Dear Guests,

            Good evening, and welcome to Lethe Manor.  My name is Hughes, and I am your host.  I say good evening because it is always evening here.  Night comes so seldom to this part of Charon.  I am most pleased that you have come, as we do not have visitors often.  We, you ask?  Oh, yes, of course I live alone in terms of human companionship, but I have Octavian.  You will meet him later.  First, however, you must tour my house with me.  I regret that I could not do this personally, but I have had a great deal of difficulty getting around in recent years.  I will join you at the end of our tour.  I have provided a map of the house for your convenience.  Please sign the guest register as you enter the hall.  Have you ever used a quill pen before?  That's perfectly understandable, few people have.  There, now.  Please follow me.

            I hope you like the bronze sculpture that greets you at the door.  It is Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld.  A sculptor friend from the Tharsis region of Mars made it for me once.  In the spirit of the planetary nomenclature I have named many things on my humble estate for the things of Hades.  Mythology has always fascinated me, and even in this enlightened age, the name Pluto holds mystery!  I hope you do not find this unsettling; they are merely names.  The name Lethe Manor refers to the River Lethe, the river of forgetfulness.  Now, as you walk along the hall, which shall turn right ahead of us, I hope you will notice some of the other works that I have collected.  There are several Picassos, two Van Goghs, Remingtons, an Inness, a rare Ragle, a Winslow Homer, a Rostanovich, and my priceless da Vinci.  I must tell you the story of that painting before you leave; don't let me forget.  Many others grace my walls as well.  As we turn the corner here, the small door close to your right leads to the kitchen.  There is little of interest to see in there, but I keep it well stocked so that it might be a source of art for those with the inspiration and ability.  Caruthers created a few masterpieces there in his time.  Ignore the stairs at the end of the hall for now; we will take them later.  We will instead be going through the double doors on the right.  No, no, you don't have to enter the dining hall immediately.  Take your time, enjoy the paintings.

            As you enter the dining hall I am sure you will notice the great circular aquarium that is the centerpiece of my entire house over in the far left corner of the room.  I forget the exact dimensions of it now, but this saltwater reef is two stories high and can be seen from many of the rooms of this house.  A small computer screen in each room can tell you what types of creatures can be seen at any given moment.  I will point out highlights as we see more of it.  Before you move on, however, do not forget to examine my hand-carved dining table of  fine cherry and black walnut with its twenty chairs of English oak.  Also notice the landscape on the opposite wall, which is that of Titan, Saturn's cold but life-bearing moon.  The door by the aquarium leads into the living room.

            The picture window opposite this door is my favorite in the whole house.  The three icy peaks you see across the valley are Rhadamanthus, Minos, and Aeacus, the judges of the dead.  On certain rare days the distant sun falls behind them and sparkles softly across their hard frozen edges in the eternal twilight in such a way that words can hardly do it justice.  It joys my heart to think that we might share it tomorrow.  And of course I also share this frostbitten vista with the creatures of my reef as well, as you saw when we entered.  I do not know whether or not any of them can appreciate the view or the gesture, but ignorance should hardly be an excuse for depriving someone of the opportunity to enjoy art, don't you think?  Please, do sit down for a moment.  The sofa and chairs are stuffed with goose down and covered with supple tanned camel suede, crafted by a most skillful Mongolian.  I see you're curious about the large round stone with the lamp on it.  It is hard to miss, isn't it?  Have you ever seen an Olmec head before?  I suppose not.  But then, southern Mexico is not as well visited as it once was.  It sits in the middle of the room because we were too exhausted to move it any closer to the window.  It weighs several tons on Earth, you know.  And to think I originally wanted it upstairs!  The suit of armor staring out the window in the corner is 15th century Spanish, and I had a great deal of trouble obtaining it.  If you look, you will notice that the Indian and the Spaniard are watching the great stone statue that guards the entrance to the valley below.  The Easter Islanders called them moai, and their pedestals, or ahu, often served as burial chambers.  As a mystical mediator between men and gods, it seems remarkably at home on this world.  The painting above the couch is my poor attempt to depict its lonely vigil.

