Category Archives: novel

Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 5

Mike and Blueberry Come Knocking

The next morning was a Monday morning in Summer.  No school to worry about, and the beans were not tall enough yet that the boys had to worry about walking them yet.  Walking beans was a summer project whereby farm kids walked up and down the rows of every family-owned beanfield with gloves and hoes and hats, to protect against sunburn, looking for evil, intolerable, low-down filthy weeds to chop or pull out by the roots.

You had to be on your toes all the time to truly combat evil.  That’s why Horatio T. Dogg was always thinking about the crimes he had to solve.  And that’s why Bobby was also always thinking about Horatio thinking about the crimes he had to solve.  Like the murder of Little Bob the stupidest turken by the evil Professor Rattiarty.

Horatio and Bobby were both sitting on the porch as two of his classmates from Belle City Middle School came walking hand and hand down the gravel road to the Niland farm.

“Hey, Mike, I haven’t seen you since school got out,” Bobby said.

“I needed to beat somebody up today.  I haven’t slugged anyone since that last day in Loomis’s class,” said Mike with a grin.

“I can smell that he’s not telling the truth,” said Horatio with a snort.

“Oh, I know.  Mike is my friend.  He’s only joking,” said Bobby.

“Oh, you can talk to the dog?” asked Blueberry.  She was a cherub-faced girl that Bobby secretly adored, but was definitely afraid of for various reasons.

“Well, yeah.  Horatio is a very special dog.  Can you hear him when he talks?”

“No.  But I will be trying to learn to hear him,” she answered.  “There is nothing that would make me happier than having a talking dog for a friend.”

She blinked her big brown eyes at Bobby in a way that seemed to melt his knees   Not enough to make him fall down, but enough to make him wobble.

“Blue, dogs don’t talk in real life,” Mike said matter-of-factly.  “That’s just a weirdo Bobby-thing.”

“Oh, I know.  But Bobby has a beautiful imagination.  And that’s what I like about him most.”

“I like her,” said Horatio.

Bobby didn’t comment, because Blueberry would hear and that would be embarrassing.

“But that’s what made the two of you think you turned the music teacher into a swan by magic, and then turned yourselves into swans to rescue her.  How dumb a thing was that?”

“But that was real.  We both became swans,” insisted Blueberry.

“I remember that,” said Horatio.  “You didn’t really change.  I would’ve smelled the difference.”

“I know,” said Bobby.

“You are both screwy,” said Mike.

“Tell him why you came to talk to him,” said Blueberry.

“The reason we walked all the way out here from town was to ask you about walking beans.  We’re putting together a crew.  Danny has promised to drive us to and from the fields.”

“So, you want me to walk with your crew?  Or you just came to ask my dad to work in our fields?”

“Both,” said Blueberry.

“We’re only charging three dollars an hour,” said Mike.

“Well, that’ll get you hired by Dad anyway. That’s less than I asked him to pay me and Shane.  But if you get the job, and I’m working with you, he won’t pay me what we first agreed on.”

“Sorry.  But we need the job.  And you don’t want me to beat you up for real, do you?”

“No, of course not.”  Bobby knew he would have to make the sacrifice.  Dad wouldn’t hire Mike and the gang at the price he was originally going to pay Bobby and Shane to do it by themselves.  And the cheaper price for more workers meant it would get done faster and would be cheaper over-all.  It was a sacrifice that Bobby had to make to help both the family farm and Mike and the gang.  Besides, there would be more money to make with Mike’s crew on other farms.

“You shouldn’t be so mean to him,” insisted Blueberry.  She was a very thin, small, and perky girl who was never afraid to say what she thought.  “If we are going to have him on our team and we’re going to work for his dad, you should be nice to him.”

“Aw, Bobby knows I don’t mean it when I say I’m gonna beat him up.  You know that I’m only joking, right?”

“Actually, you beat up Steven Shanks for picking on me.  And Frosty Anderson is only nice to me because you make him.”

It was true.  Mike was like a protector for Bobby.  Of course, that was partly because Bobby was a Norwall Pirate and Mike protected all the Pirates.  The Pirates were the town’s 4-H softball team, and also the local liars’ club.

“You should tell Mike about Professor Rattiarty and the recent murders.  He might be a good boy and help you defeat him,” Horatio said with a dog grin.

“I will definitely ask Dad to let us walk his beans.  He’ll hire your crew,” Bobby finally said.  “But I also want to talk to you about barn rats.”

“Barn rats?”

“Yeah, they been killing Mom’s favorite turkens.”

“Those silly-looking things with no feathers on their chicken necks?”

“Yeah.  Let’s go in the barn with Horatio’s nose to help us and talk about the evil Professor Rattiarty.”

“Uggh!  Imagination again!  Too many darned Pirates have too much imagination for their own good,” said Mike.

“Now, you don’t say bad things about imagination, Michael.  You know I wouldn’t be your girlfriend if it weren’t for the power of our imaginations.”  Blueberry often got hot about the topic of too much imagination. She was in favor.

“Yeah.  I know.  But you and he wouldn’t have gotten turned into swans, and flew all the way to Belle City in the snow, or saw each other naked if you didn’t have too big of a imagination,” growled Mike.  Yeah, jealousy was probably part of it.  But Bobby never actually saw Blue naked, and you can’t exactly turn back into a boy from being a swan all covered in feathers without being naked at some point.

“Do you want to see the Professor’s evil lair, or not?”

“We certainly do want to see,” insisted Blue.

