The tiny starship Hasslehog crawled through space, towing an enormous planet behind it. Casper Dee, galactically-reknown Pretender and bored hyper-celebrity, hummed as he worked the controls of the tiny-but-priceless craft, ignoring the frantic messages from the planet. He didn’t need to steal the planet Happy 18th Birthday Sophia Love Daddy (probably the most unfortunate example of the lasting damage a hangover can do when trying to fill out official planetary documents and birthday cards at the same time), but there was simply nothing left to him to do in the universe. Gene therapy had made him immortal, and his Pretending career had made him a willionaire – a willion dollars being defined as the amount of money which, if calculated, would make any computer display #########.
The communicator would not let-up its infernal chiming, so he checked his perfectly trimmed goatee, powdered his already flawless skin, and answered it. A pompous-looking man, swathed in blankets and coats, looked momentarily surprised to see none other than Casper Dee staring back at him.
“Oh… I… are you…?” shivered the man.
“I am he,” replied Casper with a flourish and launching into his pandering routine for the masses. “It’s simply amazing to be here, with my amazing fans.” He waited for the usual applause, but then remembered he had an audience of one. “Oh right. What do you want?”
“I was wondering, Mr Dee, why you’ve pulled us out of orbit and across cold space?”
“Oh that! It’s…” he frantically thought back to the excuses his agent had used in the past, “…a wardrobe malfunction caused by stress, dehydration, and vicious rumours.”
“Oh.” The man shivered violently. “It’s just that we’re having to let off our nuclear weapons just to keep warm! If it’s not too much trouble, could you, y’know, put us back where you found us?”
Casper dashed a wine flute at the monitor. “For God’s sake, can’t you parasites leave me alone? All I want is my own life! Go bother someone else!”
Outside the main window, the blankness of space suddenly erupted into red-and-blue strobes – it was the police! Casper felt the blood run from his legs; bad publicity beckoned, and with it a loss of money from his sponsors. Not good. Outside, the Sheriff and his deputy descended into view and beckoned him out, notebooks in hand. Casper sighed and suited up.
“Good morrow officers,” floated Casper in his most respectful voice, “and what can I do for you?”
“Name?” said the Sheriff, his moustache filling half of his spacesuit’s visor.
“Casper Dee,” he replied, waiting for the usual shouts of disbelief, handshakes, and the obligatory pictures to prove that these little people had actually met a god.
Surprisingly, the cop simply made a note, clearly unimpressed. “Can you explain to me, Mr Dee, why you’re towing an inhabited planet across deep space?” Behind them loomed the black sphere of the planet in question, the occasional nuclear fire blossoming across its frozen surface.
“I’m not towing that planet!”
“Say,” said the deputy slowly, his jaw dropping open to display a mess of crooked teeth, “you’re Casper Dee! Wow!”
“Hot dog,” mumbled the Sheriff, then stared at Casper. “Is that a tattoo on your forehead, Mr Dee?”
“Sponsor’s logo,” corrected Casper. “As the biggest company in the universe, McWalFord ApSung-MicroPep pay me to be an ambassador for them.”
“I do like their 400 horse-powered computer in a bun,” admitted the cop.
“Don’t forget fries,” added Casper, remembering his contractual obligations.
A pink buzzbot zipped up between the trio, its bug-eyes rolling crazily. “Dear valued consumers, I heard you mention a 400 horse-powered computer in a bun with fries! Would you like to purchase one?”
“Yes please!” said the deputy, licking his cracked lips. A gigantic beige polystyrene box materialized next to him.
“Anyway Mr Dee,” said the Sheriff, “you haven’t explained what you’re doing out here with a planet in tow.”
“Nothing. I was just flying around and, er, the planet’s just flying around here too.”
The Sheriff took notes, then opened up a commlink to the planet. “It’s the police. What are you guys doing out here?”
“Freezing,” came the reply. “That madman has twocked us! Arrest him, Sheriff!”
The Sheriff pulled his gun on Casper as the deputy finished riding his supercharged meal around. “Freeze scumbag! Don’t move or I’ll shoot!”
“I’ll come quietly, officers,” started Casper, then pointed theatrically behind the cops, a look of mock-horror on his face. “Look! It’s a runaway giraffe going supernova!”
Both officers turned, the deputy already screaming in preparation of this dangerous-yet-highly improbable event. Casper scooted back to his ship, disengaged the gravity beam, and let the craft drop into the planet’s atmosphere.
Eventually, the two cops turned back. “Hey – he’s escaped!” said the deputy dumbly.
“He was Pretending,” replied the Sheriff.
“Well let’s get him!”