                Now, if you will again follow me into the hallway to the left whenever you are ready, we will proceed toward the library.  On your left, once again, is the curving glass wall of the aquarium.  The most prominent coral among the various types on this side is the brain coral in the center and- oh, look!  There is Maurice, my six-foot zebra moray eel.  It's always fun to watch him inhale some small fish passing by.  You know, I think he's investigating you- they're very curious- and please don't tap the glass.  Fish are sensitive to vibrations and the tapping disturbs them.  On the wall behind you is a large, almost mural-sized Roussardi mountainscape from the last century.  It gives such a magnificent sense of depth to the hallway!  The mountains opposite the sea, only ten feet apart and yet miles between them!  I always wax poetic when touring this part of my house, as you can plainly see.  Now if you will be kind enough to follow me through the door, we will enter the largest, and possibly most fascinating, room in the house, the library.

            This library is two stories high from floor to ceiling and takes up this entire end of the building.  Nearly a third of the total surface area of the aquarium is exposed on the west wall.  The staircase in the southeast corner leads to the basement, but that is mainly storage space and I see no reason to waste your time by taking you down there when there is so much more to see up here.  The shelves lining these walls contain over 50,000 volumes.  I don't know the exact number because I always lose count.  They cover a great variety of subjects and three date back to the eighteenth century.  Yes, yes, I know.  All this is very interesting, but why is there an automobile in the middle of the room?  You can cease your fidgeting now.  This is a 1931 Stutz Bearcat convertible with a double overhead camshaft DV32 engine.  Don't worry, I don't expect you to know much about internal combustion engines since they have been obsolete for so long.  Actually, this one would still run if I could only get fuel-grade petroleum.  Of course, where would I drive it on Charon?  I nearly had a Tucker once, but it somehow managed to slip through my fingers.  I actually had one of the last internal combustion model Ferraris made, but it was destroyed in transit.  Flying overhead- I like to think of it that way, even if it only hangs from the ceiling- is a complete skeleton of the pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus northropi.  It was found in Texas in 2048 and has a wingspan of forty-three and one half feet from wingtip to wingtip.  I sometimes wonder how it would react were it alive to see the fish in my aquarium.  After all, a great many pterosaurs were fish-eaters, you know.  I also have the skull of a pachycephalosaur on that pedestal by the stairs.  Its cranium is so thick that it could withstand repeated blows from a sledgehammer, although I wouldn't think of trying such a thing.  Some very nice invertebrate specimens are displayed around the room as well, and feather imprints strongly suspected to be from a bird much older than Archaeopteryx.  I do not only have the ancient life of earth, however; I have examples of exopaleontology as well.  This one, I am proud to say, I found myself in a Martian mine shaft.  It was nearly perfectly preserved in a tomb of volcanic ash, much like the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum.  I also have some artifacts retrieved from those cities before Mount Vesuvius permanently reburied them.  It is a stromatolite-like structure with some sort of invertebrate similar to a jellyfish that looks like it became plastered to the surface as it dried out.  Stromatolites, incidentally, are limestone mounds created by algae in shallow water, such as those in Shark Bay, Australia.  It is one of the few pieces of evidence of multicellular life on ancient Mars; a true prize, indeed. 

