You can vote on which plot below is turned into a story for inclusion in the upcoming Erin Starfox book.
Each plot has a number and a title. Simply e-mail the title of your plot choice to Editor with Plot Pick in the Subject Field. Include the plot number and title as the first line in your e-mail. If you have additional comments or questions, feel free to comment or ask. We'll do our best to answer. One Plot Pick e-mail per person only. E-mail us on anything else Starfox-related at any time. We love to hear from you. The votes will be tallied and posted on this website. The plot that receives the most votes wins.
PLOT 01: A THING OF THE PAST
An old satellite crashes down on the planet MyG'r. MyG'r is classified in the United System's databanks as an agricultural world without any advanced technology and just simple machines such as tractors for farming, trains for travel and such, so it's a surprise when the satellite crash is detected by Embassy One which is in the general area.
The guess that Ambassador Erin Starfox and her staffers make is that the satellite had some sort of shielding that hid it from sensors, that the shielding failed and now the satellite is visible. What actually happened is that it wasn't a satellite in the typical sense. It was an old weapon that was hidden in a volcano; the weapon was accidentally launched into orbit by a recent volcanic eruption. This, Erin and Senior Agent Toq Mercia Toq discover later.
The “weapon” is an energy force in the shape of a sphere about six feet in diameter. It moves through the countryside destroying anything mechanical. It doesn't attack people directly but several are injured and a few killed when the machines they are near are exploded by the energy sphere.
Erin and Toq investigate and discover the truth of the matter. The advanced technology of the United Systems easily stops the sphere once Erin and Toq figure out what it is. It takes them a while to figure out how to stop it, during which time the sphere continues its destruction, and they and other Unisis Agents are busily rescuing people. They first assume that it is some sort of device recently invented by someone that has gotten out of control somehow. Only after they realize the level of technology is too advanced for what is possible for the people of MyG'r to have developed do they figure out how to stop it. (The first thing they tried was an electromagnetic pulse which shuts down any electronic system. But that didn't work. The power source of the sphere was somehow shielded.)
Eventually Erin and Toq find the power source in an ancient military complex, an underground bunker of sorts, on the other side of the planet near the volcano that erupted. After getting past the booby-traps in the complex, they find the main control room and shut down the sphere.
They figure out that a war was fought long ago by an earlier civilization with each side inhabiting the main continent on either side of the planet. One side was completely destroyed (the side that had the hidden weapon in the volcano that was accidentally activated by the eruption) while the few survivors of the other side started over, and over thousands of years advanced to the agricultural society they now are. (The weapon destroyed technology but didn't attack people as the other side wanted to take prisoners.)
The people of the other continent and the war were long since forgotten. The leaders of the agricultural people have just one question, something they don't understand: “What is 'war'”? Erin says, “For your sake, may you never find out.”
PLOT 02: ESSENCE OF LIFE
Grivv Dix, a member of Toq's senior staff, is falling in love with M'Taka, one of the Agents working under him. M'Taka has been delighted with the attention Grivv shows her yet she always seems uneasy about their relationship. One day Grivv asks her on a date. Toq forbids this, tells M'Taka she can't go out with Grivv. Romantic relationships, even casual sexual encounters, are not forbidden in any Code-of-Conduct for Unisis Agents. Grivv is hurt, and puzzled, by M'Taka's refusal to go out with him.
Grivv tries talking with Toq about it, but gets no satisfactory answers. Toq talks with M'Taka, suggests to her that she (M'Taka) tell Grivv the truth about herself. M'Taka doesn't want to; she's scared of losing Grivv if she tells him the truth.
Finally, as it always does, the truth does come out. M'Taka is not, or at least might not be, “alive” in the traditional sense. About a year earlier, on a mission to rescue survivors of a shuttle crash on the planet Anubl, M'Taka died. But she was brought back to life by the medical technology of the Anubl, a technology that may only have given her a semblance of life. Nanoparticles containing the memories of M'Taka, derived from her brain by a computer as she was dying, were introduced into M'Taka's brain after she was clinically dead. This, in effect, reanimated her. But is it really “her”? Is she really M'Taka or just an animated corpse? Is she truly alive?
Toq has kept close watch on M'Taka since the incident of M'Taka's reanimation and just isn't sure if this is the real M'Taka or a simulation. The electrical activity of the brain is artificial, provided by the nanos. The nanos cold fail at any time. In fact they have failed, at least partially, on two previous occasions. So Toq is concerned.