“We can’t,” replied the Sheriff, unwinding a long whip-like device, “because that planet is evidence. If we go down there after him, we risk contaminating it.”
“So now what?” asked the deputy.
“Like all corporate celebrities, Mr Dee is contractually obliged to update his online Scratterbook profile at regular intervals for his emotionally-bereft fans. I have a hunch that escaping the police might prompt a small update, and with it, his location.”
The deputy studied his hoop-shaped mobile phone. “You’re right! Casper’s just posted, Escaped the dumb police lol!” He typed like a madman. “Ha! I’ve said I hate da police!” He showed the Sheriff, who programmed an 84-digit Galactic Co-ordinate into the whip, then flicked the tail towards the planet. The rope floated around lazily, then suddenly hammered off towards the black disk of the world, stretching impossibly. After what seemed like hours, it pulled taunt, then retracted quickly until Casper Dee hovered before the policemen, looking terrified from the sudden trip through a planet’s atmosphere.
“Casper Dee,” said the Sheriff haughtily, “You are charged with Grand Theft Planetary. You’re in for one long stretch.”
Seventy years later, Casper Dee sat up in bed and looked at the empty courtroom; the government thought it necessary to move Casper into the dock to save on fuel and time. Casper washed in the small bathroom, dressed himself in thin paper disposable clothes, and then waited for the day to start. The first two years had been pure hell – the bailiffs had read out every offense he had committed, in three hour blocks, covering the theft of the entire planet – from all the small pink buttons in the world, to the emotional damage caused by people – believing that the end of the world was nigh – indulging in some sinful but highly enjoyable base pleasures. The following 68 years had been even worse, each theft treated as a separate case, and after seventy years, he had so far been found guilty of the theft of 42 marbles, small. He’d paid the £55 fine in pennies, just for a laugh.
The jury entered, whooping and screeching, most of them sent insane by the boredom of the case. When the jury had been tasered into silence, a young sharp-faced man entered. Casper sat up; it was a new judge!
“So what’s all this about?” said Judge Kettle, popping some headphones over his wig. He did a double-take. “Hey – aren’t you Casper Dee? The guy who stole a planet?”
The lead prosecutor, a slobbish bore named Bertrund Tabby, answered before Casper could reply. “We are discussing the 43rd theft of a marble – small, by Casper Dee.”
Kettle stared at Tabby. “A marble? That’s moronic.” He banged his gavel around his desk randomly. “Case dismissed. Next?”
“The people of H18BSLD versus Casper Dee, the theft of a 44th marble – small.”
The prosecutor shuffled his papers, bacon bits flying everywhere. “The people of H18BSLD versus Casper Dee, the theft of a 45th marble – small.”
Kettle sighed. “How many marbles – small, is Casper Dee alleged to have stolen in total?”
“Almost four billion, my lord.”
“Fair enough. Mr Dee, I find you guilty of stealing marbles – small. Pay ten thousand dollarpounds.” He banged his gavel again. “Next!”
“The people of H18BSLD versus Casper Dee, the theft of a marble – large,” said Tabby, with a straight face.
Kettle pulled his headphones off slowly. “I see where we’re going with this, Mr Tabby. How many cases does Mr Dee face in total?”
“Mr Dee will be tried for the planet H18BSLD’s constituent parts,” said Tabby haughtily, “for example, the people of H18BSLD versus Casper Dee, theft of forty-five trillion trillion gallons of oil; the people of H18BSLD versus Casper Dee, theft of fourteen billion tons of coral; the people of H18BSLD versus Casper – “
“Thank you Mr Tabby, I get the idea.” Kettle doodled on the table, and then turned to Casper. “I’m already bored of this. Are you?”
“I’ve spent my entire life in this courtroom, my lord,” croaked Casper sadly.
“Exactly, and I’m afraid of doing the same. How much would you pay to get out of here?”
Casper considered how much he was now worth; a willion dollarpounds accruing interest over 70 years meant that he owned most of the galaxy. “Fifteen planets?”
Kettle banged his gavel again. “Done. Don’t do it again.” The jury applauded and dribbled, the guards hugged each other, and Tabby updated his Scratterbook status frantically. Casper smiled, thanked the court, then left. He walked out into bright daylight and looked at the sky; he was still healthy, and still a willionaire. Don’t do it again, Judge Kettle had said. So what should he do instead?
In the silence of the empty courtroom, Kettle tapped along with the threcno-beatslash tune. He’d cleared up a 70 year trial and secured the fortunes of 15 planets for the government. Not bad for a morning’s work. Suddenly, he felt giddy, like he was on a rolling ship. Outside, the sun started to set at speed until the stars appeared, then they too started to move across the sky.
The planet was being stolen!