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Aeroquest… Adagio 9

Adagio 9 – The Planet Dancer

    I can give you rather accurate and unique insights into the planet called Dancer.  I was a resident there for nearly twenty years, working first for the Pirate King, Cat Five, then for the maniacal Mechanoid, Khoolbas DiQuiri, and finally for his usurper, the Pirate King Razor Conn.

     When the great explorer Martin Faulkner first surveyed the Beta-Regulan Star System, the system where Dancer was the only livable planet, he wrote it off as a place useful solely for refuel and resupply stops. The planet had a breathable atmosphere, but no land masses at all.  Everything was salt water.  It rarely ever rained there or had clouds in the sky.  It was a lonely little water-ball. 

     It was part of the genius of Cat Five that he chose Dancer as the planet for his throne world.  No other pirate king ever chose an Imperial Rimworld without any land surfaces as his home base.  It proved to be a wonderful spot for ambushes as the system increasingly became a necessary stop for the Rimworld Merchant Fleet, Orchides’ Delivery, and GTS(Grand Transport Systems).  Cat Five got obscenely wealthy off a mere five percent of the space trade.  He designed the underwater city of Castle Orpheum and supervised its construction himself.  Soon the master smuggler known as the Thin White Duke, Sir Carleton Keyser, moved in and made the world a key link in the “package industry”, what you and I, being less criminal in nature, would call smuggling.

     As with any profitable venture, there would be those who would lust for control of it.  The obese Mechanoid known as Khoolbas DiQuiri was Cat Five’s second in command. That motorized fat-thing was my boss during the worst years of my life.  He was crafty, conniving, and he smelled terrible. He had been a blobby man in life, but as a Mechanoid, he was a transistorized stack of cyborg Jell-O.  When Cat Five met an untimely end at the hands of the Monopoly Brigade, Khoolbas took over as regent.  Cat Five’s son, Cat Six was only seven years old at the time.  Khoolbas secretly connected himself into the city’s power and environmental systems, as well as the main computer.  He secretly administered youth drugs to Cat Six, effectively trapping him in childhood forever.  He even tried to take over the package industry from the White Duke. The fat one built an indestructible power base for himself.

     I was serving as a computer technician and research physicist to Duke Keyser, the White Duke, when Razor Conn first showed up.  He was a swaggering swashbuckler with a cowboy hat and a knack for winning the fights he picked.  He was the one who revealed all of the plots Khoolbas was running on Dancer. With the Blackstone brothers as his allies, he made the people, especially the pirates, see that Khoolbas was cheating and using them.  He found enough gifted malcontents among the spacers to form his own strike team which he named the Blackhawk Corsairs after his favorite interstellar hockey team. The Blackhawks overran Castle Orpheum and took Khoolbas prisoner all in one swift battle action.  He ended up ruling the place, though he showed mercy to Khoolbas DiQuiri and a great deal of administrative wisdom in setting up his democratic government of the world.

     The Thirties Gangster Culture that predominates the world of Dancer is mostly a matter of tough-guy posturing and the obsessive-compulsive design tastes of some of the powerful residents, but, corny as it all is, it works.  It is a stimulating and imaginative place to live.  A water-world pirate kingdom where space pirates could happily live with the fishes.

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Aeroquest… Canto 41

Canto 42 – Agent Ace Campfield

     Arkin Cloudstalker had stepped out for a bit of a look around.  Castle Orpheum was too dark and mysterious for his taste.  He preferred a cockpit in space, or even the open air to this dim and dreary underwater place.  He missed his family, wife and kids who lived parsecs away on a moon of the wealthy residential planet called Bird World.  Being a corsair had driven him further and further away from his original vision of being a Galactic Hero.  He wanted to make the universe a better place to live, but more and more it seemed that all he could manage was to become a better killer and criminal.  The lamp-lit streets of Castle Orpheum were deserted at this time of the artificial day-night cycle.  Most intelligent residents were in bed asleep.

     Someone was walking towards him on this particular street. This someone had an orange Kevlar jumpsuit and a very big gun.  This someone clanked as he walked, metal striking the pavement to the beat of a slightly off-kilter step.  Arkin slowed to a stop.