“Okay.  We go into the damn barn.”

“You shouldn’t say damned, Mike,” scolded Blue. And so, they went into the brick-walled, white barn to look for clues with the detective, Horatio T. Dogg.

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Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 4

Talking to the Stone

Grandpa Butch pulled the pickup over on the side of the road.  Bobby and Shane quickly piled out.  Horatio jumped down out of the pickup bed where he had ridden to the cemetery.

Grandpa had two roses with him, just like always.

The little Norwall cemetery was a rectangular space of well-tended grass surrounded by stately pine trees just off the south side of State Highway Three. Numerous marble grave markers and family monuments were fairly tightly packed there.  Across the gravel road to the East was a newer rectangle of grass surrounded by recently planted white pines that were supposed to be the new addition to the cemetery.

“Grandpa, your folks are buried up there in the old cemetery, right?” Shane asked.

“Yep.  The Niland family monument up there contains three generations of our family.”

Bobby nodded at the monument on the hill.  He had been taught reverence for the place by both Grandpa Butch and Dad.

That wasn’t, of course, where they were headed.

“I brought you your flower,” Grandpa said to the headstone in the new addition.  He kissed one of the roses and put it in the brass vase.  The other rose was stretched out to the first, pressed against it as if the blossoms were giving each other a kiss, and then hooked the stem around the left suspender of his overalls.

“Why do you always take one of the roses home with you again?” Bobby asked.

“She knows I brought it here to her, and she sends a little bit of her bright spirit home with me to watch over us for another week.”

“Grandma’s an angel now, isn’t she?” asked Shane.  The goof asked that same question every time he came along to the cemetery.  And every time it made a tear come to Grandpa Butch’s eye.”

“Of course.  She’s right here with her wings spread wide, standing guard over us.”

“Does she ever answer you when you talk to her?” Bobby asked.

 “Of course, she does.  Don’t you, old woman?”

“So, you inherited the ability to hear voices who aren’t really there,” said Horatio to Bobby.  No one but Bobby could hear him, though, so Bobby didn’t say a word in response.

“What you gonna tell her this week?” Shane asked.  He often asked that same question too.

“Sassy, ain’t he?” remarked Grandpa Butch.  He was talking to Grandma.  “You know they can talk to dogs now, your grandsons?”

“What does she say back?” Shane asked.

“She says it’s only Bobby that does.  And not to worry about it.  It’s natural for Niland boys to have that ability.  It’s a sign of smartness and a good imagination.”

“Does that mean that I’m not smart like Bobby is?”  Shane’s eyes were open a little wider than usual.

“Oh, no, of course not.  You’re both smart. Just in different ways.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, I can vouch for the fact that I talked to voices that weren’t really there back in the 40’s when I was a boy.  And your dad used to imagine werewolves and monsters he could talk to when he was a boy back in the 70’s. Bobby has the same kind of smartness we had.”

“And how is my smartness different?” Shane asked.

“Your Grandma tells me she was a very perceptive girl when she was your age.  She was very aware of how everybody around her was feeling.  And she would referee fights and arguments, always the peacemaker… always trying to make other people happy.  And she also tells me all the times you’ve done the same exact thing for Bobby and some of his friends.  You have a loving intelligence that works more with what you know is real than what you can dream up.”

“Is that a good kind of smart?”

“In some ways it is the best kind of smart.  A kind of smartness the rest of us need to rely on.”

“So, Shane is better than me?” Bobby asked, feeling a sad spot in the depths of his stomach.

“No, no…  Your Grandma just thinks it’s a different kind of smart.  And you are both brave and handsome and good-natured.  That’s what it means to be a Niland.  You are near to the land, and you can make it blossom and grow.”

“What if I don’t wanna be a farmer?” asked Shane.

“That can be a good thing too.  You could be like your Uncle Nat.  He felt like that too, so he went to college at ISU and became an engineer.  Now he’s a civil engineer in Des Moines, figuring out how to make city things work better and helping people get along with one another better.”

“Can you see her, Grandpa?” Bobby asked, looking at Horatio.

“Your Grandma?  Of course, I can.  She’s right here by her memorial, in the place that I’ll be one day too.”

“I can see her,” said Horatio.

“Dogs can see ghosts?” Bobby asked before thinking.

“I don’t know about ghosts,” Grandpa Butch said.  “But I’ll bet they can see angels.  Dogs see with their heart more than with their eyes.  That’s why I see her here, and any place I put the second rose in the house.”  Grandpa Butch’s eyes were wet.  He didn’t say anything more.  Neither did the two boys, both of them trying hard to see their grandmother too.

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Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 3

The Evil Professor Rattiarty

A short while later Bobby went out through the back door to find and torment his little brother Shane.  He was definitely thinking of the word “torment” rather than “torture” because of that last lesson about how to treat your little brother better that Grandpa Butch gave him.

Horatio, in hat and smoking his pipe, followed close behind on his heels.  Horatio only rarely let Bobby leave the house without him, especially when it wasn’t a school day.

“You have to remember that Shane is a very good boy,” Horatio said.  “Being mean to him on purpose doesn’t hurt him as much as it does you.”

“Are you trying to be my conscience or something?” Bobby asked.

“Actually, I prefer to think of myself as the detective.  And you are my Dr. Wadlow.”

“I think you mean Dr. Watson.  Wadlow was that eight-foot-tall guy we were reading about in the school library.”

“Bobby, you know you were in the library by yourself, right?  I only said Wadlow because you were thinking it.”

