“Playing Man”

The monorail glided through the depths of the Amazon rainforest, blending with the lush green and gold vegetation that lined the track and filled the views from all windows in the train.   Animals paid the sleek vehicle no mind; the teeming plant life remained unaffected by its motion.
 
Jordem Lun stood at the panoramic window on one side of the train, transfixed by the breathtaking sights in every direction.  The depth of color, the vibrancy of the life on the other side of the flexiglass was awe-inspiring.  Brightly colored birds flew between the tops of the exotic trees under the canopy, and giant mouse-like creatures climbed among the branches.
 
Is there anyplace else in the universe quite like this planet? he wondered.
 
Jordem turned, raised a frothy red drink to his lips and drank. 
 
Strawberry daiquiri, he mused. Another thing that no place else seemed to have. The alcohol in the beverage was already giving him a pleasant buzz behind the eyes. In space, these sorts of heady delights would be considered wasteful, sinful extravagances. Here on Earth, though, the strawberry plants still grew and the sugar for rum was available in abundance.
 
A vacation in this place is worth the expense, he thought as he wandered across the viewing deck of the train.
 
Too bad it’s not all play-time…
 
His fellow tourists stared awestruck at the utterly alien scene surrounding them. It was a less-than-once-in-a-lifetime proposition for all of them – the stuff of comscreens or travelogues.
 
“Dr. Lun?”  A pretty, young female monorail staffer tapped his shoulder. Jordem widened his eyes and nodded. “Com link for you.” His clenched teeth relaxed into a smile as he nodded and followed her to a private room at one end of the deck.
 
Jordem flicked the button to activate the com unit. “Lun here.”
 
“Dr Lun,” the feminine voice on the other end was unfamiliar, “we have information we believe you would be interested in.  It concerns your purpose here on Earth.”
 
“Who is this?”
 
Jordem refused to break the awkward silence which followed.
 
The caller continued. “We need to meet with you.  Soon.”
 
Jordem remained silent.
 
“Dr. Lun?”
 
“I’m listening.”
 
“You’re staying at the World Hyatt near the border tonight. If you would be so kind as to visit the hotel’s lounge, one of our people will be in contact.”
 
 “What sort of information?”  Jordem stalled. “Why should I interrupt my vacation to meet with you?”
 
“We both know you’re not here on vacation,” the caller said.

To read more of “Playing Man,”
pick up a copy of Quantum Zoo.

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