     “Don’t stop on account of me, Cloudstalker,” said the figure. He pulled up short under a streetlamp so that Arkin could finally see his face.  It was an undead Mechanoidface, skull-like and one-quarter metal. The enlarged right eye was a glowing red computerized visual sensor.  “I came to see you face-to-face about a little matter of a bounty.  I am an ace bounty-hunter, Argo “Ace” Campfield.”

     “I didn’t call for any bounty hunter,” said Arkin, measuring the distance between them at about forty paces, easily within the range of the big gun the Mechanoid carried.

     “No, Count Nefaria hired me with money he got from a Galtorrian Knight he called Sir Saurol.  With Nefaria dead, I’ll probably get even more money for your severed head.”

     Arkin leaped for a nearby alley opening, rolling and coming up with his emergency blaster pistol, a one-shot plasma gun that he kept in his vest for occasions like this one.  Campfield’s deadly green beam burned leather, hair, and the top layer of skin off of Arkin’s left shoulder.

     “Gazzool!” groaned Arkin, using the only Bird World cuss word he still remembered, mild though it was.  He aimed unsteadily and fired his blaster.  The air sizzled with a beam of pure star fire and Campfield’s robotic right leg melted into two pieces.

     “Hah!  I laugh at losses like that!” growled Ace Campfield.  He hopped on one metal leg in Arkin’s direction.  “You may have slowed me down, but my sensors tell me you have no more shots left to take.”

     Arkin knew the undead death-machine was basically right.  He was slightly wounded and weaponless against an enemy who was tireless and had nothing left to fear from him.  He was as good as dead unless he did some very quick thinking.  The alley he had dodged into ended in a ladder that went all the way up into the subsea dome’s catwalks.  From there he could make his way to the submarine pens if only he could get out of range up that ladder before Campfield hopped into position for a good shot.  That would be a darn good trick, since the robotically enhanced senses of a Mechanoid were bound to make Campfield’s marksmanship superb.

     As swiftly as Cloudstalker could run, he bounded towards the ladder.  It was only a matter of moments before Campfield would lock on him as a target and burn a hole through his chest or back with that energy beam.   His heart pounded as he looked up the ladder into the distant grill-work of the catwalks above.  His heart almost stopped for a moment as he saw another face peering down at him over the edge of a catwalk platform.  Did Campfield have a partner?  Was he trapped as well as doomed?  The face was almost as unusual as Campfield’s skeletoid visage.  This new face had crossed eyes and a white fright-wig of frizzy hair crammed up underneath a black top hat.  The silly pink tongue, longer than the normal humanoid tongue, lolled out of the slack mouth.  Before Arkin could yell, the strange face dropped a coil of rope down on top of his head and motioned for Arkin to grab hold with one hand while he waved a skinny rubber chicken with the other hand.

     Having little other choice, Cloudstalker firmly took hold of the rope.  Instantly he was dragged upward by some high-speed winder that thumped him several times against the ladder, but pulled him up to the platform in a matter of seconds.  Campfield spotted him, but even robotic reflexes didn’t allow him to get a shot off before Arkin was safe.

     Face to face with his weird rescuer Arkin tried to thank the man.  “You saved me from certain death just now,” he said, gasping for air. “May I know your name?”

     The man, his tongue still flopping out of his mouth, shook his head yes and handed the rubber chicken to Arkin. 

     “What does this mean?” Arkin asked.

     The man pantomimed turning something over.

     “What?”

     Looking stupidly impatient, the smiling fool took the rubber chicken back and now slapped it forcefully down in Arkin’s hand.

     “I don’t have time for this.  What are you trying to tell me?”

     The man pantomimed turning something over again, then slapped the feet of the naked rubber bird.  Finally realizing something of the nature of the message, Arkin turned the rubber chicken over in his hand.  There was a name written there in purple crayon.  It said, “White Dook”.

     “The White Duke sent you?”  Arkin was incredulous, yet at the same time amused.  The fool grinned and handed him a second rubber chicken.  He turned it over to see the word “YES” in purple crayon.

     Below them, Campfield was at the base of the ladder.  His robotic muscles pulled the one-legged bounty hunter up hand-over-hand at a frightening speed.

     “We’d better get going!” said Cloudstalker.

     He received a third rubber chicken.  When he turned it over, it said, “You said it, sister dear!”

