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Story 30

May the Schwartz be with you

The low rhythmic hum of the excavator echoes through the damp, limestone walls. As you continue your careful exploration, suddenly the drill jerks forward as if hitting an air pocket. You cautiously back the excavator out and inspect the hole, only to find that it leads into a series of previously carved caves. The smooth walls and intricate carvings indicate that these were created long ago by skilled hands.

A palpable excitement spreads through your crew as they enter the newly discovered tunnels. Suddenly there is a loud rumbling sound. Rocks begin to shift and tumble from the ceiling, burying the excavator in a cloud of dust.

As the rumbling subsides and the dust settles, you key on the comm in your headset. “OK everyone, check-in.”

One by one, all of your crewmen check-in. You breathe a sigh of relief once everyone is accounted for.

Your engineer checks his sensor packs and gazes around with wide-eyed amazement. Surprisingly, the sensors show that the air in this deep underground cavern is actually breathable. You stand in awe, realizing that you have stumbled upon a hidden world untouched by modern civilization for centuries.

“We’re not getting back out that way very easily, let’s explore down here some and see if we can discover another way out. Also, as long as the sensor packs are green lighting the air quality down here, we may want to conserve the oxygen in our EV suits.”

As hours pass and the tunnels branch off multiple times, you must constantly make decisions about which direction to take. Eventually you come to an intersection that looks familiar and based on the cartography software you’re running, you’ve been here before. You raise your hand and motion for everyone to circle up. “We’ve been to this position once before. We need to take a break and make plans. You motion to each of your crewmen in turn.”

Turning to your first officer “I need you to determine what we have in the way of food and water and how long we can survive.”

You look to your comm officer, “I need you to determine if we have a way of connecting to remotely activate the ship’s distress signal.”

You look at your navigator, “I want you to look at the maps that the cartography software has created to see what directions we might want to explore next.”

Lastly, you glance at your engineer, “Your job is to help everyone else and continue to monitor the air, as it’s strange to have such high air quality in caves, that so far appear to be abandoned, on a dead world.”

“I’m giving everyone 30 ticks to make their assessments.”

Only about 15 minutes pass when your first officer comes to you. “Thanks to the reclamation system in our EV suits, it’ll be several days before water becomes a problem, but unless someone forgot about a snacky bar in the pockets of their jump suit, we’ve got no food. I thought you might want to know that before everyone else gathers back up. We didn’t exactly plan for a picnic lunch when we came down to do some excavating.”

You nod in agreement and are about to speak when a hidden door in the tunnel slides open, revealing three short figures wearing hooded robes that conceal their faces. Due to their small stature, they appear unassuming. The leader points to the other two and says “Dink dink” to each of them, which they repeat back. Your universal translator fails to decipher their language. They offer canteens and dried meat to your crew members, repeating “dink dink” as they do so. Without much hesitation, your crew gratefully accepts the sustenance.

The brown-robed figures motion for all of you to follow them, and after passing through the doorway, it closes behind you. You enter a torch-lit anteroom and then follow the dinks through a gothic archway into a vast cavern with pillars and an altar adorned with a ten meter tall statue. The figure sits cross-legged with fiery red eyes, smoke billowing from its nostrils and pointed ears. The dinks stand reverently off to the side as you cautiously approach the altar.

Suddenly, flames shoot out of the nostrils of the statue. Your navigator gasps, and your comm officer whispers, “I think I just added to my suit’s reclamation system.”

“Now what’s going to happen?”, asks your first officer.

Your engineer quips, “Don’t ask and maybe it won’t happen.”

Then a booming voice echoes from the statue, “Silence!”

Everyone freezes.

The voice booms out, “Who dares enter the sacred and awesome presence of the everlasting Know-It-All?!”

You mutter to yourself, “Everlasting Know-It-All … It can’t be … He’s been dead over a thousand years.”

Your first officer inquires, “Who?”.


“Yogurt?”, your first officer repeats.

A door in the belly of the statue swings open and a small gold-skinned being with wrinkles appears and walks down the steps. “You heard of me?”

You respond, “Heard of you? Who hasn’t heard of you? Yogurt, the wise.”

Your engineer joins in, “Yogurt, the all-powerful!”

Even your comm officer chimes in, “Yogurt, the magnificent.”

“Please, please, don’t make a fuss. I’m just plain Yogurt.”

With an awestruck expression, you say, “But you’re the one…”

“Yes, I am the keeper of a great magic. A power known throughout the universe as the…”

Your first officer tries to interject, “Force?”

“No. The Schwartz.”, Yogurt corrects.

“The Schwartz?”

“Yes, the Schwartz.”

You jump back into the conversation, “But, Yogurt, what is this place? What is it that you do here?”

“In one word, merchandising.”

“Merchandising?”, you repeat with surprise.

“Come, I’ll show you.” Yogurt waves the dinks over to a steel shutter, “Open up the store.” As the gate rolls up Yogurt continues, “Come! Walk this way! Take a look. We’ve put the game’s name on everything! Merchandising is where the real money from this game is made. Xia the T-shirt. Xia the coloring book. Xia the lunchbox. Xia the breakfast cereal. Xia the flame thrower! The kids love this one. Last, but not least. Xia the doll.”

Yogurt picks up a plushy doll that looks remarkably similar to him and pulls a string on the doll. In a recorded voice, it says, “May the Schwartz be with you.”

Yogurt flashes you a self satisfied grin, “Adorable.” He sighs and continues, “What I need is for you to use your celebrity status as a spacer to promote this merchandise on the omni. In return, I’ll use the Schwartz to open the passage back to where you came in and even help you retrieve your excavator. But wait, there’s more. I’ll also give you a flask of Liquid Schwartz.”

You and your crew safely make it back to your ship, gain a fame point, and receive a Liquid Schwartz game token that does not require room on your ship and may be used one time to move your ship up to 12 spaces, even when it is not your turn. This game token looks like an Erlenmeyer flask.