Brother Jonathan

Brother Jonathan lurking in the shadows.

“And who is this … brother Jonathan?”
LeCreux pulled his glass towards him and took a sip. He tried to act randomly. As if the answer to the question didn’t really interest him. As if he really didn’t know anything about this “brother Jonathan”. The opposite was the case.
“Brother Jonathan, you don’t know him? Everyone here is talking about him!” The Lokubami sitting across from LeCreux looked excited. “Brother Jonathan is the secret counselor of the most splendid chosen one! He lets infinite wisdom flow into the chosen one, coming directly from the spirit of the universe!”
LeCreux tried not to look negative. Over and over again there were rumors of a mysterious advisor who was issuing coded messages. This news spread like wildfire to Uranus and its moons. Many said that was total nonsense. LeCreux said that too. He was a scientist. Much of what “Brother Jonathan” said was sheer nonsense and easy to refute. But he had developed into some kind of religious figure. The problem was, it fitted into the “most splendid elect” narrative spread by the fanatical followers of Praetor Scurra. In a legend, which was nothing more than a bedtime story for children, a wise counselor is told who shows the chosen one the way.
Now it looked like a real person was hiding behind this “brother”. But who?
“And what makes you so sure that this brother Jonathan is really the praetor’s advisor?” LeCreux wanted to provoke his counterpart.
“Ha!” Said the person addressed. “Brother Jonathan knows things that only the Praetor knows. And besides, the Praetor has already confirmed it!”
LeCreux was surprised. He hadn’t heard that before. The praetor had confirmed that he was getting advice from this brother Jonathan? When and how?
LeCreux looked around. The BOURGOGNE had been in standard orbit around Uranus for a good 48 hours. The captain had to be present at the praetor’s wedding, but during the ceremony Captain Haddock and his first officer James Pellton had been contacted because there was a problem. A fleet of Usovai’i had been floating around the solar system for some time. They had attacked at Oberon and now they were about to disrupt ASTROCOHORS CLUB communications. They had brought the ift into position.
While the captain and his first officer on board the BOURGOGNE were trying to re-establish communication, teams from the science and security departments had gone to the planet. Officially, it was said that they were going on shore leave because the BOURGOGNE could not leave orbit due to an “inexplicable defect”. But that was just a story that was supposed to cover up the fact that the teams were supposed to interview the Lokubami people. The news that came from Lokubami had gotten stranger and stranger lately. It almost seemed as if the praetor had brought the planet’s press and media into his power, so that they only published what he wanted. They often spread propaganda about Sucrra’s opponents, Inkibus. And again and again Brother Jonathan.

Brother Jonathan lurking in the shadows.
Photo by Florian Gagnepain on Unsplash

The Lokubami, who sat across from LeCreux, pulled a small pad out of his pocket and switched it on. The two were in a bar of the worst kind. At least that was LeCreux’s verdict. It seemed logical to him to investigate here of all places. The worst and most repulsive nationalists who were ardent supporters of Praetor Scurra met here. The room was decorated with a banner. It was strange, but the words on it were written in Latin, an ancient, extinct language from planet earth. Lokubami had a soft spot for that. Presumably, using this language made them feel on an intellectually higher level.
“Ubi nostrum pergit omnes abire” was written there in large, unfriendly letters. LeCreux had been studying a while ago, he was having trouble translating the words, but somehow it was about keeping the followers of Scurra together. LeCreux’s interlocutor was just such a supporter of the praetor.
In the meantime the Lokubami had found what he was looking for: a video file. He showed LeCreux the small screen of the pad and ran the video. It was from Vulpnov, a broadcaster loyal to Scurra. And it was a recording of Scurra, an interview.
“I have the greatest supporters imaginable,” he said.
“What about Brother Jonathan? Your followers seem to be very fond of him. Does he advise you every day?” Asked the reporter.
“Great advisor. He’s a great advisor. And he reports great things.”
That was all. LeCreux nodded carefully so as not to attract attention. What the Lokubami saw as a major revelation was not really one. It was a flat phrase. Scurra had only said that the ominous brother Jonathan was a great advisor. He hadn’t confirmed with a single syllable that Jonathan was advising him. Scurra did that often, he remained vague so that his followers could pick out what he had meant. And once he got concrete, he had no problem lying. It was a common joke in the solar system that politicians always lie. Scurra had perfected that.