“Sure, I know.  Imagining stuff is one of the few things I am good at.  And remembering weird stuff is another.  Robert Pershing Wadlow was 8 feet and 11 inches tall when he died at age 22.  He was the tallest human guy that ever lived.”

Shane, Bobby’s 11-year-old brother, was swinging on the tire swing that was tied up to a horizontal branch in the old walnut tree near the north grove.

“Hey, Little Dick, wanna see the drowned Turken?”

“Sure.”  Shane was a quiet child who rarely teased or picked on anybody.  That’s why he had taken to calling him “Little Dick” at about the same time that Mom had named the stupidest turken, “Little Bob.”  Shane had merely asked why he was being called a nickname for “Richard” instead of his own name.  Bobby never explained anything to Shane.

The boy with the mouse-brown hair and blue shorts hopped off the old car tire that was used as a swing and hustled after Bobby on the way to the horse tank where Bobby had left the body wrapped and ready for burial..

When they got there, the waterlogged and potentially bloated-by-now corpse of Little Bob was missing, except for a couple of soaked turken feathers and the torn cloth.

“Where is it?” asked Shane.

“I swear, when I left it was right here.”

“Well, it’s not here now.  Just feathers.”

Horatio snuffled the entire area with his hyper-powered sense of smell.

“Professor Rattiarty!” Horatio declared.

“Of course, it was!” declared Bobby.

“Of course, what was?” asked Shane.

“Horatio says that the body was stolen by Professor Rattiarty.”

“No, it can’t be him again.  Didn’t Horatio eat him in that caper three months ago?  When he tried to break into the house and get my toys out of my toybox?”

“Rattiarty always manages to survive somehow.  It’s miraculous… evilly miraculous.”

“You do know that Horatio doesn’t actually talk, don’t you?  I think it all comes out of your evil imagination.”

“If Horatio doesn’t talk, then how did he solve the case of your missing Science report?”

“It was a report on giraffes.  I think it was probably you who moved it from the G encyclopedia to the C encyclopedia.  I didn’t make that mistake myself.  And how can a dog smell a piece of notebook paper stuck in a closed book?”

“Elementary, my dear Little Dick.”  Bobby was never going to explain the other meaning of “Little Dick.”  “He was detecting your scent with his superior nose.  He is actually… ta, ta, ta, TAAAH!  Horatio T. Dogg, Super-Sleuth!”

“Sure, he is.”

“I can smell where the body was dragged off to.  Do we pursue?” asked Horatio.

“No, no… another time.  Right now, I need to pound on Little Dick’s shoulder some more.” So, Bobby beat on his brother again, though only with softened blows.   You see, Bobby was bullied a lot in school and around other children in general.  Taking things out on Shane was sometimes the only thing he could do.  Well, that was because Shane was the only person in the whole world that Bobby could beat up.  And then, he suspected, only because Shane let him do it.

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Horatio T. Dogg… Canto 2

A Good Old Boy

Bobby brought the drowned body of Little Bob into the kitchen.  He had carefully wrapped it in a rag that was in the clean pile where his dad kept the rags for working on the tractor.

“Oh, no!  What happened?”  Mom put her dish towel down on the edge of the kitchen sink.

“It’s Little Bob,” said Bobby.

“The turken with the black feathers on the top of his head?”

“Yeah, I found him in the horse trough.  He was already drowned.”

“So, no mouth to mouth to save the stupid thing, huh?” said Dad from where he sat at the kitchen table reading the Mason City Globe Gazette from yesterday.

“Todd, don’t joke like that.  It’s morbid.”

“I’m sorry, Sandy.  I should be more respectful of the mutant turkey-chicken.”

At that moment, Grandpa Butch wandered into the kitchen from the den.  “So, another chicken dreamed of being a penguin and drowned himself, huh?”

“Dad, don’t joke like that.  It’s the turken we named after Bobby, Little Bob.”

“Oh, sorry, Bobby.”

Bobby smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand.  The sense of humor in this family was genetic.  And probably a mutant gene at that.  Bobby could grow up to be an X-man… Bad-Joker Boy, or something like that.  Paralyzing criminals with stupid jokes.

“How did the stupid chicken come to be in the horse trough, do you think?” Grandpa Butch asked.

“Well, Horatio thinks it might be a rat that chased the stupid naked-necked chicken in there,” answered Bobby.

“Old Horatio talks now, does he?” asked Grandpa.  Horatio, on hearing his name, padded over to Grandpa for a good scratching behind the ears.  Grandpa had originally bought Horatio as a puppy almost fifteen years ago now.

“You mean he’s still talking,” said Dad.

Grandpa Butch laughed at that.  He looked down at the old collie dog that he was scratching on.  “So, you can talk now?  Who’s a smart boy, then?”

“Bobby is the smart boy,” said Horatio.  “He’s the only one in the family who knows I can talk.”  Of course, no one but Bobby heard him say that.  Everybody else heard something like, “HROWLWrrrrrUmmmph…” and then followed up by slobbering noises.

“Horatio and me will use Horatio’s detective skills to find and execute that murdering rat.”

“Horatio is a detective too, is he?”

“Sure, he is… Horatio T. Dogg, super sleuth!

“Wow.  Last name and everything.  What does the T. stand for?”

“It stands for the word THE.  And Dogg is with two G’s at the end.”