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Aeroquest… Canto 41

Canto 41 – The Pyramid of Evil

     Dr. Hooey proved to be as wild and eccentric a character as Trav Dalgoda.  He wore outlandish clothing and said remarkably stupid things without a moment’s hesitation.  He was not pretty to look at with a big nose and uncombed hair.  He was consistently frazzled and at his wit’s end.  Still, he was probably the highest-level problem-solver that Tron had ever met.

     Outside the pyramid that no one had been able to detect two miles outside the borders of Oasis City, Hooey was hunkered down next to Tron and Hassan as the wind blew fierce, stinging sand all around the base of the pyramid.

Dr. Hooey

     “I don’t know how you found this thing, Hooey!” said Tron, having to yell over the roar of the storm.  “It seems like this sandstorm never ends.  It’s been here since my people arrived within scanner range of the planet.”

     “I think it’s more or less permanent.  All I had to do to find it is scan for a focus of artificial radiant energy large enough to create a concealed feature of the planet, like this one.”

     The King of Killers came back to his leader, running with his head bent down into the wind.  He had a breath mask on to keep the sand out of his lungs, and brought three more for Tron, Hooey, and Hassan.

     “The doorway seems to be over there,” he yelled, pointing with the breath mask on his chin while he handed out the remaining masks to the others.

     “Okay, King.  Lead the way!” ordered Tron.

     Tron had his laser pistols attached to the powerpack on his back.  The King had an ACR hanging from the leather strap over his back, while Hassan had a net-pistol that had a one-shot net trap loaded.  Hooey carried a thing that looked like a small plastic water gun that he called his really big gun.

     The four men ran to the pyramid door, hands up to protect their faces from the cruel white sand.  King brought them to a dark alcove in the base of the pyramid. 

     “This is where we go in!” hollered King.  “I don’t know what’s in there.  My sensors read nothing at all, not even the stone that it should be reading!”

     Worried, the group inched forward into the darkness.  Tron took over the lead and allowed King to drop back and cover the rear.  Hooey hovered over Tron’s right shoulder, while Hassan limped along on his new leg to Tron’s left, trying to get used to the unfamiliar device.

     “I do hope there are no mummies in here.  I hate battling the living dead!” said Hooey firmly.

     “How could a man of science be stupid enough to think that mummies could ever come to life?” asked Tron, rolling his eyes, the artificial one looking more disgusted than the natural one.

     “Pretty easily!” remarked Hooey.  “Look there!”

     In the long Gallery ahead, hard to see in the dim light, four shapes lurched toward them.  They were skull-faced and bandaged.  Mummies come to life!

     “No.  I’m not sitting still for this crud!” growled King.  “I have a wife to get back to.”  The infamous King of Killers rushed to the front and tried to prove that he deserved his ruthless nickname.  He went fully automatic with his ACR and sprayed bullets all over the approaching undead creatures.  Bone splintered and wiring sparked.  Two of the creatures fell completely to pieces.  A third one lost its head, but still kept stumbling forward.

     “There’s something fishy about these mummies,” grumbled Tron.  “They walk too much like movie monsters to be real.  And what’s with all the electrical sparking?”

     The two wounded mummies kept coming towards King even though men who were punctured that much by armor-piercing shells should have died and fallen still.  King tried feverishly to load another clip of ammo, but before he could, a mummy grabbed his shoulder.  Electricity shot out of the bandaged hand and King went unconscious, his hair smoking profusely.

     “Hooey!” shouted Tron, about to demand that the Time Knight do something. 

     Dr. Hooey stood and pointed his little plastic water pistol.  He sprayed the two remaining mummies and completely shorted out their control circuits.  They fell in smoking piles of bones.

     Tron rushed forward to help his fallen man.  King Killer would live, but he’d had a nasty shock.

     “What were those things, Hooey?  Tell me straight, or I might have to shoot you.”

     Hassan picked up a severed hand wrapped in rotted bandages and took a close look.  “Rot warriors,” said the Space Elf.  “They are Mechanoids made from completely dead men.”  He handed the boney hand to Tron.

     The bones were inlaid with glittering microcircuitry that you could only really see up close.  A nearby skull yielded up a wrecked computer processor.  The main control pod was found in the chest cavity.