Grivv eventually learns of M'Taka's “condition”. “But I could die tomorrow,” M'Taka tells him. He tells her, “Any of us could die, at any time. I don't care. Let's just enjoy the time we have.
And they do.
PLOT 03: DATALINK
There's a glitch in the telecommunications between a satellite in orbit around Prefulus 3 and the groundstation that receives the data the satellite transmits. When orbiting a certain area of the planet, the communications go out. Erin and Toq investigate and find that a planetquake has exposed a meteorite that crashed thousands of years ago The meteorite gives off electromagnetic emissions and is disrupting communications as well as slowly damaging the bodies and minds of people and animals living nearby. The problem is to shield the people, animals and electronic equipment from the emissions, or move the meteorite, maybe rebury it. It's a huge mass more than two miles across.
Though explosives could set off another planetquake that might rebury the meteorite, such explosive force would destroy homes and other buildings in the area. Erin suggests using the satellite. If it could be put in geosynchronous orbit over the meteorite and could transmit a suppressive field of its own to dampen the emissions of the meteorite the people and animals could live in the area.
Erin decides to board the satellite while its being positioned. She thinks her ability to use dark matter will enable her to survive the emissions by creating a protective shell around her. She can then program the proper type of energy field for the satellite to transmit to dampen the meteorite’s emissions.
PLOT 04: CENTRAL CONTROL
This story shows the problems and dangers of having a central authority, like a capital city where government officials reside and conduct political business. Erin Stafox tells the story to Senior Agent Toq when they are both trapped in a cave on the planet Beke. The two, along with others, were helping to put out a forest fire that broke out while Erin, Toq and Chief of Staff Mryis were visiting that planet on a diplomatic mission. The Embassy One starship was able to spray a fire-retardant substance over much of the forest, but Erin, Toq, and a dozen or so other Agents, along with local firefighting crews lead by a man named Mul Tovic, went out in skyskiffs to look for survivors and to put out the remaining few fires.
But one of those fires flared up suddenly and Erin and Toq are forced to take shelter in a cave to wait until the fire burns itself out or is put out by those who are fighting the fire. Toq comments that if there had been a central authority on the planet to coordinate the firefighting the blaze would have been under control sooner and less damage done, fewer lives lost. Erin counters that the Siasl way is to simply feel what is right in a given situation.
All Siasl are empathic with each other so each senses how any other feels about any matter or any philosophy or whatever, whatever is uppermost in that person's mind. No central authority is needed as everyone on the Siasl homeworld acts in the best interest of everyone else. No one can cheat or lie or steal without everyone else in the immediate area knowing it. So no one does.
Concepts such as lying and cheating and such were unknown to the Siasl until they encountered other species. Most races of The Cluster don't engage in such practices, but it was very confusing and disturbing to the Siasl when they first encountered beings who did such things. Erin tells how the Siasl, early on in the formation of Unisis, helped to decentralize authority on a planet that had two major nations that were continually at odds with each other. By removing the central authority and letting the people decide what was best for them in their own local areas, stability and prosperity was achieved.
Two Agents and two locals arrive. Working together they have created a fire-break and have reached Erin and Toq. Soon all the fires are contained or have been extinguished and the Unisis diplomats return to their starship.
PLOT 05: HIGHS AND LOWS
Some individuals in a village are mysteriously drawn to a certain spot in the countryside at a certain time of day. What's happening is that a space probe was put in orbit by the Vlutu who are exploring space around their solar system. They launched the probe to look for life on a neighboring planet. Unintentionally the Vlutu probe emits energy that gets some of the locals stoned.
So those locals keep going to the same spot to get high though they know nothing of the probe. To them it must be something in the air or water. Some think it might be spores from a plant and try to find the plant. Once a day, the Vlutu probe discharges energy. It sends a blip of data back to its homeworld. This energy is what's causing the locals to get stoned. Work is disrupted and things aren't getting done as more and more people go to the spot to get high.
Unisis is called in, and Ambassador Starfox and Senior Agent Toq take a skyskiff to the planet. They help the people adapt to their new situation by showing them how to handle being high and how to act responsibly in their use of the probe's energy.
Some government leaders want the probe removed but the United Systems won't do this as it would violate the Vlutu's rights. Erin and Toq tell the leaders and the people that this is a wonderful opportunity for them to make contact with another race. And, they say that banning anything never helped solve the problem. Learning to adapt and to work with what you have is the best way to go.
