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AeroQuest 2… Canto36

Canto 36 – The Palace of a 1,000 Years

    The city of Kiro, Gaijin was a heavily populated place.  The city was full of high-rise pagoda towers and Kyoto-style castles.  Dominating the skyline was the huge obsidian sculpture of a Black Cat atop the Temple of the Four Pillars of the Secret Way.  Naylund Smith explained it all to Ged Aero as they made their way through the ornate city.

Ged and Dr. Smith were accompanied by the two children and Xavier Tkriashav.  Tkriashav’s young nephew, Friashqaztl, trailed behind the group, timid and shy.  All the newcomers were overwhelmed by what they saw.

“This place is more beautiful than anything I ever saw in my visions,” said Tkriashav.

“Do I understand correctly that you are the Master Telepath and Psion?” asked Naylund Smith.

“Yes.  I am a powerful telepath, teleport, and clairvoyant.  I am not the most powerful of my people, however.”

“Perhaps,” said Dr. Smith, “but you figure prominently in the Prophecy of Shan.”

“If that is a book, I’d like to see it,” said Tkriashav.

“In time.  It is a holy book to these people.”

All around the small group, silk-robed people had been gathering to watch as if the six people from the space ship were a circus parade.  Many shouted “White Spider!” as if prayers had been at long last answered.

“Can you tell me why I am supposed to be this White Spider?” asked Ged as he took long strides to hurry past lemon-yellow-skinned admirers.

“It is destiny.”  Naylund smiled and nodded his head indulgently.  “The web of outer space has brought you to us to pick up the threads woven by the last White Spider.  The last spider wove this world and its society.  You have come to link it to other webs and expand this world’s reach back into the stars.”

“You talk a lot of poetic nonsense.”  Ged looked away at the sky.

“Poetic nonsense is also sometimes Truth,” said Dr. Smith.  “I will help you to learn that in time.”

Finally, they came to a beautiful castle made of white stone and Gaijinese Teak wood, inlaid with bright blue sapphires.  It appeared to have been their destination all along.

“This,” said Dr. Smith, “is the Palace of a Thousand Years.  It is your new home.”

“We will live here?” asked Junior.

Dr. Smith looked at the blue boy.  “It is the palace belonging to Shen Ming.  It is the traditional home of the White Spider.  It is the place where the last White Spider, Shan Sasaki once lived and worked.”

“Do you expect me to give up space travel?” asked Ged.  “It’s the only life I’ve ever really known.”

“It will be part of the life you will lead as the White Spider.  It is the work you are expected to do for us.”

“Hmm.”  Ged stared up at the curved roofs of the Palace of One Thousand Years.

Naylund Smith led the way into the palace through a large wooden gate.  Inside they came into a courtyard that bustled with activity as if it were a small town all by itself.  The courtyard had an ornate Torii arch that marked the center of the great building.  There were practice yards there where groups of children under the care of a schoolmaster were learning martial arts, probably karate.  There was a large oriental garden for quiet contemplation inside the palace, as well as the entrance into a riding stable filled with two-legged llama-like mammals called kians.

Naylund pointed out the two master towers where the instructors lived.  There was a massive central building which Naylund called the Akito House.  It contained the vast White Spider library, a place that had almost as many bound volumes of books as books on computer memory crystals.  Finally, he pointed out Shen Ming’s Hall, which, he informed them, was the White Spider’s official residence.

They entered Shen Ming’s Hall through a double door that proved to lead to a huge indoor bathing pool.  Naked yellow men, women, and numerous children were all bathing there.  Junior Aero would’ve blushed if his skin hadn’t been blue.  Ged’s skin turned crimson.

Up a marble stair, they came into the Administrator’s Hall, and a large, stately office.  Behind the desk was Shen Ming himself, looking spry for a man of nine hundred years.  He was bald as a cue ball except for a single top knot at the apex of his head, and he looked like a wrinkled Alfred E. Newman.

