Canto 111 – Evil Coffee Makers Boil
The Leaping Shadowcat and The First Half-Century both came out of jump space together into the system of 1232 Ardonnis, the home system of the high-population world called Coventry. Immediately, the situation became the silent-operatic equivalent of Beethoven’s Knock of Doom in the Ninth Symphony. Daaat Daaat Daaat Dooooh! Three hundred of the Imperium’s newest space ships, ships of the line, tenders, and support ships were all arrayed against the two ships of Ham and Ferrari’s tiny rebel fleet.
Ham leaned on the pilot’s control panel and let his jaw drop as he gazed out the Shadowcat’s viewport at them.
“I see the Bregohelma!” he cried. “Admiral Tang is out there himself!”
“We are so dead!” moaned Duke Han Ferrari. The Duke twisted the right end of his handlebar moustache nervously. “I will surrender myself to them, and maybe they will spare you and the crew of the Shadowcat.”
“Give me some credit, Duke,” said Ham sullenly. “I may not be the famous space hunter, Ged Aero, but I can be a hero too. I will NOT desert my friends.”
“Hey, Ham-boy, old Jester!” The call came from the command deck of the fighting space frigate, The First Half Century. “Do you see what I see out there?”
“Yes, Goofy, I’m afraid I do.”
“Wow! Old Jester, I mean literally WOW! We can win glory in battle like this against impossible odds!”
“Goofy, we are going to die! Don’t get all hammy over it! We have to make them pay for it the best we know how.”
“Oh, you got it, Ham-ster! I am putting the Crown of all Stars on my head right now. I can use the powers of the Ancients to defeat this bozo!”
Ham slapped his right hand over his forehead in total frustration. There was a good reason that Mammy Aero had once banned little Ham and little Ged from playing with the demented little goofy child. That boy just wasn’t entirely right in the head.
“Belay that! You don’t need to melt your brain to die in this battle. You need to fight the way they taught you back at the Space Academy. We need to go down with honor.”
The video communicator snapped on and showed a smiling one-eyed Goofy with the three-orbed alien thing pulsing yellow, orange, and lime-green lights all over the bridge of the military ship. Goofy’s crew were resolutely manning battle stations in the background. Ham could also see the unearthly Tesserah thing pulsing and glowing with menace behind the Goof.
“What’s that Tesserah thing doing?” I asked the view screen, feeling I had to insert myself into the dire problem to find some sort of sensible solution.
“That, old Scientist-Jester, is an Ancient weapon now fully primed and ready to be used against the enemies!”
I have to tell you, I was more than a little alarmed as a scientist and scholar. This situation seemed sure to end only one way. We would be atomized by space-born weapons systems or torn atom from atom by Ancient alien energies. Even I didn’t see a way out.
“I order you to stop what you are doing right now!” said Duke Ferrari, trying to take command of the situation.
“No, your Duke-ness. I can do this! Watch!”
Goofy Dalgoda made a face like he was having a painful bowel movement, and then the space between the Tesserah and the Imperial Fleet was suddenly ablaze with alien energy, like a strange ochre lightning in the vacuum of space.
Fifteen Imperial ships disintegrated before our disbelieving eyes.
“Wow!” I said, being the first one able to speak. “Mr. Dalgoda? Are you actually able to direct that power?”
“Yessir, old Mr. Science Dude! I can drop that beam on the head of a pin.”
Ham was suddenly smiling again. He was a very handsome man when he smiled. “Let them have it, then, Goof! Give ‘em all you’ve got!”
The Goofy One did not have to be told twice. Blasts arced out into space on all sides of his ship. For three hundred and sixty degrees all around, the small capital ship laid waste to larger and more powerful space behemoths. The Wargod Class Dreadnaught called The Benjamin Franklin, ruptured like a dried gourd and spilled its disintegrating seed into surrounding space. The Nimitz Class Fleet Carrier, the Colonel Green, launched a thousand fighters as it rolled over in space and dissolved. One by one all of the fighters winked out of existence too. It was like watching silent fireworks. It was all I could do not to shout “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” There was a terrifying beauty in so much fire and death.
“Goof?” asked Ham anxiously, “Can you target the Bregohelma?”
“Oh, Ham-boy! We have to make the old red bird see all of this destruction first!”
A huge blue bolt of energy surged out of the Tesserah and painted a wide swath over the most populous of the cities below on the planet. Everyone was suddenly sick to their stomach as almost a billion innocent beings on the planet below were consumed by alien energy.
“Trav! What have you done?” cried Ham.
“I did just what the crown said I should. I used my mental connection with the Tesserah to start cleansing the planet below us.”
“Trav!” wept Ham. “They were on our side!”
As Ham pleaded, I suddenly saw Commander Dana Cole on the view screen. She had a laser weapon in her hand. “Forgive me, Ham!” cried Dana Cole as she cut off one of Trav’s arms with the laser. “He’s possessed by that alien thing! I have to stop him.”
Trav Dalgoda was still laughing as he used his remaining arm to gesture and make a smaller blue splash of energy launch toward the planet.
“Forgive me, Trav. I do love you,” said Dana as she sawed off his other arm. Trav was still smiling as he tried to gesture with a foot. She cut the leg off too. Then the other leg. Finally, with a destroyed look of regret on her face, she cut off Goofy’s head. The crown grew dark and the Tesserah grew silent.
All of us aboard the Shadowcat were still stunned. Trav had nearly saved us from catastrophe. Then he made everything a billion times worse.
“We can still win,” growled Ham resolutely. “I can crash the Shadowcat into the bridge of the Bregohelma and destroy Admiral Tang.”
Trav’s former command, the frigate, was battling the last remaining ship of the line, and apparently winning. We actually could rule the day if we made the ultimate sacrifice Ham was suggesting. All on the bridge of the little safari ship looked each other in the eye and nodded yes to it. Ham fixed the navigational controls on the target, dead center on the bridge of the Admiral’s Flagship. Full throttle we began to plunge toward her.
In my mind, the symphony had reached a crescendo, cymbals clashing, drums rumbling, and violins soaring. I was prepared to die in that instant, as we all were.
Sinbadh, the Lupin space cook, stuck his head in the doorway to the bridge.
“Ham,” he said, “ye has made me poop meself!”
Ham laughed bitterly.