“Well, isn’t that something?” Old Butch Niland smoothed down the hair on the back of Horatio’s neck.  “But don’t be surprised if this old boy doesn’t have the get up and go it takes to track down and eat any old criminal rat.  His best rat hunting days are in his past.”

“But he’s still a pretty good old boy, isn’t he?” reminded Dad.

“Being old means I am definitely not a boy!” said Horatio.  Though nobody but Bobby heard him say it.

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AeroQuest 4… Appendix 1

Useful Index Updated #1

Dramatis Personae

Gedeliah (Ged) Aero – Possibly the hero of our story, Ged is a moral man, a hunter, a spacer, and soon to be a teacher because of his immense ability with Psion shape-changer skills.  He can transform the cells of his body into anything he desires (at least if he’s tasted the flesh of it).  He has now become the White Spider of the Web of Space.

Hamfast (Ham) Aero – Pilot and owner of the safari ship, the Leaping Shadowcat.  He’s also Ged’s brother and maker of the plan to get Ged into unknown space.  He has foolishly joined the Corsair Rebellion against the Thousand Planets of the Imperium and was captured by Admiral Tang.

Trav (Goofy) Dalgoda – The goofy one is capable of practically anything, and living proof that dumb luck is real.  He likes to blow things up and kill stuff.  His shoulder advisors are called Avarice and Greed.  He is the murderer of Count Nefaria and the enemy of Maggie (the Knife) Blastarr.  He also loves to wear Donald Duck hats and ties with comedy messages on them.

The Madonna – A Nebulon Princess and rescued slave girl, she falls in love with Ham Aero.  She becomes his wife and the mother of his blue children.  She is also the mother of Junior Aero, born in her captivity, so she is not closely attached to her own firstborn son.

Hamfast (Junior) Aero Jr. – Unwanted blue-skinned Nebulon Boy.  He becomes attached emotionally to Ged Aero and also possesses Psion skill.  He is the beloved childhood companion of Sara Smith.

Sinbadh – A Stardog Corsair Lupin (half-man, half-dog) who is marooned at Don’t Go Here for the crime of being a vegetarian.  He has become a trusted crewman and cook aboard the Leaping Shadowcat.

Tron Blastarr – The space-pirate leader of the Pinwheel Corsairs.  He has a scarred eye.  He is also a very capable pirate leader tired of the depredations of the Galtorr Imperium.  He becomes one of the primary rebel leaders. As a former Imperial Space Navy pilot, he became an Ace in the Pan Galactican War against the Faceless Horde.

Maggie (the Knife) Blastarr – The wife of Tron, mother of Artran, and hater of Goofy Dalgoda.  She is also fond of using knives and cutting people like Goofy Dalgoda.  She is the one person Trav Dalgoda most needs to avoid, though he doesn’t see it that way himself.  After all, Goofy Dalgoda is kinda stupid.

Artran Blastarr – Son of Tron and Maggie, a space child who enjoys the adventure of being the son of a famous space pirate.  Goofy Dalgoda made him laugh.  The Star Nomads made him an Explorer and turned him into an instant adult through time-travel.

Hassan the Elf – A Peri, artificially genetically-engineered to be a living creativity generator.  The space elf helps Happy Jack to create his robot child.  He also becomes a favorite sidekick of Captain Tron Blastarr.

Happy Jack (AB-101 Astron 99) – A teacher robot created to teach Artran Blastarr, but fired from his purpose in life by the Blastarrs.  He is the mommy-bot to Tiki Astro.

Tiki Astro – The silver, sentient, child-robot with a working penis that Happy Jack and Hassan created so that Happy Jack can be a mommy.  He is the beloved companion of Artran Blastarr, at least in the last novel.  In this novel, he bounces around between the Star Nomads and the White Spider Disciples.

Scheherazade – The beautiful black-skinned corsair pilot and warrior.  She is loved by all, but has her eye on the King of Killers whom she married shortly before her heroic death in space combat.  Of course, death does not disqualify characters from being in this novel or any others of the series.

The King of Killers – Tron Blastarr’s right-hand man, King is second in command of the Pinwheel Corsairs.  He also is in love with the beautiful Scheherazade who sacrifices herself to save him.  He is somehow supposed to be an important character in this so-called history.  Maybe he earned that right by fighting beside Tron Blastarr and Arkin Cloudstalker in the wars against the Faceless Horde.

Wicked Wanda Pierce – The holo-epic star of such entertainments as All Spaceways Lead to Galtorr, Naked Slave-Women of the Vampire Starport, and the comedy masterpiece You Probably Won’t Believe This.

Elvis the Cruel – The guitar-playing pilot for the Pinwheel Corsairs who is probably the most feared member of Tron Blastarr’s pirate band.  He definitely has scored the most kills in combat going all the way back to the wars against the Faceless Horde.

Dana Cole – An agent of Count Nefaria and also the woman who falls hopelessly in love with Trav Dalgoda, a mistake that gets her boss killed and makes of her a traitor.  She is probably either really dumb or hopelessly evil, either way making her a dangerous character.  Being in love with Trav Dalgoda seriously complicates the problems.

Sorcerer 3, 4, & 6… and maybe 12 – The evil, vicious Syn Corporation robotic assassin who won’t stay dead, coming back again and again to irritate Trav and the Aero Brothers.

Arkin Cloudstalker – The pirate leader of the Lady Knights Corsairs.  Arkin is a heroic, rebel-leader sort of character.  He aspires to do great deeds and save the known galaxy.  He has since he and Tron were rookie teenage pilots together in Pan Galactica, the reason for the white cowboy hat.