PLOT 06: LOVEMAKING
Avi loves Westerfal, and Westerfal loves him. Avi's human, Westerfal’s not. The two have a human friend named Mark. Westerfal and Mark leave one day on an expedition to a newly discovered planet or some such. They receive this commission from Ambassador Erin Starfox. They are both advisers to colonists who settle on new worlds.
Westerfal promises to keep in touch with his beloved Avi, and does so during the first few weeks of the long voyage to the new planet. But after a while the communications become less frequent and, a couple of weeks after Westerfal and Mark arrive on the new planet, stop completely. Avi and Mark communicate occasionally. Then nothing for a time. Avi doesn’t hear from either of them.
Avi is about to contact Erin Starfox to ask her to look into the matter but then receives a communication from Westerfal saying he’s returning for a visit. This is a month or so later. (Embassy One has returned to the area of the newly colonized planet so is again close enough for a skyskiff or shuttle to reach it.)
Avi happily greets Westerfal in the Embassy One spaceport. They resume their romance. All is well for several weeks. Then Avi overhears a message from Westerfal to Westerfal. That is, someone claiming to be Westerfal is communicating with the being Avi knows as “Westerfal”. “Westerfal” explains that there was a building collapse on the new planet where Westerfal and Mark were working. The alien species that Westerfal belongs to is stronger and more physically resilient than humans. [Note: Show examples of this earlier in the story so it doesn’t come as a surprise to the readers.] Westerfal’s people can physically transmute into a semblance of various other species and can change other species into a semblance of their species. To help Mark survive the accident and get out of the building alive, Westerfal transmuted Mark into Westerfal.
The real Westerfal is dying at a hospital and probably won’t survive. He gave too much of himself to Mark when he transmuted him, including some memories and his love for Avi. He didn’t intend to do this but under the danger and stress of the building collapse he had to work quickly and over did it. He was severely injured in the building collapse and gave too much of himself, of his “essence” to Mark. This communication was to tell Mark that he had only a day or two to live. Mark can’t be changed back because only the one who creates the change can undo it.
Mark (as Westerfal) has Westerfal’s love for Avi as part of his psyche now. This is why he returned to him. He didn’t consciously decide to do it; he just knew he had to be with Avi. Mark, though, over the last few weeks, has discovered that he also loves Avi, and probably has for a long time, long before he was transformed by Westerfal. Avi is confused and sad and lots of emotions, but he accepts that the being now known as Westerfal is a composite of Westerfal and Mark, and he loves him.
PLOT 07: RE-CREATION
Aboard Embassy One, a few people from a dozen or so different races have formed a group that for fun enjoy recreating various myths from the past of their various cultures, sort of like those who reenact Civil War battles on Earth today. Using the available technology they are able to create spectacular events from old mythologies of various races. Sometimes they present these recreations as a show, sort of like a theatrical performance but with holographs and actual working “props”; these shows are usually presented in the Arboreum, the largest space on the ship.
Unfortunately, one of the myths they recreate turns out to be not what they think it is. They build a duplicate of an ancient being or creature that the mythology said created a peaceful and efficient society back at the dawn of civilization on the world of VsClr. (VsClr is one of the races with members in the group.) However, though the creature they create is more like a statue or mannequin, and can't actually move, the programming they put into the computerized circuits of the creature enable it to speak. They have made it so that it can express the philosophy that is known from the mythology which supposedly created the VsClr's peaceful and functional society. However, in programming all the data, without reading all of it, just taking what was in all, even the most obscure, databanks, they are surprised and horrified when the creature relates the real philosophy.
The creature speaks of hate and power and control. Any infraction of rules was met with swift punishment, even fatal punishment for anything above a misdemeanor infraction. The people behaved and acted “civilized” only under threat of deadly reprisal for nonconformity with the rules. The members of the group are horrified to hear this philosophy that is so contrary to the peaceful, cooperative ways of doing things that are the norm for Unisis.
Ambassador Starfox and Chief of Staff Mryiss look at the real history of the VsClr and show the members of the group that though their society functioned it did not grow. It was stagnant under those restrictive rules and regulations. Only after centuries, when the people began to act more openly, did any real progress began. And once they had freed themselves from these limitations and had freedom of speech and expression did new ideas emerge. And only a few generations after that did they develop space travel and join the United Systems.
PLOT 08: FLUX
The organic nanobots (orgibots) that many races make use of, such as in the reticulate fabric (Wonderweave.) of their clothing (which, for example and among other things, lets an item of clothing change to five or six preset different patterns and which automatically clean the fabric), start to go haywire and malfunction. For humor, a scene will have the top of Erin's uniform open to reveal her breasts during an important negotiation with a rather conservative race. Many people, including Erin, feel on edge, some feel sexually on edge.
