Canto Twenty-Four – In the Midst of Mayhem on Board the Base Ship
No one was about to argue with Harmony Castille. She was intent on putting together a tadpole-hunting team to go after the runaway children, and the two adults who were in child-sized bodies now and therefore suspect as well.
“All right,” said Xiar skeptically, “exactly what do you want me to do about this situation of yours?”
Harmony arched her sleek black eyebrows and puckered up her beauteous visage into an angry old-lady stare that chilled Xiar to his very amphibian bones. He had never known any female could put so much venom and vinegar into one look, but he was humbled now. Nothing in his experience as a colony leader and deep space explorer had prepared him for this level of determined, disciplined horror.
“You will give me the commando team I ask for, and if you are any sort of war leader at all, you will grab a gun and lead from in front. It is your heathen little frog-brats I intend to rescue after all.”
Xiar shuddered. “All of my best men went with Commander Biznap. And if I go be the war leader you speak of, who will run this ship?”
“May I suggest,” offered the beautiful Shalar, “that Harmony herself is the kind of war leader you need for this expedition. Not only is she fierce enough, and capable enough of teaching the troops everything they will need to know, she has a good heart and a moral conscience. You can trust her to do the right thing.”
Xiar let out a small sigh of relief at that suggestion… but he certainly wasn’t about to let Harmony herself hear it. “Harmony, I will put you in charge and allow you to select the assault force.”
“Well, in that case, I need Shalar as my executive officer. She has the smarts that are going to be needed in this combat theater. I anticipate a bloody campaign, but we will prevail because God and science are both on our side!”
Xiar was once again horrified. Since the Earthers had taught him all about love, he had been totally at the mercy of Shalar’s beauty. What if something were to happen to her? The love of his life? The mother of a few of his favorite tadpoles? “Does it have to be Shalar?”
“Yes, Captain, it does.” Harmony’s eyes narrowed to vicious slits. “I need you to actually care enough about this rescue mission to be willing to do whatever it takes to bring everyone back safely. She will be my incentive for you to do the right thing at the right time. Am I wrong, Shalar? Doesn’t it seem he loves you enough to do anything it takes to get you back safely?”
“Oh, I hope so,” said Shalar, giving him that loving look that made him feel so squishy on the inside. He did love her more than anything… more than life itself… well, almost.
“So, we will take Shalar, fifteen of your very brightest men, and Sub-lieutenant Studpopper… because he owes me!”
“You mean Sub-sub-sub-lieutenant Studpopper?” Xiar grinned at that thought.
“Yes, that chicken-livered fellow who is not so smart most of the time, whatever you are calling him now.”
“Oh, fine choice. He’s one of my finest junior officers.”
“That better not be true,” grumbled Mrs. Castille, “for Shalar’s sake and safety, if for no other reason.”
“Well, then,” muttered Xiar morosely, “I wish you luck in finding fifteen Tellerons who are actually smarter and braver than Studpopper. Taken as a whole, they are a pretty sorry lot.”