LeCreux was disappointed. On the other hand, should he have expected anything else? Scurra has built a web of lies since he became praetor. Why should it be any different now?
In a few days, Scurra’s Senate opponent, Inkibus, would attempt to take the praetor’s seat. Nobody knew how the confrontation would end. But never in the history of the planet has it been so important that a praetor be removed from office.

Royal Wedding

A newly married couple.
A newly married couple.
Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

“We’re in orbit!”
Captain Haddock nodded in the direction of the navigational officer. Then he turned to his first officer.
“Pellton, explain it to me again.”
Pellton rolled his eyes. “Are you wasting time, Captain?” He wanted to know. “You will not be able to avoid it. With all the strange occurrences, especially around Uranus, we have to make a little good wind with the praetor.”
“By going to his son’s wedding?”
“It’s an event! And we are the BOURGOGNE! We have made a name for ourselves. Even with the Praetor of the Lokubami.”
“Lokubami … I always thought that sounds like Wobani.”
“Wobani? What is that supposed to be?”
“I have no idea. I dreamed it as a child.”
Pellton nodded. “I’ll have the shuttle prepared now. Then we’ll fly down to the planet.”
“There is no other way.” Haddock sounded desperate. “People and their rituals. Why can’t you just marry quietly and in a small circle and leave innocent people like us outside?”

“This wedding is a wedding, a great wedding. Possibly the greatest wedding in the history of great weddings.”
Now it was Captain Haddock’s turn to roll his eyes. He couldn’t understand. The man was just babbling. He made up words and let them fall unchecked out of his mouth. That was all. How the flying spaghetti monster had it happened that this man of all people was promoted to the post of praetor? Oh yes, in the same way that many praetors had been appointed: because they knew powerful men behind them. Lokubami’s electoral system was tainted and corrupt. That had been known for years. But none of those in power had dared to do anything about it. Not even the moderate praetors. That was kind of disappointing.
“And of course,” continued the praetor, “a great wedding also includes a great son. Of course, he could only bear this great name that my parents gave me: Dvalo! As it should be, he has chosen the greatest bride. “
Praetor Scurro grinned. Haddock looked at Pellton in horror. Pellton looked just as horrified at Haddock. The grin didn’t bode well. The two fleet officers suspected what was coming. They hoped it wouldn’t happen.
“Just watch out, my son,” said Scurro. “You have chosen a great bride that I might want to hit on myself.”
Laughter broke out among the guests at the wedding. It was the kind of laughter a group would throw up when trying to flatter whoever had just made a bad joke. How could this comedian with residual hair, who called himself praetor, make a joke in the presence of his own wife about poking the bride of his own son – and that at the son’s wedding? That was disgusting in so many dimensions that well-known physicists would have to make completely new calculations. But that was what the praetor was known for. Haddock tried to put a smile on his face, but he couldn’t. He looked like a horror clown whose makeup had been stolen.
“Are you not feeling good about the food, either?” Pellton asked softly. “You look like you’ve got a stomach ache.”
Now Haddock really had to laugh. The Lokubam cuisine was not known for particularly delicious specialties. On the contrary, everything was somehow chopped into small pieces, added fat and sugar, and baked in too much fat before being served with drinks that contained so much sugar that they were barely liquid. And of course there had been steamed hoosheln for dinner. Hoosheln was a piece of massacred meat between the slices of what appeared to be an old, ragged bun. There was an indefinable mush on the meat, which ran out of the edges with every bite into the bun. Indeed, Haddock could already feel his stomach rumbling. In one article he had recently read a warning about steamed hoosheln. If you eat too much of it, it would destroy your taste buds.