“Honored Shen-sensei,” began Dr. Smith.  “I bring before you Ged Aero.  He is…”

“I know, Naylund-sama, I know.  He is the new White Spider.  I would know him anywhere!  He is just as Shan-dono described him in the Prophecy.”

The silk-clad ancient moved swiftly out from behind the desk and took Ged’s hand.  He placed it on his own hairless head.  His ridiculous lop-sided smile made new wrinkles blossom across his wizened face.

“I pledge to you all that I have, White Spider,” Shen Ming said in tones of awe.  “I will serve you all of my remaining days.” Ged couldn’t begin to speak.  The place and the situation filled him up.  Tears welled up in his eyes

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Time for Space Fantasy

There is a need for fantasy in those critical times when reality is stressing us to the limit. And fantasy can turn our imaginations upward and outward instead of inward when we are in need of new Star Trek and Flash Gordon solutions to Koch-Brothers and Trumpy problems. Think of how the world turned to space fantasy during the depression and World War II. We got Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers and Daffy Duck making fun of Buck Rogers. And the civil-rights battles of the 60’s brought us Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura having an interracial kiss on TV, forced by villains though it was.

Yes, space-explorer stories and Star Wars movies help us face the challenges of living on a dying planet that the fossil-fuel industry is gleefully killing with the help of a baby-man king-president right out of a Judge Dread movie.

Young Buster Crabbe

I am not suggesting that some alien being is going to make contact with us and miraculously help us save our planet. They already tried that, and we didn’t listen. I am suggesting that the planet-saving ideas are going to come from today’s crop of Science-Fiction dreamers and people who grew up on ideas from outside the box… in fact, outside the very atmosphere of this planet. The space-fantasy solutions of the near future may well be the only hope we have left.

Time is running out. We need to find the Flash-Gordon-like hero who will step up to the planet Mongo’s evil and save the Universe and get the girl. Except, one that fits into the 21st Century instead of the 1930’s.

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AeroQuest 2… Canto 35

Canto 35 – Gaijin Itself

      In Japanese the name Gaijin means “foreigner” or “gringo”.  It denotes a barbarian who is too close to nature to truly ever understand the ways of the celestial culture of the dragons.  It was an appropriate name for the planet.  All who came there, even the dolphins and whales, were foreigners and off-worlders.  The true culture was a secret deeply embedded in the planet itself.

Dr. Naylund Smith was an immortal.  He had lived on 17th Century Earth and been among the first explorers to leave the planet in a space craft stolen from the invading Tellerons.  He had met the original Sylvani, and loved them as a people.  He used his vast knowledge and medical skill to help them evolve into the people they were now.  He and his young daughter, Sara, were standing outside the Celestial City of Kiro as the spacecraft Megadeath touched down on the plains outside the Dragon Wall.  They watched the sleek war machine settle gracefully to the soil where no starship had been for nearly 800 years.  It was with a mixture of emotions that Naylund watched it.  He knew that the ship carried what his daughter needed most.  He also knew that it would bring an end to the peace and unspoiled beauty of the world of Gaijin.

“Daddy, are they bad men?” asked eight-year-old Sara.  Her blond hair fell golden and beautiful over one eye.  Her little-girl body was nearly lost in the graceful white silk kimono she wore.

“No, Sweet One.  They are good.”

“Why are you so sad, then?”

“Because they bring the White Spider back to us.  Things will change here.  The Gaijin I love will be no more.”

“The White Spider from the stories?  That should be exciting, shouldn’t it?”

“Perhaps.”

The little girl put her soft hand into the gnarled old turkey claw that was Naylund’s hand.  He was comforted by the gesture.

The starship touched down in sight of the Dragon Gate.  The town was surrounded by an ornately carved wall that was shaped like a dragon’s body.  The only entrance was through the Dragon Gate, the open mouth of an ornately carved Celestial Dragon.  The city was secured behind the energy barrier created by the Sylvani Technology in the wall itself.  Naylund would have to escort whoever was inside the space ship through the Dragon Gate, because he did not wish them to run afoul of either the Gate Guards or the ancient energies of the wall itself.  Only those with proper chi, like himself, could pass through unchallenged.