     “The perfect soldiers,” said Tron.  “They’re too dumb to question orders.”

     “Yes,” said Hooey, “and designed to put a real scare into any locals who might come in here.”

     “What do you suppose they are protecting?” asked Hassan. 

     “Oh, I already know,” said Hooey.  “They are protecting a Galtorrian agent of Count Nefaria called the Lizard Lady.  She’s here in this complex somewhere.”

     “You already know what’s supposed to happen here, don’t you?” said Tron.  “That’s how you knew to bring the water pistol.”

     “Well… In a sense, that’s true.”

     “All right, King is already hurt.  Spill it, Doctor.  What will happen next?”

     “Patience, Tron, my boy, only time can really tell.”

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Aeroquest… Scherzo 4

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Scherzo 4 – Rolling a Twenty

“So, Trav Dalgoda does it again.  Your total roll of the dice with your skill of plus eight added to it is an impossible success of twenty.  You fly the burning spaceship into a curly-patterned rendezvous with the Leaping Shadowcat.”

“That’s a load of bull-puckie, Mr. M!” said Arturo.  “He always rolls a perfect twelve on two six-sided dice!”

“You agreed that he could use his jack-of-all-trades skill to do this.”

“But it’s a plus eight!  That is just too unfair for a skill you can use to do almost anything.”

“You let me spend all my adventure points on that one skill,” Eddie said.

“He’s right you know.  And besides, if he were to fail that role, then the two ships could crash, killing your two characters as well as his.”

“And mine too!” said Amanda.  “Trav rescued Madonna from the slaver pirates of Mingo remember.”

“Yes,” said the game master, “and her little blue son too.”

“Aw, that little bugger is just an NPC that you put into the story.  I really don’t care if he dies.”

“Eeuw, cold-hearted woman!” said Eddie.

At that moment, Dr.Hooey opened the front door of the young teacher’s apartment.

“Oh, hello.  My time machine must’ve had another brain fart and brought me to the wrong time and relative dimension.”

“Wait a minute,” said Eddie, “Who the hell are you?”

“Yes, exactly, but maybe hell is a bit too strong.  My name is Dr. Hooey.  I am looking for a place to leave a baby from the distant future.”
“A baby?” Amanda gasped.

“Oh, yes.  And who are you, young lady?”
“I’m Amanda Lilliput and this is my boyfriend Arturo Castrovalva.”

“Would you like to raise a baby from the future?”

“Um… no, thank you.”

“May I ask what you people are actually doing?”

“It’s a science fiction role-playing game.  These former students of mine are all playing space-faring characters in a space adventure set in the distant future,” said the goofy-looking teacher.

“Oh, my.  That is somewhat worrisome.  Are you sure you don’t want a space baby from the future?”

“Oh, I do!” said Eddie.

“No, he really doesn’t,” said the teacher.  “Thank you anyway.”

So Dr. Hooey left and closed the door behind him.

“That was weird,” said Arturo.

“Mr. M, I need to make a new character for the game,” said Eddie.  “He will be a time traveler, and I will call him Dr. Hooey.”

 

 

 

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Aeroquest…Canto 40

 

Aeroquest banner aCanto 40 – The Thin White Duke

      Castle Orpheum was a completely enclosed and very unusual under-water city.  The Dancer Downport was on a floating platform anchored nearly a mile above the city dome.  The vast underwater dome could only be reached by commuter submarine.  It was isolated and difficult to reach, yet a critical link in the chain of interstellar commerce, as well as the shadier parts of the “package industry”.

To reach it, one normally had to surrender all personal security to the good will of the Blackhawk Corsairs.  They were as much pirates as they were protection, though.  Aero and Cloudstalker both didn’t want to risk trusting them.  So, Ham Aero had flown the Leaping Shadowcat straight into the world-wide sea on the planet Dancer.  When they located the entry base on the top of the city dome, Arkin Cloudstalker communicated his intentions directly to the Thin White Duke.  Miraculously, Castle Orpheum opened to them and allowed them in without ever consulting the Blackhawks who ruled there.  The ship was parked in the main vehicle bay where it had ample room.  The crew locked it up and headed down a lift shaft into the city itself.

“We are going to have to be careful here,” said Arkin to the crew.  “Razor Conn is a good man, but his organization is full of less than trustworthy types.”