You should also look at the reading tables in the room.  All but one contain ancient maps under glass, vacuum-sealed, of course.  There is an Arabian map of the Silk Road that brought goods from China to the Roman Empire and one of the original copies of Amerigo Vespucci's first map of the Americas.  There are also some early maps of the stars and planets going back as far as the middle ages, including one from Galileo Galilei and another from Tycho Brahe, as well as one of Percival Lowell's drawings of Mars.  Maps of all the planets and their moons are displayed on the walls between book cases.  In the display case by the other door to this room is a curious map drawn on a large clay tablet of a trade route across the Euphrates River which is said to be from ancient Sumer.  With the exception of the planetary maps, only maps made prior to the twentieth century are on display in this library.  Cartography should be an art as well as a science, as it was then.  Oh, yes, the one remaining reading table, the largest one, displays newspaper headlines of famous events from the time before newspapers became completely digital.  The sinking of the Titanic, the first space launches and the Apollo 11 moon landing, the McCarthy hearings, that horrible fire at the German museum.  That reminds me, I almost forgot my Gutenberg Bible!  I thought I had something older than Franklin's electricity notes.  They are extremely difficult to acquire, as you know.  One, I believe, was destroyed in that German fire.  That was truly a saddening tragedy.  All that priceless history turned to ashes in minutes.  Strange how only the Brachiosaurus remained relatively untouched.  Even in extinction, it seemed to stand supreme over the earth.  Here we are back on the subject of fossils again.  We really should move on, I suppose.

Enough about the fossils, then.  While they are fun to speculate about, it is the living creatures that provide me with endless hours of silent fascination.  You may have seen the heavily insulated tank over by the map of Titan and the Tycho Brahe table.  It protects liquid methane from the seas of Titan, specifically the same one depicted in the dining room.  The tubes in the corner of the tank are made by a small colony of filter-feeding organisms, the kind that seem to dominate the Titanic ecosystem.  The way organic compounds rain from the sky there, it's easy to see why.  You know, it sounds odd saying "Titanic ecosystem," but you can't very well say "Titanian ecosystem" because then you would of course be referring instead to Titania, which is a different sort of place entirely, and in truth really has no ecosystem to speak of anyway.  The basket-like interweaving of the tubes is a particularly distinctive feature, although the best explanation anyone can come up with for it so far is that it may act as a sort of funnel.  There are also the free-floating methjellies, maybe an inch across at their biggest, who really don't live long enough to need to eat in their adult form.  Their entire life cycle, larval form and all, lasts less than a month.  This is fortunate for Cain, however, because it means that they reproduce faster than he can eat them all.  Cain is the multi-armed creature lurking under the basket tubes.  His basic design is remarkably similar to earthly cephalopods, which is actually quite an astounding level of sophistication since his kind seem to be the only predators that have ever existed on Titan.  That is why I call him Cain, the first killer.  Still, earth's eurypterids remain the oldest reliably identified predator from our own planet, and they were not so simple either.  By the way, there is a mark on the map of Titan where these creatures came from.

Now for my pride and joy, my reef.  In it I have fabulous corals, shells both common and rare, strange and colorful fishes, armored crustaceans and more collected from the Seven Seas!  You have already met Maurice, I believe; just a sample of the life this tank contains.  If you look around you can see moonfish, blennies, sea pens, anemones in a dozen varieties, hermit, decorator, and blue crabs, and several other kinds as well if I remember, tube worms, peppermint shrimp, and a giant clam.  Oh, dear, I believe I forgot to point out the giant clam back in the living room.  I'm dreadfully sorry.  Perhaps you saw it despite my forgetfulness; it is rather prominent.  Please forgive me.  The decorator crabs may be a little difficult to find on the bottom since their decorations are for the purpose of camouflage.  There are also a couple of flounder in here that have a remarkable ability to change color and pattern, much like a chameleon of the sea.  If you go around close to the door on the right you will see a rock shelf where my woebegone shark likes to spend most of her time.  Yes, there she is.  She can't change colors the way the flounder do, but with her mottled coloration and the seaweed-like wisps of skin around her mouth, her camouflage is as good as any fish in the sea.  She is an ambush predator, and if you watch her sometime, you might see her inhale some small, hapless passerby.  Ah, here comes my Nassau grouper and his entourage of cleaner wrasses.  He must weigh nearly a hundred pounds by now, if not a bit more.  He's quite old.  Usually he swims around enough that we should have seen him before now.  Perhaps he was resting somewhere.  The tube worm colony resides behind the rock shelf near the purple fan coral, but the butterfly fish seem to enjoy the company of the anemones on the rocks more.  Look up high in the coral toward the middle of the wall and you can see Long John, my blue parrotfish, coming down this way.  Such an engaging smile.  He really is a most appealing fish; it always cheers me up to see his clownish face. 