 Tabitha Blue-Arrow – The best of Cloudstalker’s Lady Knights, Tabitha has recently retired to own and operate an inn at Aerobase Frieda, the Starport orbiting Don’t Go Here, the planet of the Flintstone Cavemen.

Razor Conn – Leader of the Blackhawk Corsairs of the water-planet, Dancer.

Shad Blackstone – The oriental-looking second in command of the Blackhawk Corsairs.

Carleton Keyser, the Thin White Duke – A sector duke of the Galtorr Imperium who also happens to be the ruler of all pirates and smugglers.

Fez Amin – Tattooed leader of the dreaded Monopoly Brigade.  He is ruthless and violent, and also probably evil.

Grand Admiral Brona Tang – The leader of the entire Space Navy of the Galtorr Imperium.  He always appears in bright red body armor and no one in living memory has seen the actual face underneath.

Emperor Slythinus – The Galtorrian-Human fusion who currently rules the Imperium, at least until everyone learns that he died while in exile on the jungle-planet Stanley.

Ace Campfield – The malevolent Mechanoid bounty hunter hired by Count Nefaria to kill Arkin Cloudstalker and Tron Blastarr.  He is relentless, but also witless, and is now relegated to a mere head and torso imprisoned by Arkin Cloudstalker and kept around to laugh at and gloat over.

Frieda – The intelligence released from the Crown of All Stars by Trav Dalgoda. She helped them take possession of the entire planet of Don’t Go Here.  She turned herself into a sentient starport as well as a beautiful humanoid robot entirely colored gun-metal gray.

Tara Salongi – Cave girl and gifted telepath who falls in love with Ged Aero.  Current whereabouts are a matter of considerable concern.  She may be imprisoned by Mong the Miserly of the planet Mingo.  But she may also be in the custody of Raylond King, one of the ruling triumvirate of the Mingoan Worlds.

Banzai Joe – The owner of a deep-space station called the Arthur Rimbaud Memorial Outstation and Weapons Storehouse.  He is a rogue and a con man well-known to Tron and Trav and many other pirates and corsairs.

Xavier Tkriashav – A Psion Master marooned on Don’t Go Here, planet of the cavemen, and awaiting the foretold coming of the White Spider.  But once liberated he pursues his empire-building passion to create the New Star League.  He is possibly elected or possibly self-appointed as the first Senator Prime of the New Star League.

Dr. Naylund Smith – The immortal who waited for the White Spider to appear on the planet Gaijin.  He pledges himself to the White Spider in order to help him teach the Psion children he will lead to fulfillment of prophecy.  His own daughter is destined to become a White Spider Disciple.

Sara Smith – The daughter of Naylund.  She’s a gifted Psion healer.  She is among the first of the White Spider’s students.

Shu Kwai – The gifted Psion Telekinetic who becomes leader among the White Spider’s students.

Friashqazatla “Freddy” – The Black Wolf, Psion Shape-changer who is among the first of the White Spider’s students.

Rocket Rogers – The gifted Psion Pyro who is a space-cowboy refugee from the doomed Bradalanth Colony.  He is also a student and then a Disciple of the White Spider.

Jadalaqstbr “Jackie” – The gifted Psion Teleporter from the planet Zarane.  Well, actually from a gas giant moon in that planet’s star system.  She is a dusky-colored beauty from the former Psion Space Empire.  She is also a student and then Disciple of the White Spider.

Billy Iowa – The gifted Psion Clairvoyant and refugee from the Pan Galactican Wars against the Faceless Horde.  He is the best friend and protector of Gyro Sinjarac.

Gyro Sinjarac – The gifted Psion Transmuter who loves to invent things, especially with his psionic ability to change one atom into another with his mind alone.  He is a Nebulon and son of the Sinjarac Ambassador who saved the life of Billy Iowa.

Mai Ling – The gifted Psion Telekinetic from the planet Gaijin.  She is a dead shot with any slug-throwing or thrown weapon.  She can throw a pebble faster than a gun can shoot a bullet.

Bres, the Face-Dancer – The Psionic Black Spider who proves to be nearly Ged Aero’s equal as a Shape-Changer and teacher of Psions.  Ged defeated and banished him from Gaijin.

Phoenix – The Psionic Pyro trained by the Black Spiders on Gaijin.  He is the one that surrenders his team to Ged Aero and helps them all join the White Spider’s Dojo.

Taffy King – The Psionic Telekinetic who is, like Phoenix, a racially mixed fusion-race Galtorrian/Human.  She is also trained by the Black Spiders on Gaijin and also defects to the White Spider’s cause.

Alec Songh – The Psionic Un-Healer or Hurter, he is Gaijinese and trained by the Black Spiders to use his healing power to hurt others and break them down in battle.  He defected to the White Spider, but is consistently the one who is most likely to be tempted back to the black ones.

The Crew of the Megadeth – Captain Tommy Lee, Pamela, Pilot Vince Niell, Nikki Sixx, Cold Death, Slash, and sometimes the evil robot T-bop.  They are a motley crew.

Professor Googol Marou – That’s me!  The genius astronomer/inventor/physicist/pie-baker who lived through all of this and decided to tell the story.  Believe me, I am the smartest guy you could ever meet.  Well, human guy, anyway.