The problems with the orgibots continue to mount as critical systems on the starship start to fail. Orgibots used in healing, for example, no longer function and people who have received such treatment now find their illnesses and injuries returned. Orgibots function on the bioelectric energy of each individual so that no orgibot can be used by another for whom it is not programmed.
Investigating, Toq discovers that some youngsters who were trying to have a little fun accidentally released orgibots that work on multiple bioelectric fields, that is, the same orgibots would work on several, perhaps scores, of different individuals. The idea had started as a university science project. After learning that orgibots could produce pleasurable sensations in someone, they tried to upgrade the pleasure experience, and things got out of hand.
Once Erin and Toq understand what happened, they work with scientists to restore things to normal.
PLOT 09: RELATIONS
A school or training center is set up on Embassy One to help aliens of different races interact socially, romantically and sexually, as well as in terms of routine business matters and professional conduct. But instead of helping it seems to be causing more problems as those who participate in the training begin to have difficulty functioning even within their own cultures.
Ambassador Erin Starfox and Chief of Staff Mryiss discover that the aliens who established the school had had a problem with their computers and some data got scrambled so that the aliens had the wrong information (or incomplete information) about some of the other races who joined the school, thus leading to the unintentional confusion.
This story can be played for humor and comedy with silly things happening. For example, if teaching about the human custom of shaking hands upon meeting they might have the information incorrect and teach other aliens that the custom is to extend a foot to touch the other person's extended foot and both then shake their feet. Or, if the custom of a particular race is to perform household chores nude, some other race might be informed that it is proper to attend business functions nude and some aliens might show up for a meeting with other aliens without their clothes on.
Once the computer problem is figured out, the school operates normally and all is well.
PLOT 10: SHAME OF OLD (OR SHAME OLD, SHAME OLD)
The planet Mmllww has recently joined the United Systems and is open to visitors from other worlds. Previously there had been only limited trade with neighboring planets, but now more and more people are pouring in to see the wonders of the planet. It has spectacular natural features such as great waterfalls, magnificent forests, hot-springs with healing waters, and so forth.
But one of the nations on the planet is resistant to visitors. Erin Starfox and Toq Mercia Toq investigate. They meet with the leaders of that nation to find out why. They are not there to try to convince the leaders to open up their country to visitors; it isn't the Unisis way to force people to do something they don't want to do. But they are curious as to why visitors are not welcome.
No one will give them a straight answer, but they eventually discover that something embarrassing or shameful to the leadership of the nation occurred some decades ago. The leadership had always kept the secret from the people, but with the expected number of visitors, the leadership feared they couldn't keep the secret from being discovered.
Erin and Toq discover the secret. One of the leaders bore a child by the man to whom she was married (or something akin to being married). To insure stability of the leadership's lineage, only births from specially selected sperm-donors are accepted, these donors being genetically selected for the most desirable traits of leadership, intelligence, and so forth. If the parentage and heredity of the leadership were called into question they would be removed from office and replaced with another line.
Erin and Toq tell the leaders that the people won't care, that the tradition is too old and no longer practiced in most of the nations of the planet. And it isn't practiced on any other world. They tell the leadership that they (the leadership) should reveal this past indiscretion, and that it will probably make this nation even more of a tourist destination. The leadership says they will consider it and Erin and Toq leave. Note: the story should hint at some sexual impropriety but not reveal what kind right away so that the readers will be trying to figure out what sexual misconduct it could have been. Then we spring the twist about the sperm-donors.
PLOT 11: ENVIRONMENTAL
Birds and small animals are mysteriously dying in the Embassy One Arboreum. Plants are withering. No people have been hurt yet, but it seems only a matter of time. Erin Starfox, Toq Mercia Toq and Mryiss try to figure out what's happening. And why.
Tests show no contaminants in the soil, no poison, no viruses. Nothing. Agents who've returned from carrying out various duties off-ship are thoroughly scanned and examined. As are any new arrivals from various delegations.
Eventually, Erin and Toq discover that the Q'Pkr, a race new to Unisis, new to space travel who have recently established an Embassy aboard the starship, have been having difficulty coping with space travel. Several of them are experiencing great stress, even minor mental breakdowns, and are unintentionally releasing their stress in bursts of mental energy, sort of like discharging electricity but in this case it's bioelectric energy. This is having a negative effect on the soil.