You may wonder how I maintain this plethora of marine life in such a remote place.  First of all, I tried to create a balance of organisms that would largely regulate their own environment- filter feeders to clean the water, plankton, prey fish and crustaceans, algae-eating sea slugs and snails, predators of each to keep them in check, et cetera.  Computerized systems originally designed for large marine parks back up the natural checks, however, monitoring water conditions and populations of organisms, separating out sick and injured creatures into recovery tanks, adjusting this and that where necessary, and preserving populations that become dangerously low.  Most of the equipment and all of the tank space is in the basement.  Now if you will please follow me around to the hall, there is a large, rather belligerent lobster making a home around this way.  He was in his eighties when I acquired him, so now I suppose he is somewhere around 110 years old.  The last time I was able to secure his claws, he weighed forty-one pounds.  Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, his name is Atlas.  Now, onward to the hall.

Yes, as I suspected, there is Atlas resting under that large coral further back.  There is a cooling unit under that part of the floor which keeps the water right there a little more like his home waters, which are more northerly than most of the other creatures here.  I originally tried to keep him in his own separate tank in another part of the house, but it really was too small for him and I didn't have room for anything larger where he was.  He seems to do well enough in here, however, as long as he can retreat to his cool spot.  There is a large colony of anemones by the far door, attended by the butterfly fish I mentioned earlier.  They seem to breed rather well in there.  On the right side of the hall is a restroom if you need it, and the other door is simply a closet.  As soon as you are ready we will go back through the dining hall out into the main hall and up the stairs to the second floor, where you will stay as my guests.

We will start with my den, since it is the only room to our left.  The carved wooden images that frame the door are the Furies, the avengers of the murdered in Greek mythology.  The decor in here runs along maritime and military lines.  The furniture comes originally from one of the luxury cabins aboard a clipper ship, although I can never remember the name of the ship.  O'Halloran got it for my birthday once, and I believe there is a piece of paper somewhere that tells its history, but I put it in the bookshelves somewhere and now I can't find it.  I really should have had a professional librarian organize it all, but it was too hard to get one all the way out here.  Back to the point, however, the two corroded naval cannons pointing toward the aquarium were recovered from the Bonhomme Richard, the ship John Paul Jones lost in taking the British Serapis in the North Atlantic during the American Revolution.  I would ask that you please not sit on them; they are objects of great historical significance and should be treated as such.  You can see that they flank an artificial hearth and fireplace opposite the aquarium wall.  I've often wished that I had a real chimney, but of course that is quite impossible with the weather here being what it is.  Mounted above the mantle is the sword thought to have belonged to Eric the Red.  Although age and the elements have deteriorated it to a degree, the craftsmanship and artistry of the weapon is still very evident, and it still seems to command a certain respect, I think.  Other swords in the room, and knives as well, come from the American Civil War, the Hundred Years' War, the Crusades, the army of Genghis Khan, the Japanese army that repulsed Kublai Khan, and one found buried at the site of ancient Carthage.  A brass plaque of explanation accompanies each one, as well as each of the guns that adorn the walls.  That collection was left to me by a close friend.  It is an impressive array of antique and famous firearms.  The oldest are matchlocks, along with colonial flintlocks, guns of the old west and various wars, a truly exquisite pair of French dueling pistols, and the gun used to assassinate the pope in 2043.  Alas, Bostwick knew their histories far better than I.  I doubt seriously that I even know my swords as well, he was such a passionate collector.  The door on the other side of the room leads to a balcony overlooking the library, where you can get a very interesting view of the hanging displays.  Come now, let me show you to your rooms.

