Canto 136 – Ugly Flowers
Mai Ling had swiftly learning the ninja skills that Ged Aero-sensei taught the students in his dojo. Unlike the majority of the White Spider Mutant Ninja Space Babies, Mai was completely in tune with the skills of movement, attack, and defense she was learning at the dojo because her psionic mutant power was telekinesis, the ability to remotely move things with the mind.
Her mental ability complemented her ninja attack skills in that she could alter the course of projectiles in flight. If she threw a ten-pointed shuriken at someone, it would not miss.
The picture in her inner eye, the secret of psionic control, was always the flower-like shuriken rotating through the air at the target, even if it needed to make a ninety degree turn to hit the precise spot she aimed at.
Shu Kwai, Ged-sensei’s lead student, had worked with her hundreds of times, helping her to see the power to control movement of objects as part of a wondrous dance. He was also a telekinetic and could also do the dance. It was a dance that could protect others from harm, or if the need arose, destroy them.
At twelve years old, Mai was already developing into a shapely young lady.
“You can’t be ashamed of your body when you are doing the dance,” reminded Shu. “We wear hardly any clothes not because we are immodest, but because we do not wish to impede the dance in any way.”
Mai frowned at him. Shu could be such a prig at times. He stood there wearing only a white loincloth, while he himself had made the rule that no one should go un-armored on a potentially hostile planet. Except for the ninja underwear, his light orange-yellow body was functionally nude.
Boys could get away with that, especially scrawny teenage boys with practically nothing to show off anyway.
Shu and Mai were both natives to the planet Gaijin where Master Aero’s dojo was located. That meant that they were descended half from the Japanese humans of Earth, and half from the nearly-human Sylvani of deep space. Mai herself had bare feet, bare legs, and a bare midriff. She was not about to leave breasts exposed, or even her arms. She wore a computerized ring-sleeve on her left arm, which helped give gauss-magnetic acceleration to objects she threw. And the magnetic arm bands on her right arm gave her a magnetic shield she could shape and manipulate with telekinesis.
“I am not going out into this living jungle without any clothes on,” she stated firmly to Shu. “You don’t know if these strange aliens will attack. Besides, I fight better with clothes on. I’m not a pervert like you.”
At fourteen, Shu was definitely vulnerable to insults like “pervert.” He cast his eyes downward to scan the ground and blushed furiously. It was entirely possible, Mai thought, that Shu had a secret crush on her. With the red flower in her hair, she was definitely beautiful, at least, in her own eyes, and possibly those of Phoenix whom she now considered her boyfriend.
“Okay, we all better obey orders while we are on this weird planet. I was just talking about on the practice grounds.” Shu sniffed imperiously for added emphasis. That was okay. Mai accepted the fact that he outranked her.
“It’s just you being a hypocrite like usual,” sniffed Hassan Parker, the boy who had been forbidden from going naked. Shu didn’t even offer a comeback.
Cornucopia was probably the strangest planet Mai had ever visited. A vegetable starship had simply appeared in Gaijin space and announced themselves in need of help. Little Gyro the Nebulon inventor and one of Ged Aero-sensei’s favorite students had discovered that all the intelligent creatures were plants and had a special scent language unlike anything in the known galaxy.
The first alien they had been able to communicate with was a strange, onion-like creature that Gyro’s computer translator named, “Luigi the Onion-Guy.” Why the plant-man had an Italian first name was a complete mystery, but there was a clue in the fact that Gyro’s computer also dubbed the language of the Cornucopians “Stink-Talk.” Nebulons were known for weird senses of humor. And Gyro with his unusual Psionic power had programmed the thing as he rearranged its molecules with his little blue brain.
Shu Kwai helped Mai Ling put on shielding-armor and kinetic shock absorbers.
“Are you sure we can’t take any weapons?” Mai asked.
Luigi the Onion-Guy had pleaded with Ged-sensei not to kill any plants, not even the seemingly evil “Throckpods.”
“Master Aero doesn’t want us to anger or even frighten any of the regular flower-people of this planet.”
“Flower people? They look like walking thistles and weeds to me.”
“Still, Ged Aero-sensei only wants us to locate a Throckpod and convince him to come back with us so our group can study it.”
“So, it’s a spy mission.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s different.”