Erin first notices this flux in energy while making love with one of her lovers. Siasl use darkenergy in their lovemaking. Erin notices that something is odd when she is having sex and asks a couple of other Sisasl if they've noticed anything when they are having sex. One has, one hasn't. But it's enough for Erin to form a plan.
Erin and a Siasl volunteer, a female Unisis Agent, test Erin's theory in the Arboreum with Toq, Myriss and others monitoring with equipment to detect energy fluxes. Erin and the woman make love and both sense the odd energy frequencies in the area.
The monitoring devices trace the energy to the Q'Pkr suite. Erin and Mryiss, along with the female Agent, speak with the Q'Pkr ambassador and her staff. To fix the problem and reduce the stress the new race experiences, regularly scheduled massage treatments, visits to one of the ship's spas, and lessons in Siasl lovemaking techniques are recommended.
Erin wants to be one of the sex instructors but Mryiss cautions her that she (Erin) is getting out of control sexually. Mryiss was Erin's coach and mentor when Erin was a Unigames (like our Olympics or Goodwill Games) athlete and got into trouble on more than a few occasions with some of her wild activities. Erin admits that the stress of Ambassadorship is greater than she expected it would be. Mryiss suggests that Erin take the Q'Pkr sex training rather than giving the training.
The next day, Erin goes to the Arboreum where the other female Agent and the others are instructing the Q'Pkr in lovemaking, a task, Erin observes, they thoroughly enjoy. “Is there room for one more in this class?” she asks.
PLOT 12: UNDERGROUND
The governments of the two nations on the two separate continents of the planet Tulfure are in an uneasy truce with each other. It seems each side fears contact with the other because of biological incompatibility; if a person from one side came in contact with someone from the other side, both would die. Or so both nations believe.
Erin and Toq are passing by Tulfure in a skyskiff and detect unusual energy readings. They land and begin to investigate. They discover that extremists from the nation of Tulis have secretly been planting devices near the shoreline of the nation of Tuller. The extremists have stolen a supply of a drug that helps them resist the disease they would get from exposure to others. (To be able to have any kind of face-to-face meetings, the leaders of each nation have used the drug when necessary to communicate with each other in person. They have established a non-agression treaty, but neither side trusts the other.)
The devices planted by the extremists would nullify Tuller's defenses leaving them vulnerable to attack. The extremists believe that they, and their whole nation, will be safer if the Tulleree are dead. Erin and Toq foil the plot and bring the people together, literally.
Detecting the devices, Erin and Toq deduce what their purpose is and disable them, and then report to the leaders of each nation what had occurred. Tensions between the two nations rise despite the fact that the extremists were independent of the government and acted on their own.
To preserve peace, Erin goes to Tuller while Toq works with a unity movement on Tulis. (For what the people of the unity movement are like, think 1960s hippies and flower-children.) A similar movement exists on Tuller. Erin and Toq invite the two unity groups to meet. They want to, but don't have access to the protective drug. The Unisis diplomats assure them that they will be fine.
A dozen or so members from each side meet, one group meeting on Tulis, the other on Tuller. No one experiences any ill effects, and the groups are elated. Erin and her group stroll thru the streets of one of Tuller's cities while Toq and her group do the same in a Tulis' town. The people are surprised and shocked that no one is getting sick or dying.
Erin and Toq have figured it out and explain: There never was any disease caused by contact between the two peoples. In the religious texts there is described an incident that Erin and Toq now know lead to the mistaken belief and distrust between the two peoples.
The religious texts state that when the first people from the two groups came together, each group on a pilgrimage to Mount Trul, the origin place of the people in the religious story, the Makers were angry. The Makers had separated the people for some unknown reason, and this meeting was blasphemy. Thus the Makers punished the people by making it impossible for them to meet. What happened later was that each side then wrote it's own “history” and each made the other side out to be the most vile and sinful people.
Erin and Toq set the record straight: Three-thousand years ago, when that first meeting took place, a solar flare from Tulfure's sun threw massive amounts of radiation to the planet. (This flare is known in the astronomy records of Unisis as it was recorded by the people of four other planets in neighboring solar systems.) The atmosphere of Tulfure generally protects the people, but the peak of Mount Trul is above the protective layer, and the thinner air let the radiation thru. Maybe at one time, early on, someone discovered an herb that protected against radiation. And maybe a drug was later developed from that herb. Since the meetings between the two peoples were always held on mountain tops (to be closer to the Makers) there was exposure to radiation. But as long as the people don't go to the mountain tops, they can live together in peace. Erin and Toq suggest to the people that they trust themselves not old myths, and then depart.