Thassodar Jax: Terra Ranger
Thassodar merged onto the highway and shifted gears. It was dusk on this section of Earth, and his night stretched out in front of him like twelve hours of quasar dust with a warm solar wind at his back. Currently, this was his favorite place on the planet. Texas, on the smaller continent of the northern hemisphere of the planet, had captured his fancy, much the way other places had at other times. Detroit, a half century ago, on this same continent. Before that, Paris, on the west side of the larger continent, was party central, between the two so-called “world wars.” And for a half century previous to that, London held sway, with their primitive gas street lamps and coal trade. Yes, this was a primitive world still, only just barely tapping into the concept of technology, but Thassodar loved it.
Right now, Texas was the part he loved most. He guided the car onto the exit and powered up the slope, around the curve as the planet’s single small sun forced its energy through the polluted atmosphere, which trapped random wavelengths of the light, producing a spectrum of colors splattered across the cumulus clouds. Something felt alive about this area of the planet. The roads lift themselves up from the dirt and embrace each other, tangled and twisting above and around and through like the arms and legs of lovers in a passionate joining. The land itself hides a multitude of little surprises, pleasures, and discoveries as you walk on what seems level ground, you can turn a corner or crest a rise and suddenly the entire world is laid out below you and you stand as if on the apex of a mountain.
A large, digital road sign flashed its message of the moment. “Accident at Exit 459. Expect delays.” Fortunately, he wasn’t going that far. Thassodar turned up the radio and accelerated onto the next highway. Earth was a backwoods, underdeveloped little world, with plenty of problems, but he’d rather be here than any other place in the 19 galaxies of his district. Which was good, because it was his job to keep it safe.
He took the 287 exit into downtown and quickly hit Commerce Street. He pulled into a parking garage and paid the attendant. If he came a little later, the attendant would be gone and parking would be free, but he liked to enjoy a nice, leisurely dinner before hitting the scene, and the couple of bucks for parking was worth it. He ignored the open spaces on the upper levels and went straight to the top of the structure. Parking on top had multiple advantages. The first being the excellent view of the Texan sunset around and over the city’s skyscape. The best being the longer elevator ride with whomever he brought back from the club.
He got out of the sleek, black corvette and closed the door. He needn’t worry about anyone trying to steal his car. Anyone who tried would quietly go to sleep before they got anywhere close to actually opening the door. And they could forget breaking the glass. He’d had a few upgrades added to the car that were only available off-planet. They might be low-tech, internal-combustion powered vehicles, but there was a certain style that these Earthers had one just couldn’t deny.
Another driver had parked here on top that morning and he emerged from the elevator in time to pass Thassodar.
“Wow, happy Halloween, buddy! Nice costume!”
Thassodar grinned. This was his favorite day of the year. It was on this day that many of the earth cultures celebrated a peculiar custom of dressing up as creatures they were frightened of in an effort to either appease the dead of their race, or prevent the frightening creatures from attacking them. According to the mythos surrounding the holiday, the creatures have this night to reign free before being restricted once more to the netherworld the following day. Psychologically, this phenomenon is nothing short of fascinating. In reality, it’s nothing short of fun!
“Thanks,” he replied and nodded as they passed. Thassodar stepped into the elevator and let the door close. He glanced at his reflection in the polished steel wall. He was wearing a black leather blazer, a dark red turtleneck, and dark slacks. These clothes weren’t scary in this culture, and were the type of thing he wore most days. The ‘costume’ the man had referred to was his blue skin. Every inch of it was a rich, dark blue. That was part of why he loved this night so much: he didn’t have to wear a disguise. He could mix and mingle in his own skin instead of having to dye it dark brown or wear contacts over his orange eyes. Of course, he’d have to dye it again tomorrow, but for tonight, the city was open to him in his natural colors.
As he exited the elevator on the ground floor, his phone rang.
“Jax here. How can I help you?”
“Hello, we’d like to visit the planet for the Tourist Friendly celebration? Where we don’t have to use any disguise methods?”
Tourism. Another part of his job. Certainly some were less troublesome than others, but this night was one of the most popular. Extra-terrestrial tourists flocked here for this night for two reasons: one, for the cultural phenomenon already explained, and two, for convenience. It was a lot easier to visit when you didn’t actually have to pretend to be one of the natives.
“Well, you’re running a little late-”
“See, Flogra, I told you we didn’t have time to stop at the Glarkan Sneeze Festival. Now we’re too late for the Habboweek!” The caller began to argue with whomever was with them on the other end.
“It’s called Halloween. You’re running late, but it will be ok. What species are you?”
“We’re from Ornach, in the Auriga System.”
“Excellent. Well, welcome to the Orion arm of the galaxy. Did you have a particular section of the planet you would like to visit tonight?”
“Oh, I don’t know. We just heard that we could visit without disguise and that this was kind of a party for the locals. What would you suggest?”
Thassodar smiled. So few tourists bothered to actually research a planet before visiting. They just went for the post cards and photo ops. “I would recommend you visit the smaller continent, especially since you’ve already lost some moonlight on the larger one. New York City or Los Angeles would likely be best. If it doesn’t matter to you, how about photoporting in to the fourth tourist beacon on the north side of the smaller continent.
“Remember, this celebration is only for the next half rotation of the planet. So when it starts to lighten in your region, you’ll need to either get into a disguise or vacate the area. Just check in with me and let me know which you decide to do. Even though you won’t need a disguise tonight, please try to limit use of your lower set of arms. The technology to duplicate your body type isn’t very good yet, and even that isn’t commonly available.”
“Oh, ok, we’ll try. Where should we park our ship?”
“Just leave it in orbit, but camo-shielded. Have fun.”
“Thank you, Ranger Jax!”
Thassodar hung up the phone and smiled to a couple of locals walking by dressed as vampires. Vampires were rather like the Blood Traders of Brocult 9, but more tame. That look would be popular this year, due to the popularity of some local books and films, though it was always a standby for the celebrations.
Thassodar strolled casually down the street, enjoying the way the top halves of the buildings were brilliantly lit in warm oranges and yellows, while the street fell in shadows. The dichotomy of the light amused him. This was the time when the downtown was still emptying the day workers and only just starting to receive the night visitors. Though tonight there were fewer of the former and more of the latter at this time than usual. He passed the large bookstore that took up an entire city block and watched as parents emerged with their several young, adorned as a ghost, witch, and popular superhero. They were wide eyed in their innocent excitement, and the entire world full of mystery and wonder. The young of almost any species was always adorable. Except for the Glowarians. Those kids made Thassodar, as well as many seasoned warriors of other species, tremble.
He shed the thought from his mind and headed for one of his favorite restaurants downtown. It was a casual, burger-and-fries kind of place, which is a thick slice of meat between two pieces of bread, with sliced tubers, fried in grease. It was an acquired taste, but he’d worked hard to acquire it.
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