“As a father, I can’t be more proud. And I was certainly a great father, as my son always said.”
“Self-praise stinks,” Haddock whispered so only Pellton could hear. Scurro was a master of self-praise.
“It couldn’t be nicer at this point. It’s a great time.” Scurro paused dramatically. Haddock, who had actually only listened with one ear and otherwise thought about it, got straight to the point. His instinct for danger spoke. He had heard many speeches from Scurro – too many, in his opinion. Scurro was a simpleton. He could not play sonatas on the keyboard of politics. It was only enough for something roughly equivalent to “All my ducklings”. He always did the same. And such a dramatic pause in speech, together with the arrogant look he had put on, meant nothing good.
“I am particularly pleased,” he began, “that we have representatives from ASTROCOHORS with us today. There are great people who fought great battles, outside, by the shit hole in Azeria. The moon that the Terrans ‘Oberon’ after a legendary prince, although that gives the Azerians too much honor. “
In a legend of the planet Terra, Oberon was an elven king, and the Uranus moon was named after this figure. Azeria was called by its residents. Azeria was independent, as were most of Uranus’ moons. That had long been a thorn in the side of the Lokubami.
“I’ve also heard the news that the aggressors are said to be a secret fleet of the Usovai’i. But my secret service … and it is a great secret service, maybe even the greatest secret service in the entire solar system … my secret service tells me otherwise. “
“What?” Whispered Pellton. “Does he know something we don’t know?”
“Wait and see,” Haddock replied. “I bet it’s just a lie again.”
“My secret service tells me the other moons have teamed up to take over Azeria because of the raw materials. So sad. The other shit holes are fighting another shit hole.”
“Did the Praetor of Lokubami just accuse the governments of the Uranus moons of attacking one of their own?” Pellton asked in disbelief.
“I told you so,” replied Haddock. “Let’s see how much he’s beating the nationalist drum again.”
“We know it’s wrong!” Insisted Pellton. “The evidence…”
“What evidence?” Asked Haddock. “We have the report from one of our agents. A Praetor Scurra will not recognize it. And that’s it.”
“I’ve said it for a long time and I keep repeating it,” Scurra continued, “we of the Lokubami are chosen to restore and maintain law and order in the solar system. Perhaps we should start with this in front of our own door Great job. These are times of crisis and my political opponents have nothing better to do than hold me on in endless procedural questions. But they will not succeed. Senator Inkibus challenged me. Well, he should. But you will see, me will emerge stronger from the confrontation! Stronger and greater than ever. “
“When is the confrontation?” Asked Pellton.
“In a few days,” replied Haddock. “He has to face the Senate and the representatives of the provinces. If his challenger Inkibus succeeds in convincing the senators and other politicians, there will be a change of government.”
“Who is this Inkibus?”
“Adjunkit Inkibus, Senator himself. Not necessarily the best choice, but better than what is currently in the position of Praetor. The procedure is quite complicated. It is on purpose, it was introduced so that the common people would not understand what going off. “
“We are a great people on a great planet. Today Lokubami belongs to us, tomorrow all the provinces …”
What was that? Haddock couldn’t believe it. Was Scurra really talking about ruling the whole planet? Uranus itself was divided into two realms, Lokubami and Lokubami Aquilon. One tends to forget that in view of the Lokubami’s megalomania. So did Scurra want to conquer Lokubami Aquilon?
“We will pacify the moons,” Scurra continued. “We will bring our great spirit over the planets of the solar system! And then we will have it, peace.”