He walked out to meet them.

The first down the starship’s exit ramp was obviously an Earther by heritage.  His skin was pink like Naylund and Sarah’s skin, not yellow or orange like the Gaijinese.  The boy that followed the man in the fedora hat, though, was a Nebulon, blue-skinned and yellow-haired.  The boy looked Naylund directly in the eye, and revealed himself as a telepath by doing so.  Naylund was not a Psion himself, but had come to know them because Sarah was a telepath, born of a Psion mother who died mysteriously during the birth.

“So,” said Naylund, extending a hand in a gesture of welcome, “welcome to the planet, Gaijin, Honored White Spider.”

“Why do you call me that?” asked the sharp-eyed man in the fedora hat.  “I am Ged Aero.  I am here because a Psion told me to come.  I don’t know you.  Why do you call me by that name that I’ve been hearing so much lately?”

“I hate to be the one to break it to you, Ged Aero, but by stepping out of that starship, you have fulfilled an 800-year-old prophecy.  The people here will hail you as a god reborn.  You are like Jesus Christ to them.  You are here to teach them, and lead them out of their millennium of isolation.”

“Perhaps you are mistaken.  What if I am not the White Spider you seek?”

Naylund laughed.  “Shan’s Prophecy tells how you would speak those very words when you arrived here.  The people would not follow a White Spider that never doubted himself and acted without reserve.  Those are the qualities of a Black Spider.  We have too many of them all ready.”

Ged looked the old man in the eye.  Naylund could see something there he had never seen before.  This man was a different sort of Psion.  He was a changer, one who could change himself, and by doing so, change the worlds around him.

“Exactly who are you, old man?” asked Ged.

“I am Naylund-sensei.  Naylund Charles Smith, Doctor, Adventurer, and Scholar.  I am from Earth, but from long, long ago.  Ged-kun, I will help you in your new role as leader of this planet.   I pray that you will learn to love it as I do.”

“Naylund-sensei?” said the little blue boy, “who is this lovely girl?”

Naylund looked at the bright-eyed boy.  He was a handsome child with the beautiful powder-blue skin of a superior race of beings.  Naylund felt attraction to him immediately, though he had no idea yet why. “This is my daughter, Sara Smith.  I pray that you both will learn to love her too, just as I do.”

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Saturday Is Art Day… Again

I draw things as illustrations to stories. Take, for example, the protagonist and hero of Catch a Falling Star.

Dorin Dobbs is boy from Iowa. That tells you some terrible things about him right there.

He was ten in 1990.

He hated girls.

He met some pretty green-skinned girls from outer space, amphibianoid frog-girls with fins on their heads. He danced with them to Mickey Mouse Club music while he was their prisoner on a sectet base on the planet Mars. They were dancing naked in the nutrient bath that all Telleron tadpoles use daily.

Brekka and Menolly are two of the Telleron frog girls with fins on their heads. They love Earth music in the 1990’s. They are background characters in Catch a Falling Star. They are main characters in the book Stardusters and Space Lizards, where they help Davalon and Tanith to conquer the dying planet of Galtorr Prime after the Telleron invasion of Earth failed in the previous book.

Tanith and Davalon (the Telleron boy in front)
Sizzahl of Galtorr Prime, Ecologist and Lizard Girl

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”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””

Galtorr Prime is undergoing drastic climate change and environmental collapse and ends up being saved by superior Telleron technology and the lizard-girl heroine, Sizzahl, who has a plan for fixing the atmosphere and saving fundamental eco-systems. Of course, this is all science fiction-y stuff based entirely on fantasy and imagination and has nothing to do with the real world we now live in.

Millis, transformed from pet rabbit to near-human

Of course, not all characters I illustrate are people or aliens.

Millis, Tommy Bircher’s pet rabbit, is an ordinary albino bunny who eats a piece of alien technology that evolves him into a talking, walking-on-two-legs, near-human form.

He becomes the chef (who cooks only vegetable dishes) for Norwall, Iowa’s own mad scientist, Orben Wallace, in the book The Bicycle-Wheel Genius.