“Didn’t this planet once belong to a Mechanoid?” asked Ham.

“Khoolbas DiQuiri, yes.  He was half computer, half lard.  The fattest Mechanoid ever re-animated.  Razor Conn took over this planet and this city from him.”

“Is he dead then?” asked Duke Ferrari.

“No, Han,” said Arkin.  “Half of this planet’s artificial systems run through his computerized brain.  If Razor had killed him, this planet would lose atmosphere and become a giant ice ball again.  He’s a prisoner, but he’s still alive somewhere here in Castle Orpheum.”

As the access port to the lift shooped open, the crew stood looking at a Chinese man in a black suit with a gangster hat and black cape.

“Greetings, gentlemen.  I am Shad Blackstone, Razor Conn’s number two man.  I’ve come to take you to the White Duke.”

Nothing more was said.  In a single file line, the group followed the mysterious caped Chinaman into the city streets.  Castle Orpheum was a detailed reconstruction of 1930’s Chicago back on the planet Earth.  Everyone dressed like Al Capone and the only vehicles allowed in the city were 1930’s-style roadsters with photon-battery engines.  Many openly carried ACR’s (advanced combat rifles) shaped like Tommy guns.  Molls and urchins roamed the streets trying to con the toughs into cutting them in on the action.  It was like an alien culture to the crew of the Shadowcat.

“What’s with this place?” asked Duke Ferrari.

“It has style,” said Blackstone mysteriously.

Most of the buildings they passed were styled as theaters, speak-easies, and pool halls.  Most, however served functions different than they appeared to, and almost all had private dwellings in the upper stories.  The dome’s sun-source and artificial lights were set on a kind of permanent twilight, making the whole place eerily like the set of a film-noire movie.

Shad Blackstone led them into a building marked as Keyser’s Old-Style Brewery.  The six guards they saw wore Blackhawk combat armor and carried plasma guns.

“No one breaks in here, do they,” said Ham.

“Are we gonna get shot at?” asked the Lupin boy, Sahleck Kim.

“No,” said Blackstone, “at least, not by us.”

The party entered a small computer room to be scanned.

“This is Fortunato Tomb,” said Blackstone, introducing the Kritiian with the four scanners.  Tomb was an insect-man from the planet Kriti 5.  He had a brown carapace and four hands.  He walked upright on his hind two legs.  In the face he looked like a huge praying mantis with multi-faceted eyes and big, sharp mandibles.

“Hold still and this will go quickly,” said Tomb with a creepy voice coming through a universal translator device he wore on his abdomen.

“Where’s your hat, bug man?” asked Trav.  “Everybody else in this place has a gangster hat.  Or maybe I should call it a Ged Aero hat?”

“I ate mine, monkey man,” said Tomb, “but I’m still hungry.  Maybe you’ll be so kind as to hand me yours?”

Tomb ran the scanners over everyone, though no one would say what he was looking for.  Trav held his gob hat in his hands the entire time.

“Gentlemen,” said Blackstone, “it is time to head into the inner sanctum of the Thin White Duke.”

A bookcase rolled away from the wall to reveal a secret staircase.  Shad Blackstone led the way up the stairs, which re-sealed after they all had passed.  The inner sanctum was styled after a public library with numerous book racks and tables that left ample room for study.  There were computers and holo-displays built into the surface of every table.  A few leather-bound paper books were open and spread about on the tables.

The Thin White Duke himself was obviously well nick-named.  He had white hair, a white suit like Mark Twain, and was rail thin in an almost emaciated way.  He also wore a white half-cape over his left shoulder.

“So, I am honored by your visit, Hannover Ferrari,” said the White Duke.

“We had no choice,” said Duke Ferrari plainly.  “You are the Sector Duke, and we can’t operate in your sector without your permission.”

“Nothing illegal, I suppose?”  The White Duke arched an eyebrow.

“Well,” said Cloudstalker, “we plan to rebel against the Galtorr Imperium.”

“I know your plan.  I dispatched agents to this planet Don’t Go Here and I have information for you about Ged Aero’s journey to a planet called Gaijin.  I would like to know what you are planning to do about the ancient relic that your Goofy Dalgoda plans to steal.”