The two guest rooms are here on the right side of the hallway by the stairs.  Each is equipped with a luxurious waterbed, one of teakwood with Chinese silk sheets and one of ebony and brass with satin, as well as a desk and chair of matching style.  The teak room, which is on the right, contains a painting by one of the early Mars settlers of the god Ares surveying his world from the summit of Olympus Mons.  The ebony room is lit by an unusually beautiful guilded birdcage lamp which I found in a crate at the back of a storeroom after it had been there many years.  It is quite mysterious, for its history is unknown and there is no discernable artisan's mark.  You may decide for yourselves which room you prefer.  Now we will proceed to the billiard room, in the hallway branching off to the left.

The first door on the right is the bathroom, for your reference, and the door on the left is the billiard room.  Again, one wall is the reef - now that's an odd place for a starfish - and the central object of the room is the gaming table.  I usually use it for billiards and pool myself, but it can also be used for card games, craps, air hockey, war games, dining, and a number of other things.  I have two bookcases filled with books of games and gaming, and other cases of equipment and pieces.  The room has an entertainment theme, obviously.  There are a number of twentieth century movie posters, including appropriately enough "The Hustler" and "The Color of Money."  Of course I also had to get some of the classics like "Gone With The Wind," "Stagecoach," "Dracula," "High Noon," and "Psycho."  I also love the old circus posters.  I have the Shrine Circus elephant poster and the classic tiger leaping through the flaming hoop for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, but the sideshow posters are of course the best.  One of the earliest from the 1800s, the Wolf-Boy of Saskatoon, is actually signed by P.T. Barnum himself, master showman and "King of Humbug."  I have admired him immensely since my earliest memories of "The Greatest Show on Earth," or perhaps now it's "The Greatest Show in the Solar System."  Whatever.

The next room up the hall on the left is another living room, which I call the viewing room.  The pallid, ghostly flowers on either side of the entrance are a variety developed to grow in the pale soil of Earth's moon and named asphodel after those in the meadows surrounding the palace of Hades.  This room is a strange mixture of the Elysian Fields and the rivers of torment.  I have lined the room with many types of tropical plants, mostly palms, ferns, and bromeliads, with a couple of Venus flytraps to catch insects that tag along on ships from Earth.  One wall is, of course, a particularly wide section of the aquarium wall, and on the right is another, somewhat smaller picture window looking out over the same vista as the one downstairs from a higher angle.  At the center of the room is a marble fountain with a statue of Persephone, Queen of the Underworld.  If we hadn't been able to detach the statue from its base, we wouldn't have been able to get it up here any more than we could the Olmec head.  The balcony at the far end looks out into the library across the reef from the den.  This room is lit by the power output of two electric eels in the large freshwater tank over there.  They come from a small, unmapped tributary of Brazil's Rio Negro called Acheron, Hades' river of woe, by the few who know of it for its dense infestation of dangerous fishes and a healthy population of Nile crocodile farm escapees.  Octavian's favorite perch is in here, probably because it reminds him of home.  Octavian, incidentally, is an African grey parrot with an extensive, and often irritating, vocabulary.  Don't tell him I said that, though.  An unusual development in fabric pigmentation was used on the furniture which allows it to blend in with its surroundings, which usually means a sort of green camouflage here, barring any seasonal changes in the foliage.  I was told by the man who provided the fabric that I was the first person ever to use it on a couch instead of a wildlife blind.  I wonder why?  To add even more to the decor, I have hung numerous ritual masks from African, Australian, and North American tribes along the walls.  A map showing the location and a short description of each tribe is available beneath the glass of the coffee table.  Wait - look out the window.  Is that a comet?  I don't believe any are scheduled for this month.  Yes, I believe it is.  It must be a new one.  You should make note of it for your return home.  Who knows?  It might be named after you.  See, there it goes, right over the peak of Minos, just above Uranus to the right of the mountain.  No, no, the bright star is Arcturus.  Go left and up; you can barely see the dust in the tail.  Ah, how I love the azure glow of Minos at twilight!  Well, I suppose now it's time we moved on to the master bedroom.