Orben Wallace, and his favorite bicycle, The Happiness Machine

I think I have now given out far more spoilers for stories than I have any right to do. But the thing about character illustrations is that your get to know the characters at a glance. And to know them is to love them.

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The Mirror in the Clown’s Hand

Self-reflection is the bane of stupid people. Essentially, they don’t want to risk encountering evidence that they actually are stupid. It would shatter their world to learn that they are idiots and most of what they believe is true is actually wrong. This fact goes a long way towards explaining why the Republican Party in its current form even exists, let alone the actions of the current mutant Cheetos monster that pilots their agenda and hates healthcare, the Special Olympics, and Puerto Rico.

So, if I am doing a self–reflection piece today, then that proves I am not a stupid person, right? What do you mean you agree with that? Yes, I can actually hear you mentally answering my questions as you read this. And if you believe that, then you have proven that even relatively smart people like you and I are capable of stupid thinking.

I believe in some stupid things, even though I think I am not stupid.

An example of this stupidity factor is my lingering belief that I am a nudist. I mean, I am rarely ever nude any more. I keep most of me covered up constantly because when my psoriasis plaques dry out they tend to flake and itch and force me to scratch to the point of infected bloody sores.

Obviously this is not totally a photograph from the 60’s. That does not make it a total lie either, though.

I have been pretty much accepted as a member of the nudist community on Twitter. I enjoy the artful pictures of nude people they share with me. And since I did a couple of blog posts for nudist websites, there are actually completely nude pictures of me available on the internet. I can be found on Truenudists.com for one, if your eyes can stand the horror. But I have only been to a nudist park, the Bluebonnet Nudist Park in Alvord, Texas. one time as an actual nudist. I can tell you, it was a very hot day even though I was not wearing clothes. I am comfortable with nudity. I am comfortable around nude people. I fully accept it all as a non-sexual thing. But am I really a nudist? Or am I only playing at it? If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I don’t retweet pictures of naked people. I engage a lot with other writers there, and most of them are not also nudists, or even open-minded about naturism. I write about nudists in some of my books, but they are not about nudism, and most of them don’t even mention it. So, what good does it do me to think I am a nudist? Well, the very idea of it does a heckuva good job of embarrassing my wife and daughter. So, I do get some crazy-old-coot satisfaction out of it. Otherwise it simply proves that rational and otherwise intelligent people can be committed to irrational ideas.

I am also of the often mocked and ridiculed opinion that not only are alien beings from other worlds real, they are capable of space travel and have been visiting us for as long as there has been an us. I did not always believe this, however. Before I wrote my novel Catch a Falling Star I believed as Carl Sagan said on the original Cosmos that it is wrong to accept things without proof, and true results are testable. My novel was about aliens who watched a lot of Earther TV and learned to speak English from watching I Love Lucy reruns, I wanted to make the aliens different from humans, but at the same time, alike with humans in the most fundamental ways that translate easily into humor and relatability. Not all of my hero-characters were Earth humans.

Brekka the Telleron tadpole (also a nudist) with her friend Lester the man-eating plant (who only ate her once)

As I did research on the internet (a tool I didn’t have when I originally created the story in the 1970s), I found a ton of researchers and writers and con men and MUFON and the Disclosure Project and nuclear physicists and astronauts Gordon Cooper and Edgar Mitchell who were all believers and mostly not stupid. Wow! What a huge and complicated hoax! Why would anybody believe , based on so little tangible evidence, and so much contradictory evidence, that the government’s position could possibly be right? I learned that I now believed, until significant further proof comes along, that I believe stupidly in alien visitors.

Today’s self-reflection post has now proven that I am a stupid old coot who thinks he is a nudist and an insightful conspiracy theorist. But the results of my look into the mirror have not made me upset about my stupidity. Maybe I am simply satisfied nudism is healthy and the universe is more complex than I am capable of understanding. Whatever the case, that’s enough with the mirror for today. You have to keep such dangerous weapons out of the hands of clowns.

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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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