The Star Nomads – Some of the original explorers from the Galtorr/Human Fusion Empire evolved beyond bodies.  Men like the famed Martin Faulkner, Dakota Jim, and Stemperus Achs of Galtorr Prime would evolve into bodiless beings inhabiting suits of lead armor to prevent irradiating everyone they meet.  They became Star Nomads with names like the Geomancer, the Magnificent Wanderer, the Black Knight, and the Dark Traveler.

**Yes, I know this is too long for an ordinary post, but it does cover five books.

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AeroQuest 4… Canto 141

Canto 141 – The Critical Task

Safely back at the newly-constructed Gaijinese Starport, Naylund, Sara, and Junior walked down the exit ramp from the space ship with Ged Aero, the White Spider.  They were all  four relatively quiet and somberly thoughtful.

“Are you sure you have no lasting effects from dividing yourself in two?” Naylund asked.

“Naylund, old friend, don’t worry about me.  I could feel his thoughts when we first separated, but each of us came to terms with our new, separated identities rather quickly.  By the time we were ready to leave, not only was the planet well under control, but we were each feeling like two separate people.”

“What did it feel like to split yourself in half like that?” Junior asked.

“It hurt a lot at first.  He got the right half of my brain, and I got the left.  But we each grew out a fairly perfect copy of the other half, me as Ged Aero, White Spider, and him as the new Grainmaster Aero.  So, we are now both very different beings, me a human descended from Earthers, and him a Cornucopean Ear of Corn,  controlling all the plant life on the planet.”

“It wasn’t really a fascist thing from the start, was it, Ged-dono.”

“No, Naylund.  It was more of a hive-mind as if the entire planet could think as one plant-creature.  And all of it flowed through the Grainmaster’s brain.”

They found themselves confronted on the Tarmac by three Blackhawk Corsairs, Razor Conn, the leader, Shad Blackstone, his second in command, and newly uniformed Dana Cole.  They looked rather grim.  And Ged knew immediately without telepathy or clairvoyance that they came bearing really bad news.

“So, what’s happened now?” Ged dared to ask.

The trio of Blackhawks explained about the death of the White Duke, the preparations for rebellion against the Galtorr Imperium, as well as the battle of Coventry and the war crimes of Trav Dalgoda.

“That’s almost hard to believe,” said Naylund.

“Except it was Trav.  I’m afraid I have no trouble believing that,” Ged added.

“Trav died for his sins,” reminded Dana, “And the new creature he has become… well, I’ll personally work on reforming him.”

“And what about the Tesserah thing that Trav used to destroy half of a planet?” Ged asked.

“That’s what the new White Spider of the Space Lanes will be needed for,” said Razor Conn.

“We believe the thing is counting down to the destruction of the entire universe.  We don’t want that to happen.”

“Yes, I agree that it does not sound like a very good thing to allow to happen,” Ged said.

“We need you and your students to take it away and destroy it,” said Shad Blackstone.

“You are the only one we believe can actually do it,” added Razor Conn.

“Me?  I have no idea what to do.”

“It’s from the prophecy, Ged,” said Naylund.  “It suggests that the new White Spider will destroy the Ancient Most-Evil by burying it in the heart of the black hole.”

“What black hole?”

“The one with an Ancient construct orbiting it, Little Swirl.”

“My holy God!  That’s all the way Coreward on the other side of the Imperium.”

“It will be your greatest test, Ged.  It will be the quest that establishes the reign of the new White Spider of Prophecy.”

“We are going to take a good long look at what this prophecy-thing actually says.  And if there is any other way to accomplish it, we are going to consider that instead.”

“We will help you plan the mission, Ged,” said Razor.  “But this whole prophecy thing has foretold everything without missing a single detail.  I know it’s sorta spooky stuff, but it’s also real.  And time is running out for the whole universe.”

“That sounds like a good plot for a whole book,” said Sara, smiling.

“Yeah… but we better take a lot of care about which dumb nut we let write the danged thing,” said Ged.

I, Googol Marou, the author of this book, swear to you, he actually said those words.  And I only resent the “dumb nut” part of the comment a little bit.

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AeroQuest 4… Canto 140

Canto 140 – The Master Resurrected

The White Spider Disciples gathered around Ged to make a final stand in defense.  They set up a circle around him, ready to go down fighting to defend him.

“Explain to me what just happened?” Ged implored the telepaths.

“In the future there will be two Ged Aeros.  During a combat, you will be sliced into two pieces.  One piece will regenerate as you, the other, without a brain of its own, will regrow into Bres,” explained Hassan.

“He is opposed to you because he didn’t get your memories and experience.  He hates you as the lucky half that got all the good things from being you,” added Sara.

“But he knows you won’t be killed here.  He is merely hoping to strip you of some of us, especially Hassan.  He thinks he has no chance of defeating you in the future if we all survive this battle.”  Billy Iowa wiped sweat from his brow as his report took more energy out of him than the other telepaths expended.  Apparently clairvoyance is harder than just telepathy.

“But is there a way to save you all?”

“There is if you can find it within yourself, Ged-sensei,” said Billy.

Within himself?  What did Ged Aero have within himself?  Well, he had the remains of the Grainmaster in his stomach.  And, holy crud!  He had gained ninja powers by eating a ninja, hadn’t he?  So, the Grainmaster’s powers were…

“I’ve got the answer!”  Ged morphed into the shape, body, and brain of the deceased Grainmaster.  He became an ear of corn with arms and legs and two black, corn-kernel eyes.

“All right, minions!  I am the new Grainmaster now.  The Grainmaster reborn.  I will guide you all and restore this planet to the way it is supposed to be.