This one across the hall is my room - I'm not in it right now, of course - and I'm quite proud of the decor I've chosen for it.  Again, the theme is dominantly maritime, but I think it is quite well mixed with the trappings of an old astronomical observatory.  According to some sources that I have confidence in, the cutlass over the headboard of the bed belonged to none other than Bartholomew Roberts, better known as Black Bart, the mad puritanical pirate captain.  An original marine chronometer made by John Harrison himself in 1736 keeps time on the wall, although I do believe it's overdue for a good winding.  I also have a tide clock, barometer, and other weather instruments so important to the sailors of old spread about the room.  The furniture in this room was actually rescued from the captain's quarters on the Queen Elizabeth II after that tragic fire gutted much of the ship in 2035.  On the dresser I have several historical sextants and astrolabes, including one thought to have belonged to Captain Kidd.  I also have an old surveyor's theodolite that seemed to fit in well with the other instruments in the room.  I nearly had one that belonged to Thomas Jefferson once, but it turned out that its owner was rather fiercely attached to it and couldn't let it go.  As you have already seen, I like to decorate with maps and charts, and those in this room are dedicated to places I have been on Earth, Mars, Europa, and other enchanting worlds.  You might also notice the Peruvian rug which depicts an ancient legend of a traveler among the stars, hand-made by an old woman I befriended in the Andes there long ago.  There is a small orrery on the desk in the corner of the room, which is a mechanical model of the orbits of the planets.  There is a much larger and more detailed one in the chart room upstairs, but I rather enjoy spinning this one idly in more pensive moments when I am writing.  The telescope next to the desk is a replica of the one Galileo used in his observations of Jupiter, which I used to gaze out the window of my quarters after my crew had retired for the evening.  I also have a smaller telescoping spyglass that I enjoyed using during my terrestrial excursions.  I have a few examples here of old scrimshaw art, mostly in walrus ivory, and a rare engraved portrait of the noted Major Stede Bonnet, whose nautical exploits in the early 18th century reflect rather closely my own in some respects.  On that note, I think, our next destination will be the aforementioned chart room just up the stairs outside my door.

The chart room is where I keep all of the star charts, planetary maps, and other equipment I regularly used during my travels.  I use this room to prepare for viewings through my telescope in the observatory, and to map new objects that I find.  The astrometrics and navigation computers from my ship, the Wyvern, still come in quite handy for tracking objects in the Oort Cloud, of which I have indisputably the best view in the solar system.  Please feel free to document the comet you saw through the picture window downstairs so that you can register it in your name upon your return to civilization.  You will also notice, of course, a few historical items in addition to the ones I keep in the museum.  Two volumes I like to keep up here to look at occasionally are the 1732 edition of Johann Bayer's Uranometria, with its beautiful depictions of the classical constellations, and a very rare preliminary edition of John Flamsteed's Historia Coelestis Britannica published by Sir Isaac Newton and Edmond Halley in 1712.  It is so rare because Flamsteed was rather angry at Newton and Halley for "jumping the gun," as it were, and destroyed most of the volumes.  Although the Bayer volume is not an original, these two books have great historical significance for establishing two of the primary systems of star identification, and I assure you neither was easy to come by.  The orrery I mentioned earlier, which you see mounted on a pedestal in the center of the main map table, dates to approximately 1850 and is one of the first to contain Neptune shortly after its discovery in 1846.  Its history is somewhat murky due to being passed through numerous owners over the years, but I believe it was originally commissioned by an English Earl, although I have yet to determine which one.  The craftsmanship is quite noteworthy, as all of the planetary moons that were known at the time are depicted and the gearing accurately replicates all of their orbital periods.  I have tried to find one that includes my home here on the outskirts of the solar system, but orreries seem to have gone out of style by the time Charon was discovered. 