The group was astounded by the revelation of the depth of the White Duke’s intelligence sources.  Ham Aero turned red in the face on Goofy’s behalf, but Trav himself showed no change of expression at all.

“Uh…” Arkin Cloudstalker tried to say, “we never actually… um… approved Dalgoda’s plan.”

“Don’t panic, my friends.  Razor, Shad, and I have talked it over carefully.  We want you to take the thing.  It is dangerous beyond belief and we don’t trust anyone to handle it more than Ged Aero.”

“What is this thing?” asked Ham, alarmed.

“We’ll examine it tomorrow.  For now, let’s just say that we are planning to give it to you.  In return for taking it off our hands, I will help you with your rebellion.  The planets Dancer, Regal One, and Inchon will join your alliance.  We no longer claim White Palm.  That was Nefaria’s planet, and the Count disappointed me greatly in his recent dealings.  He and his Expedition One archeologists have another ancient device buried somewhere that, if I knew where it was, I would give to you.  My agents are supposed to try to make things happen in the Imperium, especially since the Emperor went insane, but Nefaria started dealing in the darkness with things I can’t control.  I won’t have it.  My agents all answer to me.  My allies merely have to swear that they are on my side.”

“You aspire to be Emperor yourself, Duke Keyser?” asked Duke Ferrari.

“No, Han.  I expect I will be supporting YOU for the next Emperor of the Galtorr Imperium.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aeroquest… Adagio 8

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Adagio 8 – Mechanoids

At this point, it is important that you know the difference between a Metalloid and a Mechanoid.  They are not the same.  The two terms are not interchangeable.  The differences are critical to making your way through the modern galaxy. You should probably also know what a simuloid is, but I don’t want to overtax your little brains just now.  After all, there’s a better than eighty percent chance that, as you are reading this, you probably don’t have an electronically enhanced mind.

Sorcerer

A Metalloid is what Sorcerer 4 was.  It is an entirely artificial life form.  Syn Corporation is the most dominant manufacturer of Metalloids, but artificial intelligence and artificial emotions have made them independent of their original makers.  Many Metalloids were made not for sale by a factory, but by a parent robot who simply wanted to reproduce.  Often, Metalloid parents use pieces from their own bodies to manufacture offspring, replacing the part taken from them later on.  They almost always gift their robo-child with a piece of their own intelligence.  Hence Metalloids can be very much like humans in their make-up and mental profiles.

I apologize for my prejudice here.  Unless I forget to tell the story of the Great Robot Pie Fight, you will see why I hate robots.  They are nasty!  They are inscrutable.  I would rather not spend time with them.  Well, with the exception of the occasional Metalloid entertainment girl-robot.  I admit to kinda liking those.

Mechanoids are an entirely different story.  To be a Mechanoid, you must have first been a living being.  Dead bodies are brought back to life through a marriage of flesh and circuitry.  Minds are reloaded from computers and usually are kept as emotion-free as it is possible to do for a living mind.  Dead and decayed flesh is restored as far as it is possible to do with the primary level of technology common in the galaxy.  The Mechanoid is a true machine-man, more so than any titanium Metalloid.  Well, machine-man, machine-woman, machine-child, or machine-horse as the case may be.

Mechanoid2

Now, I know it has been said by many observers that Mechanoid beings actually remember portions of their previous lives as a living being.  I mean to show proper respect to those who claim this, but that is a load of hoo-haw.  It is not physically possible for that to be true.  I have studied the physics of the question and know this with certainty.  The re-animated one cannot retain the electro-chemical memories of their previous life.  Death effectively removes the data from whatever is left of the brain, even if we are talking about someone intentionally turned Mechanoid while they were still enjoying a healthy life and then carefully preserved.  I would maintain that any story to the contrary is impossible, and induced by the various psychoses that Mechanoids are susceptible to.

Mechanoids are often violent and mentally unhinged.  They are more akin to ancient concepts of the un-dead than they are to the people or creatures they once were.  They live, yet their life and life-quality do not fit into the normal range of what we call life.  I imagine most, if not all Mechanoids wish for an end to their unnatural life, and like the Rot-Warriors, I examined on the planet Mingo, they actively sabotage their own chances for survival.

There are a few exceptions to every scientific rule, but my mind is closed on this issue.  If Ged Aero or Arkin Cloudstalker could neither one convince me, then I will never be convinced.  After all, they had experiences with Mechanoids that, on the surface, appeared to disprove my thesis.