The way Scurra pronounced the word “peace” sounded like a curse. Worse, all he said was a promise. He was determined to make that happen.
“Pellton, remind me we’re going to be in touch with the Aquamarinon agent,” said Haddock. “I need to know a few things again.”
“Why is that, Captain?”
“It’s interesting, don’t you think? Scurra says stiffly that the attack on Oberon is an internal conflict between the Uranus moons. I want to know how he came up with it. And how do we know he’s wrong.”
Pellton nodded. Then he noticed a light blinking on his bracelet. A visual signal that BOURGOGNE tried to contact him. He had muted the signal.
“Captain, the BOURGOGNE is calling us. I’ll just ask what’s going on.”
“Make it that way.”
While Praetor Scurra continued to rant about his greatness, Pellton broke away from the crowd and walked a little way from the event. The wedding of Scurra’s son took place in a large building on a rock, from which one could see far into the country. Pellton went out on the balcony, making sure no one was around. Then he activated the communicator.
“Pellton here. Speak, BOURGOGNE!”
“Villers here, Commander. It is imperative that you and the captain return to the ship.”
“Why what’s going on?”
“The Ift is fully charged again. The field is interfering with ASTROCOHORS CLUB’s communication. We have to do something.”
“And another interruption in communication. How could that happen?”
“According to our scans, the Ift is being charged from Uranus.”
“Uranus? Wait a minute, isn’t one of Scurra’s followers a director of a company that makes such technology?”
“An arms manufacturer, sir. Yes, that’s right.”
“Do we know that for sure?”
“Absolutely.”
“Then we have to bring this forward! We have to inform the Solar Federation.”
“I hate to disappoint you,” said Villers, “but that won’t do anything. I remind you that Uranus is also a member of the Solar Federation and has a seat on the Grand Council? If we report this, the Federation can do nothing without it Do the Lokubani consent. Scurra will claim everything is misinformation and will refuse to investigate. “
“But what does he get by having a war on the doorstep?” Asked Pellton. “Oberon is a moon of Uranus!”
“He can present himself to the senators and the people as a strong man.”
Pellton nodded. “Yes. And turn the confrontation with Senator Inkibus in his favor. That’s his plan.”
“What I still don’t understand,” said Villers, “what do the Usovai’i get out of it? Praepositus Pupepa is wasting energy and time on these skirmishes in the solar system. What does he want?”
“Pupepa and Scurra are like twins. They could have the same parents. Both are power-obsessed and, to a certain extent, megalomaniac. Villers, you can assume that Pupepa is taking some advantage out of this. Otherwise, as you say, he wouldn’t waste energy and time.”

Pellton looked into the distance. He sighed. “I’ll let the captain know,” he said then. “Get ready to pick us up here. It was a boring event anyway.”
“Nothing exciting happened?”
“Scurra played the March of Nationalism and showed how great it is. And we ate extremely bad. The Lokubani just can’t cook. If you can even call the munching up of shredded ingredients cooking.”
“A true royal wedding then?”

Dragon’s Lair

Dragon Breathing Fire
Dragon Breathing Fire
Photo by Carlos Cram on Unsplash

The building had a large tower with a dome. It looked just like you would imagine a house where a couple of conspirators meet. That, the praetor found, made it all the more inconspicuous.
The preter was a strange figure. He was humanoid in shape, but extremely round. It looked more like someone had put a ball on a ball. The round head had some residual hair. The lips were thick and looked like a stark contrast to the otherwise pale face. When the praetor spoke, it sounded like drawing chalk over a piece of glass.
“I am glad that you are all here,” he said in greeting.
The people who had gathered in the large room of the building belonged to what, under normal circumstances, would have been called a “circle of friends”. In that case it was wrong. Because Dumno Dvalo Scurra, the praetor of the planet Uranus, had no friends. Only people who wanted to be close to him because they wanted to come to power, prestige and wealth themselves. The most precious thing in the universe, real life, meant nothing to them.

“The joy is entirely on our side, O most splendid chosen one!” Said the Second Praetor submissively. To do this, he leaned particularly far forward. That was difficult, because everyone present had already taken their seats at the long table. But the second praetor bowed his head until it almost touched the table top. Praetor Scurra was eaten away by vanity, he loved it when people behaved like that towards him. He especially loved the address “most splendid chosen one”. A strange religious cult was spread on Uranus, which actually only waited for the end of all worlds. And someone chosen by the gods should come to … Well, what exactly he should do was not entirely clear. The Shima scriptures said there would be a chosen one, but things got confused afterwards. Serious religious scholars of the solar system suspected that the Shima scriptures were created under the influence of mind-expanding drugs. That would explain the mess of words that made up most of them. Everything that existed in the entire solar system as religious scriptures was processed in it. And it was declared that only on Uranus – whom its inhabitants called “Lokubami” – would the “pure people” live. The chosen one, no, the most splendid chosen one, should emerge from the “pure people” in order to exalt the “pure people”. And then would … blah blah blah. Or so it read.
No one in their right mind took the Shima scriptures seriously. The problem was that Lokubami had a caste of rich and powerful who took them seriously. And even literally. That Scurra could have become a praetor was a result of this belief in the Scriptures.

“Good,” said the Praetor. “We’re having a meeting. It’s going to be a great meeting. Perhaps the greatest meeting we’ve ever had.” Then he turned to the Second Praetor. “Second Praetor Denarios, Deosimilis, old friend, how has our action progressed?”

