus’ planet, advancing please indicate so.” Hoggus raised his hand and sighed in utter relief as three others indicated the affirmative. Borooc, the gelatinous creature had either abstained or been unable to indicate his preference. Torcu’s chair once again went flying back as she jumped to her feet and stormed off.
“Don’t worry, she’ll be back,” announced the commissioner. “She always settles down after a while. Congratulations Hoggus, you and Earth have advanced to the semi-finals.”
Hoggus flashed a tentative smile. There was another Planetary Fantasy League meeting scheduled for two hundred Earth years from now. Two more planets would be eliminated. He could only hope that humans would get their act together by then.
Copyright James Rumpel 2019