Although the logical next stop would be the observatory, I would like to save that room for the finale of this tour and first lead you down the hallway to your right into my gymnasium facility.  A restroom and equipment closet are on the left side of the hallway, and you can see that the top of the aquarium serves double duty as a swimming pool on occasion.  I have diving equipment available if you would like to explore the reef from the inside, although I would suggest that you study its inhabitants carefully before trying to interact with them.  Maurice can be dangerously snappy when annoyed.  The circular platform at the center has a ladder that leads down to a viewing chamber at the center of the reef, where I have spent many hours in silent meditation, and which happens to be an excellent place to read.  The ladder also descends to the basement for access to the reef management controls.  Up here the back side of the aquarium is covered by an additional room containing diagnostic equipment, isolation tanks, and various controls for other systems in the house.  The main gym floor is designed to accommodate tennis, basketball, racquetball, handball, wrestling, fencing, and numerous other sports.  Although this house is equipped with artificial gravity enhancement, it can be turned off in the management room behind the ladder to add an interesting dimension to a game in the naturally weak gravity of Charon.  Exercise equipment is also available, as some of my crewmen liked to use it, but I always found that type of exercise rather dull and uninvigorating, myself.  If you should lose a ball in the water, just slap the surface three times and Einstein, my octopus, will retrieve it for you.  He is amazingly intelligent for an invertebrate and quite well-trained.  I rescued him from a genetic engineering lab, where he was designed for a high learning curve and to outlive nature's cruel little curse of death after mating.  Strange as it may seem, I have found him to be a delightful and fascinating pet.  Now, if you would please make your way back to the chart room, I have been waiting for you in the observatory.

I am afraid you can only observe the observatory from the hallway behind the glass partition, because it has been open to space for the last twenty-odd years now.  As you can see, Octavian and I are quite thoroughly frozen.  You may have deduced by now that I am Balthazar Hughes, the notorious corsair of the space lanes.  Many people have used the word pirate, but I feel that implies more barbarity than is truly warranted.  I prefer to think of myself instead as a collector of limited means, but clearly my actions were illegal, so I decided to dress the part in the name of tradition.  After all, people expect a pirate to dress in King Charles II attire and carry a parrot on his shoulder, so who am I to disappoint?  My crew were less enamoured of anachronism than I, but they were good men and I enjoyed their company and the benefits of their talents for many years.  Alas, we parted ways after completing this house, but even outlaws cannot be expected to endure such isolation as this.  You may remember that Powell and Cordoba were captured and executed by the Chinese, but I do believe the rest of them managed to live out their lives in relative comfort.  Their captain is not the only one who managed to accumulate wealth, you know.  I am surprised it took so long for anyone to discover this place, since I made no effort to hide it.  I had hoped for a long time to share my collection with wayward strangers, but I suppose I should have known that Pluto at aphelion would be too distant to elicit many visitors.  I hope you have enjoyed the little tour I have put together.  I try to keep everything in good running order around here, keep the animals alive and all that, and keep my information current in spite of my unfortunate death.  Thank goodness for reliable computers.  That reminds me, what is today's date?  Oh, yes, January 22, 2113 anno domini.  Oops, make that the 23rd, for it seems to be midnight all of a sudden.  As they say, time flies...  That reminds me, right now all of the planets in the solar system should be visible at once from our location, and here we are with a brand new comet to mark the occasion!  The telescope in here can be fully controlled from the chart room if you wish to use it, and the view is available on the wallscreen.

Now that our tour is over, I bid you stay as long as you like, explore the place to your satisfaction, and enjoy the facilities as though they were your own.  Mi casa, su casa.  Have a safe journey home, and spread the word that others may see what you have seen.  It has been my utmost pleasure to be your gracious host.  Until we meet again, I am...

Eternally yours,

Stacy Clifford
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