“Oh most splendid chosen one,” replied Denarios, “everything is going according to plan.”
Deosimil’s Denarios was about the same age as the praetor himself. He was an old man in his seventies who wore a head of white hair like a helmet, because it gave his otherwise expressionless face a little more shine. You couldn’t have guessed it, but there was sheer calculation behind his submission. Because of course he wanted to be praetor if Scurra ever abdicated. But first he had to prevent Scurra from leaving his post. The steps for this had already been taken.
“Major General Rabunge!” Denarios barked. “Your report!”
One of the men at the table rose. He was wearing a pretorial armed forces uniform.
“Everything is in position. Should your adversary, O most splendid chosen one, introduce the motion to the Senate, our troops will go on alert to bring the people under control. Then the Praetorial Court will rule in favor of the Praetor and dissolve the Senate . And with that we have unlimited power. “
“UNLIMITED POWER!” Repeated Scurra loudly. “I like that. Everything seems to be going according to plan.”
“Well, uh …” stuttered Rabunge. “Not … uh … not quite.”
Now it was Denarios who raised his voice. “What?” He called out loud. He turned his head and looked madly at Rabunge.
“Well … uh … it’s about the spy.”
“WHAT SPY?” Denarios got louder.
“The one who came from Terra. The spy was apparently infected with an illness on Terra. Our people only noticed too late. He infected other people on the spaceship that brought him to Lokubami. Workers at the spaceport also did signs of the disease. That could spread. “
“Humbug!” Contradicted the praetor. “Terran diseases are far too weak for the great immune system of a Lokubami. This disease will be quickly under control and the planet will be ours.”
“You heard the praetor!” Denrios snapped. “A cold like that won’t interrupt our plans! Better tell the praetor why the praetorial tribunal will decide in our favor!”

“Uh yeah.” Rabunge tried to pull himself together. “It’s pretty simple in principle. We have removed judges from the Praetorial Court and replaced them with people who are loyal to the Praetor.”
“Great!” Said the Praetor. “This is the greatest court of justice there has ever been. Was it difficult to replace the disloyal judges?”
“Actually, it was super easy, barely an inconvenience. We recently declared a judge to be insane. She is currently in an institution for the mentally ill. And if she stays there for a while, she will certainly be.”
The praetor laughed. The Second Praetor laughed. Everyone laughed. They laughed like a band of bush thieves who were very sure of their cause.

“Great. Great,” confirmed the praetor again. “I have also received a message from Brother Jonathan. Our friends from outside are happy that we want to support them in their endeavor. Of course, the Usovai’i plan only helps us to keep them in control. That is why we are participating . And we have to support them, because unfortunately they have a few problems. “
“The problems will soon be over!” Declared the Second Praetor. “Our number three and number six might have something to say about that.”
A man got up. He was an important man in the economy of the planet Uranus. But here, in the cave of the conspirators, his name was simply “Number Three”.
“Our problem is organizations like ASTROCOHORS, or more precisely, ASTROCOHORS CLUB,” he began. “They uncover our plans where they can and try to let people know. If too much becomes known, that could really cause us trouble. But my company, which controls a large part of the solar web, has already taken countermeasures: We are blocking theirs Broadcast channels, so that not all information comes out. “

“My company is doing its part too,” confirmed Number Six. “We have placed spaceships with energy generators in orbit the planet. The generators will recharge the Ift field so that it can disrupt communication again.”
“When will that be?” Asked the Vice Praetor.
“It’s already started,” replied Number Six. “The energy will reach its maximum in four hours at the latest. And then it will be difficult for ASTROCOHORS CLUB, no matter what they do.”
“Great, great,” said Scurra happily, clapping his little hands. “We’re going to build a great government. The greatest government this planet has ever seen. We are going to remove everything that stands in our way.”
“Then why stop?” Asked the Second Praetor. “We are the greatest people in the solar system, we have the most glorious chosen one on our side, so why not take control of the whole system?”
“Ruler of the Solar System … um … Space Emperor …. I like it.”
And again he laughed. But apart from him and his subordinates, nobody really had anything to laugh about.