He reached out and reanimated the many wilted flower people with what his mind could only perceive now as “Green Power,” and pumped it into the Throckpods as well.

The difference was, now, instead of Bres’s willpower guiding the Throckpods, it was Ged’s empowering mind.  The Throckpods were now kindly helping the flower people recover and regrow themselves.

The problem seemed solved.  And yet…

“Ged Aero-sensei?  How will you control this flower planet and be our White Spider too?” asked Gyro.

“He has a point, Ged-sensei,” said Hassan.

“You are needed here now to control the plant-people of Cornucopea,” added Sara.  “They rely on you to gather and redistribute all the photosynthesis and plant energy on the planet.”

“But we need you too,” reminded Junior Aero.

“How is it that part of me becomes Bres?” Ged asked.

“You have a portion of your torso and right leg cut off in battle, during which the headless piece falls into a chasm below you.  That part turns into Bres.” Billy nodded as he said it, apparently sure of his future-facts.

“Okay, then, I can do this without creating my own enemy.  At least not today.”  Ged, in the corncob body of the corn-creature, split himself exactly down the middle.  One Ged, the Grainmaster Aero, morphed back into a complete corn-based ruler of the planet.  The other half of Ged returned to his White Spider form.

“I realize how dangerous it is to make two of myself.  I have no idea what the consequences will be,” said Grainmaster Aero.

“But since I killed and ate the rightful ruler of this planet, I must not only return to my duties as the White Spider of Prophecy, but I must provide a new Grainmaster too,” said Ged the White Spider.

“Cornucopea will now become a member of the New Star League as well as an independent, non-fascist world,” said Grainmaster Aero.

“I hope you are doing the right thing, Sensei,” said Sara Smith.

“I hope I am too,” said Ged.

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AeroQuest 4… Canto 139

Canto 139 – Battle of the Flowers

Thousands of thistle-like Throckpods came thundering over the hill with thorns brandished and wild looks in their very human-looking eyes.

From the other side, a large group of vegetable people with seed-like eyes came up behind Ged and his disciples, presumably to support them in the upcoming battle.

“What do we do, Sensei?” asked Junior.”

“I need the telepaths to all try to locate the Grainmaster.  He’s the key somehow.  If they have a hive mind going on here, he’s the connecting point.”

The Throckpods connected first with a phalanx of violet flower-people.  Violet petals were torn from the faces of the flower-men who barely made a scratch against their weedy attackers.  The poor flowers were overwhelmed.

“Sensei, I detect the Grainmaster over there amongst the Throckpods!” Hassan shouted.  “You can’t actually see him from here.  He’s surrounded by at least a dozen of those nine-foot-tall purple-headed thistles.”

Ged could see the thistle-Throckpods he was talking about.  Somehow they had to get to the Grainmaster himself.

“Shu?  This may be a suicidal attack, but if I turn myself into the armored ape form, can you and Taffy throw me by telekinesis into the center of the Grainmaster’s party?”

“Sensei, what will we do if they tear you to pieces or thorn you to death?”

“I may well be harder to kill than they think.  But if I am gone, Shu-kun, you will be in charge.  You will flee back to Gaijin and prepare defenses there.”

Shu and Taffy looked at each other, nodded yes to each other, and then picked Ged up with their combined mind powers.  As he rose through the air, Ged transformed himself into the green armored ape he had used to eat Throckpods before and save Sara from having her sap sucked out.

The two young telepaths did an excellent job of transporting Ged safely to the very spot he needed to reach.  Then, when directly over the Grainmaster’s “head,” they dropped him straight down.

Ged had a moment to assess his enemy as he was dropping down through the air.  The Grainmaster was shaped like a giant ear of corn with arms and legs and two black kernels of corn for eyes.  He carried a giant wheat stalk as a scepter.

Ged landed on the corn-thing directly.  Two Throckpods tried to stop him from attacking the Grainmaster, so he ripped them apart first before he began eating the Grainmaster whole. A rain of poisoned thorns bounced harmlessly off of Ged’s metallic hide.  The corn-thing was terrified as he was munched up by metal gorilla jaws.

A shudder went through all the surrounding plants.  Ged could see all the flower-warriors wilting to the ground.   All the flower forces were apparently rendered completely powerless by the demise of the Grainmaster.  Ged knew instantly that he had erred in the most serious manner possible, even before he realized that it was far worse because, even though the Throckpods were affected by the Grainmaster’s death too, they were not nearly so devastated as the rest of the plant people.

Ged’s students all easily used their Psion powers to part the sea of wilting Throckpods.  They came to Ged’s aid.

As Ged returned to his normal face and form, he suddenly became aware of someone else he knew from before.

“I should’ve realized it was you behind everything,” Ged said.

“Of course.  I came back in time specifically for this moment,” said Bres the Black Spider formerly of Gaijin.

“You are the reason these weeds have human-like eyes.”

“Yes, they are made from my DNA as well as the Grainmaster’s.  I control them with my own willpower.  The Grainmaster was my prisoner.  Now that you have killed the him, all the regular plant people will die, leaving my Throckpods in charge of the entire world.”

“Why don’t you tell him who you really are,” challenged Hassan Parker.  “He needs to know that you are not who you pretend to be.”

“My word, White Spider.  You have an exceptionally powerful telepath there.  I can’t seem to force him out of my mind.”

“You might as well tell him yourself.  If you don’t, I will.”  Hassan was livid with anger.