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Aeroquest… Canto 39

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Canto 39 – the Wisdom of Solomon

The Palace of One Thousand Years was empty save for five people.  Ged Aero was about to teach his first official class.  With him were three students, Junior Aero, Sara Smith, and the quiet Gaijinese boy of ten known as Shu Kwai.  Junior and Sara wore only silken loin cloths.  Shu Kwai, in the Gaijinese tradition, would wear no clothing he had not earned.  His light orange skin was bare to the single sun, the Old Man.  The three students were kneeling on the practice grounds.  On a bench three hundred feet away sat Dr. Naylund Smith, watching intently.

“I may disappoint you three,” said Ged softly.  He pulled the brim of his fedora down to completely shield his eyes from the bright sun.  His ceremonial robes flapped slightly in the breeze.  It was the unconscious pose of the hunter… or perhaps the wary predator.  “I have thought a lot about what to teach you this day, but I haven’t a clue.”

Shu Kwai had not spoken a word since his parents had brought him to the palace.  Now he raised his brown eyes to Ged and looked at the master without changing his solemn expression.  “Aero-sensei, you are the White Spider.  Anything you say is destiny and probably the Word of God.”

Ged laughed softly.  “No pressure here, huh?”

Junior and Sara looked at each other and grinned.  Shu Kwai focused like a laser on Ged’s every word.  The grim boy did not smile or move a single face muscle.

“Well, here goes…  My mother back on Questor used to read from the Christian Bible to Ham and me.  We took many important lessons from it.  I know you three probably have not studied it, or even heard of it, but it was the greatest book ever written on the planet Earth.”

Sarah nodded.  The two boys showed no signs of recognition.  Ged knew he would have to have a sharp memory to carry this off.

“The secret, I think lies in wisdom and discipline.  These are two of the qualities that a wise king named Solomon used as major themes in his book of Proverbs.  In Chapter 3 he said about discipline “the discipline of Jehovah, O my son, do not reject and do not abhor his reproof, because the one whom Jehovah loves he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.”

“I find pleasure in having the three of you as my students.  I will provide not only facts for you to learn, but discipline as well.  If I correct you, it is because I know a better way and it shows evidence only of my love and respect for you.”

“Who is Jehovah?” asked Junior.

“According to the Bible my mother read, that was the name of the one God, the creator of the universe.”

“What if we believe in the Tao?” asked Shu Kwai.

“I will try to teach you better, but I will not argue with what you believe.  All I am saying, students, is that if I must offer discipline, it will be only loving reproof.”

“What will you say about wisdom?” asked Sara.

“Solomon said about wisdom… “Happy is the man who has found wisdom and the man that gets discernment, for having it is better than having silver as gain and having it as produce is better than gold itself.  It is more precious than corals and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it.”

“What wisdom will you teach us, Sensei?” asked Sara.

“I don’t know everything yet.  I am supposed to teach you about what I already know, and what I am learning about being a Psion.  You three all have the powers of a Psion?”

“Junior and I are both telepaths,” said Sara, “but he can talk to machines and computers, while I’m a healer.”

“I’m a telekinetic and a telepath,” said Shu Kwai.  “I nearly burned the house down in the night when I was dreaming.  I threw a candle across the room and made logs fly out of the burning fireplace.”

“How interesting!” said Ged with a fixed smile.  “You are all mind-readers, and I am not.  I am a morph.  I’m a shape-changer.”

“The best that ever lived, I heard,” said Shu Kwai.  “My father said no shape-changer ever changed size before as you did in the arena against the Black Spider.”

“My father says you came to save us,” said Sara.  “He said you have the discipline and the morality it takes to help us avoid becoming a monster from our Psion powers.”

“I will do what I can, but as I said, I really have no idea how to teach you.”

Naylund Smith came walking over to them clapping his hands.  “That is one of the finest lessons I have ever heard, honored Ged-dono.  Wisdom and discipline!  This whole planet needs that.  If they all had it, perhaps the plague of bandits and black spiders would end.”

“I hope I don’t let you all down.”

“You cannot,” assured Dr. Smith.  “The boy is right.  You are destiny.”

class1b

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