This is the result of a writing prompt I came across in a sci-fi group on Facebook. The prompt was an image of a man standing atop a ridge overlooking a large, dark city. The city was sitting atop a tall mesa jutting up from the center of an active volcanic caldera. The entire landscape was barren black rock.
Surely this was the picture of a pristine morning for a planet like Kaitaxa. The birds were chirping a lovely tune, the sun was peeking over the lush and picturesque hill nearby, cute little rabbits came to inspect Clarence's boots with those wiggly noses of theirs, and SOMETHING WAS HORRIBLY WRONG.
Or was it horribly right? Clarence's contact on Sarjavum had told him that Modake's Pass was a lovely vacation spot on a warm planet with a few hot springs, but this was akin to comparing an industrial furnace to a snowcone. He rubbed his starboard hip to assault an itchy spot while gazing across the...unusual landscape that lay before him, furthering his gladness that he was standing on a tall ridge. Volcanoes and lava lakes stippled the scene amidst an unnerving darkness and the stench of whatever horrible chemicals they were expelling alongside searing rock. The skies above were blanketed with an unending layer of smoke and poisonous gas. Penetrating despair stretched as far as the eye could see, and the small village that lay ahead was no exception.
Well, it was less of a small village and more of an urban monstrosity sitting atop a tall mesa that was jutting from the center of an active volcano. It was easily a dozen miles wide, which made the thick, intermittent towers that dwarfed the surrounding cityscape seem all the more daunting in their sheer scale.
Yeah, that was logical. Building a giant city in the middle of a roiling caldera on a planet covered in geological upheaval made all kinds of sense. Maybe the toxic gases were good for the skin. Maybe it was a mining colony that NEEDED to be situated over something that could explode at any moment. Or maybe the primary inhabitants were mineral-based and thus considered a dip in the lava to be a spa treatment.
At the very least, he had to give his buddy Banaw a hand for his creative and optimistic imagination. He did give good info, albeit with a sense of humor. Clarence should have expected nothing less from a member of the vulpine Haclee species.
The same could not be said for the other jerks at the Chuckling Green Potato Bar & Grill. Most of them had burst into roaring laughter when he had asked for information about a man named Pafran. The few who had chosen to eschew mocking merriment had told him that Pafran was not to be trifled with, and they didn't know of his whereabouts anyway. Or so they had said; he was apparently the kind of guy who didn't take kindly to squealers. It was only after meeting those freaks that he had discovered his Haclee friend sipping on a blueberry daiquiri at the bar.
In any case, Clarence hoped that his friend had led him to the proper place to find his missing macguffin. That was a mighty expensive and cherished artifact, too valuable to let go of so easily. Whoever Pafran was, he needed to learn that theft did not go unpunished, and Clarence was the one who would be applying the expeditious steel-toed boot of justice to the rear-end of criminal malignity.
Indeed, Clarence wondered if he would be able to hold back on the guy who had stolen his wallet.
- Roystonn Pruitt, 9/7/13