The jungle was different than any other jungle Mai had ever been in. Instead of trees and vines and shrubs, it was made up of salt pillars, living crystals, weedy plants, and mold. Mai’s ring sleeve indicated that large parts of it were toxic and deadly. The two young ninjas proceeded cautiously.
Each time they encountered a carrot-guy or a potato-guy or a corn-stalk-guy, they were told to take a different trail through the toxic jungle. Fortunately, Mai’s ring sleeve was programmed not only to interpret the plant people’s Stink-Talk, but could make a map of their progress as well. Otherwise, Mai and Shu would be hopelessly lost
Finally, a radish-guy with a puffy red and purple face pointed to a large stand of weeds.
“In that spot you will pinpoint a Throckpod.” The ring sleeve translated the smells and spoke the message aloud in a voice that sounded like Mickey Mouse. Darn that Gyro!
Shu looked at Mai and nodded. They walked over to the stand of weeds.
“One of you is a Throckpod?” asked Shu. The translator device made the word “Throckpod” smell suspiciously skunk-like.
“Who is asking?” said one of the flower-headed weeds. With nearly humanoid eyes. “You appear to be skoog monkeys.”
Skoog monkey was an insult on most planets, at least, when used to describe a humanoid. They were vicious little primates from the planet Misko Skoogalia. Human beings were much more like the little poop-throwers than any human was comfortable admitting.
“We are students of Ged Aero-sensei, the White Spider,” said Shu. “We think you may have heard of him, because other Cornucopians came to our world to seek him out.”
“We have heard of your head monkey, yes. But we do not recognize his authority.”
“All we want is for a Throckpod to come and meet with him. We wish to learn more about your planet. And about your people.”
Everything went silent and smell free. Mai wondered if they knew that the translator device in her ring sleeve would pick up and translate any smells they used to talk about the situation. Maybe, however, they used telepathy or something. Mai wished Sarah the telepath was with her at that moment.
One exceptionally large weed came over to Mai and bent down over her head. Mai realized that it was examining her red flower with little seed-like eyes.
“You have killed a seedling!” said the possible Throckpod. “You must be killed in return.”
Mai’s heart leaped. Shu was obviously surprised too. They had no weapons, but both of them could pick up and throw rocks, pebbles, and crystal shards with only a thought. Mai could propel one like a bullet with her ring sleeve.
The rest of the weeds gathered around them too.
“It’s a flower from my own world,” said Mai, lamely. How could she make these plant people understand that, not only was the flower not intelligent like them, it was an artificial hair decoration and made from silk?
“A flower is a flower,” said the Throckpod, “and a monkey is a monkey.”
“Pick up a score of pebbles and rocks, Mai,” said Shu. “It’s time we gave them the old lawnmower treatment!”
“Lawnmower?” asked the Throckpod.
“A machine for cutting grass,” said Shu. “It cuts plants down close to the roots.”
If a weed could turn pale, then these Throckpods were suddenly gray. They knew about human technology apparently, and were completely unsure of what Mai and Shu were capable of. It was at that very moment that Mai had a bright idea.
“Why do you assume the flower is dead?” asked Mai, looking into the human-like eyes of the weed standing over her.
“Because it doesn’t move.”
Mai smiled. She used her telekinetic ability to make the petals of the silk flower move. In fact, she made the delicate little thing do a spinning dance just above her brow. “This flower is alive and it is my good friend and companion.”
“Have it say so,” the Throckpod replied menacingly.
“It is a tiny flower,” said Mai, thinking quickly, “and tiny flowers on my planet have not learned to speak. Can you not see that it is alive?”
“Accept her word, brother,” said one of the other weeds. “We don’t want to risk this lawnmowing thing.”
The plant-man relented. “Very well. I will go with you to see this master monkey of yours. You will remember that Throckpods are the natural rulers of this planet, and we are to be treated as king-things.”
“King-things?” asked Mai.
“Royalty,” suggested Shu.
“Oh,” said Mai. It was Gyro’s crazy translator program again.
So, finally, Mai’s Cornucopea spy mission was ending as she trudged back to the White Spider Mutant Ninja Space Baby camp. She had found and mastered a walking weed known as a Throckpod, and she left with the melancholy realization that it would be nice to have a talking flower to put in her hair, but that wish could never come true.