Canto 108 – The Lost Child
Things had been chaotic in and around Outpost for an Earth-time week. Tron and Maggie were both dragging from one conference and administrative nightmare to the next.
Elvis and King Killer found them sagging in their seats at the conference table in the Outpost control center.
“Boss, it’s not that bad. Nobody died in a training accident today,” said Elvis the Cruel.
“Really?” said Tron with a snort. “Two of those Triceratops starship-thingies locked horns and tore the bridge section off of one of them.”
“But nobody died,” reaffirmed King.
“Well, that’s something,” said Maggie, blowing a stray red hair out of her eyes.
“The problem with those things is that they have a mind of their own. It’s hard enough to learn starship combat from complete scratch like these maroonies and alien squid-men have to, without having to learn to accept interference from your own starship at the same time.” King had offered the same complaint a hundred times already, but it didn’t hurt for Tron to hear it again.
At that moment, Artran, the adult version, wandered into the conference room having heard everything that was said.
“You know these things are shaped like dinosaurs for a reason, right?” Artran asked with a grin.
“Yeah. A Flintstones reason,” griped King.
“If they were actual living riding beasts, you would have to learn to ride them differently. You can’t control them so much as you have to guide them. Think of it like leading them with a tug on the reins.” Artran’s reasoning was actually quite eye-opening. The starships shaped like dinosaurs were created by an artificial alien intelligence that came to them by way of the inscrutable Ancients. It was a superior race that created them from the highest level of technology that living beings had ever known. If they acted and reacted in contrary ways, it had to be because the lesser beings flying them didn’t understand their ways.
“How did you get so wise since you were a little boy just a couple of months ago?” Maggie asked her son who had suddenly become a man, seemingly overnight.
“Spent the last twenty years in the past with the Star Nomads, exploring unknown space and learning more than I ever could’ve learned from tutor robots on Outpost.”
Actual tears flowed down Maggie’s cheeks. “I miss the little boy you were. I feel like your Nomads have robbed me of precious time with my young son.”
“I don’t regret the things I have learned,” Artran said sympathetically. “And soon you will have another little boy to play mommy with.”
“Really? How do you know it will be a boy?”
“Star Nomads travel in ways that bend time. I have seen Starchart in my past and your future. He’s a great kid.”
“Really? I won’t lose him the same way I lost you?”
“I guarantee it, Mom. And you haven’t lost me. I’m here now. And I will help you win the upcoming war.”
“So, what are we supposed to be doing differently with these dinosaur-shaped starships?” King scoffed with a note of resignation in his voice.
“Train them to let their Triceratops riding beasts run like a herd. In life, herds of horned herbivores would stampede together at the enemy as a way to overwhelm and trample their tormentors. Herds of bison once did the same thing. If there were enough time, I’d take you back in time to show you.”
Tron grinned. “And I’d go with you too. But I have the idea already from what you have told us. King, can you train them to do what Artran is suggesting?”
“Maybe you start thinking of them as riding beasts.”
“Yeah. I could definitely do that. But I have never flown a bison before, or anything like that.”
That made everybody laugh. But King had a sense in the pit of his old stomach that the Lost Boy maybe had just solved a major training problem.