“Oh, no!  It can’t be true!” sobbed Sara as she, too, managed to read the Black Spider’s mind.

“Yes, Ged.  What they are going to tell you anyway is entirely true.  I am you from the future.  That’s how I know exactly how this turns out.”

“He’s not telling you the whole truth,” warned Hassan.

“Yes, he’s not the only future you there is.  And he doesn’t know how it turns out for him, only that he tried to defeat you here.  What happens to him next he doesn’t know,” said Billy Iowa.  “But my clairvoyance tells me he is not going to get any of the things he wants because…”

But before Billy could finish, Bres changed into a bird-form and leaped into the air, flapping madly to get away from the scene.

The Throckpods were returning to full and mobile life.

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Time in the Rabbit Hole

Pursuing the muse that makes you a slave to the difficulties of a creative life leads you to places and experiences you never intended to visit.

Such is the tale of following Cissy Moonskipper down the White Rabbit’s hole.

A few days ago I told you how I found an old pen and ink drawing, scanned it, colored it, and then scanned it again. It became the day’s blog post, a short, ironic short story about a character stranded alone on a space ship in deep uncharted space.

The punch line was that she found a copy of Dafoe’s Robinson Crusoe in the bridge storage bin.

The picture got photoshopped into a potential cover for a book. And I began obsessing about how to write a story that parallels that really old book about a shipwrecked lonely man.

I couldn’t resist following that White Rabbit of Sudden Inspiration down into the maze of writing a new science fiction… novella? It needs to be short and sweet. But it has the feeling already of something that I have never ever done before in story-telling.

This, of course, is Friday. She’s a Lupin girl left aboard the spaceship by the invading pirate who killed Cissy’s older half-brother before getting himself disintegrated. She is the second character needed to carry out the parody of the Robinson Crusoe story.

And while I was creating this character, I decided to create an illustration of the starship too. The story is set aboard the free-trader named Dark Moon’s Dreaded Luck.

So, I am now in uncharted territory. Which bottle do I drink from? Which cookie do I chew? I already know how the story ends, but getting there will be a magical adventure. And it seems like other things are totally on hold because of it. I am trapped in that rabbit hole. And God only knows how long it will take.

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AeroQuest 4… Canto 138

Canto 138 – The Throckpod Speaks

The designated Throckpod lumbered into Ged Aero-sensei’s camp with a sort of thorny swagger that made the students of the White Spider rather uneasy.  A flower-creature like that should’ve been more humbly worried about entering an enemy’s camp than this one was.

The Throckpod that Mai Ling introduced to Ged was a daisy-headed being with disturbingly human-looking eyes.  Its petals were yellow.  The center of the blossom where the eyes peered out was green.

“So, I understand that you are the spokesman for the Throckpods,” Ged said.

“No.  I am all Throckpods.  We are all linked by our glorious leader.  We are all one.”

“I see.”

“You do have eyes, yes.  You may have noticed that I have eyes too.  Not photon-sensitive seed pods, but real eyes.  A gift from our glorious master who unites us all.”

“You serve the Grainmaster, then?”

“Our glorious master gave us our true sight and our ability to know what all Throckpods know, shared knowledge throughout the hive mind.”

“But do you serve the Grainmaster?”

“We serve all of the planet.  Through the Grainmaster we serve, yes.”

“We have come to ask you about the treatment of the other plant people.  We have come to understand that the common plant people are bullied by the Throckpods and forced to give everything they have to the Grainmaster.  We wish to discuss other, more-equitable forms of governing with the Grainmaster.”

“Listen, King Monkey, we of the Throckpod legions come specifically to destroy you.  We intend to eliminate all such inferior creatures from the ecospheres of all nearby planets.”

The vicious Throckpod detached three thorns from it’s arm-branches glistening with rather obvious poisons.

Shu, Mai Ling, and Taffy King each intercepted one of the thorns as it was thrown and buried the projectiles deeply into the Throckpod’s stem, near the walking-roots, thus shriveling up the flower-warrior’s only means of getting away.

“Now you have declared war on all of the plants of the sacred master.  We all see through my eyes.  All Throckpods now know of your treachery.  I do all I can now to slay all your little monkey-kind.  You will regret your treachery.  The Throckpods now descend upon you!”

Of course, the Throckpod by himself had very little power to make good on his threats himself.  He flung a flurry of thorns at Ged’s students and Shu, Mai Ling, and Taffy threw them all right back.

Soon the Throckpod was mostly shredded, limp and swiftly turning brown on the ground.

Luigi the Onion Guy was apparently beside himself with upset and anger.  “YoU iS no knOwing hoW bad YoU haS made thiNgs now!”

“We are doing our best,” Ged answered impatiently.  “You don’t expect me to just stand by and let these Throckpod monsters slay my students, do you?”

“He is only warning you that the Throckpods will now seek vengeance on us all and we may all be doomed,” explained the more reasonable Carrot-man.

At that moment Gyro and Billy came crashing down from the sky on a dragonfly-looking grav bike,  the two boys tumbling and losing their cowboy hats into the center of the camp.

“Are you two all right?” gasped Sara the healer.

“Nothing that you can’t fix,” said Billy, rubbing his raw, scraped knee.

“We do have a problem, though.  Thousands of Throckpods are headed this way to kill us.”  Gyro’s little blue face was completely serious for once.

“Yes, we will definitely have to deal with that problem now… somehow,” said Ged Aero-sensei.

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