A Pro Pruner Move : Book of JonJon

A Prosperous Universe Story by Copious

JonJon looked every bit the Earth native in the sea of glowing comm chips that surrounded him in the dark passenger transport on Promitor. Anyone without one stood out like a sore thumb in Prosperous Space. It was one of the key differences between Earth natives and those fully committed to life out here on the frontiers of space. Oh sure, Earth natives liked to think they did lots of space travel with their vacations to the mineral baths of Mars or the world spanning golf resort they’d turned the Moon into. JonJon knew better.

JonJon also knew when a change of scenery was in order, and as the transport popped out into the sunlight again, he thanked his lucky stars that he’d gotten out of Montem in time. The big corporate heads had descended on that place like a swarm of angry hornets shortly after the Station Head started asking JonJon and some of the other workers strange questions. He heard the pink slips were still flying like confetti.

He liked it here on Promitor. Plenty of sun and the air smelled much better than that vague spaceship smell that the scrubbers left behind on a planet like Montem. The Green Planet had always been like that, even before the first explorers from Earth had found it here and set off the great expansion into what later became known as Prosperous Space. No scrubbers had ever landed on the surface of Promitor.

In fact it was sometimes difficult to find a place to land here at all, what with all the vegetation and water. All the animals were imported. It was a great mystery of the universe that Promitor’s plant life had done so well and never developed any animal life to feed off of it. Many Earth botanists were fascinated by the incredible diversity of what can only be described as plant predators. Though mostly harmless to animal life, certain plants here were very effective at consuming other plants as their primary energy source. So effective in fact, that one of the more lucrative professions on the planet was as a Beandog.

Beandog’s got their name from an old Earth animal called a Sheepdog, only here instead of protecting sheep from predators, they protected protein rich beans. What they protected the beans from was why the job paid so well, and why JonJon had been able to get transferred so quickly from Montem to Promitor. The turnover rate for Beandogs was quite high. The reason for this was the Spotted Pitcher Plant, or as the Beandogs colorfully referred to them, Fart Pots. Fart Pots was an apt name for them, because they stank like nothing JonJon had ever smelled in his life. They used the planets naturally occurring halite along with a chemical they produced to create an incredibly base stew. The base stew smelled like rancid mayonnaise smothered on a dead skunk that got left in a hot hab for a week. It would also melt the meaty bits of an unprotected man’s leg off from the knee down in less than a second. The Fart Pots kept this stew in their pitcher shaped bodies, and would descend on protein rich plants using their tough, bladed limbs to cut them into more manageable pieces or dig them out of the ground. Then they placed the pieces in the “pots” for digestion.

The Fart Pots also were uniquely dangerous to animal life on Promitor, and by extension humans. They were too small to be a problem alone, but they liked to travel in packs of ten to twenty, which made them a real hazard for unsuspecting visitors to Promitor that ignored the signs. Anywhere there was a halite deposit, there were Fart Pots. And Fart Pots LOVED protein. On Promitor, most of the protein was plant based so they were well adapted for consuming prey that couldn’t run away or fight back. They really enjoyed the genetically modified beans the original settlers had brought along. That didn’t mean they weren’t acquiring a taste for the newer, meatier denizens of Promitor though.

What had initially been viewed as a mission of management, then a mission of extermination, was now being played out more like a guerilla war from the history of Mother Earth. JonJon had gone through a similar journey in his first month as a Beandog on Promitor. It was still somewhat difficult for him to wrap his mind around, but he had plenty of respect for the intelligence of alien plant life now.

The Fart Pots were fighting back with a ferocity that few in Prosperous Space had expected. Originally, it had been rare to see more than ten Fart Pots in one area at a time. They were this planet’s version of an apex predator, so they’d never had any need to travel in larger packs. That had quickly changed when the Beandogs had arrived to protect the company’s bottom line. Now it was not uncommon to see raiding packs of a hundred plus in harvest season, trying to beat the farmers to the mature beans every year. They had also learned to target the legs of the Beandogs and work together to puncture their protective suits and eliminate them quickly once downed. Most of the company casualties these days were deaths, not amputations.

It was with such sunny thoughts fresh in his mind that JonJon stepped out of the transport with the rest of the Beandogs and made his way toward the low wall that surrounded one of the bean fields. “Hey Earther, try not to slow us down today, ok?” JonJon turned to face the Prosperous Space native, tapping his ear as he did so. “Careful chirping, Pruner, mommy might hear.”

The crowd of workers around them gasped. It was unusual for an Earther to use the derogatory term for Prosperous Space natives around so many, and JonJon knew he was taking a risk. But he also knew that the comm chips the Pruners were so proud of made it very hard for them to dodge responsibility for starting fights. Not that the corporate heads would care that an Earther had been harmed, but whoever was responsible for the reduced production would consider losing their leg to one of the Fart Pots a relatively kind fate.

Luck was with him today and the man just grumbled, looking at JonJon darkly as he sauntered off into the rows of beans, sniffing for the telltale stench that would let them know an attack was imminent. It helped that Pruners were generally lighter and weaker than Earth natives due to their increased time in space. JonJon was a big man, even by Earth standards.

It was a mostly uneventful shift at the bean field, and JonJon was sitting down for his union mandated lunch break, when he saw his Pruner partner on this side of the field cock his head in the unmistakable pose of a man who has stepped in excrement. “Fart Pots to the east, I think.”, he heard over the shared comm channel a moment later. That was the last thing the man said before he went down hard into the beans and started screaming.

JonJon leveled his company issued flamer and triggered the jet of flame just as the man was swarmed over by a scuttling mass of Fart Pots. It was a mercy, the last few seconds of the poor Pruner’s life were sure to be hell as he was covered in base liquid from the Fart Pots that had tipped themselves onto him and shredded his suit as he went down. Luckily, the base solution was also quite flammable, so the flamer was an effective weapon against the botanical buttholes and JonJon was able to take care of the swarm he could see nearby in short order.

From the sounds he could hear over the comm in his pocket, his fellow Beandogs were having mixed results. A few men were down, but it sounded like there were no breaches in the wall and the company profits had been protected. JonJon started jogging towards the nearest corner of the field when he saw the Pruner from earlier clear the brush around the field at a run and turn to look at him. “Hey Earther, wanna see a pro Pruner move?”

And then the man tried to vault up on top of the wall, and missed. When his flamer tank hit the corner of the long, low wall, the fluid spilled out into the bean field and ignited. JonJon never even heard the Pruner scream.

To the best of JonJon’s knowledge, that man’s well-to-do family from Arclight is still trying to buy his body back from the corporation that employed him at the time. Apparently, they want to be reimbursed for the entire charred field of beans before they’ll give up the casket.