Category Archives: novel

AeroQuest 5… Canto 149

Canto 149 – Hassan Parker’s Dilemma

Ged had gathered his best telepaths in the room within the Ancient Dragon Starship that was now designated the “Library.”  The large volume of The Book of Shan’s Prophecy, the one that belonged to Naylund Smith, had been moved into the center of the room and been given to Billy Iowa to oversee studying it with clairvoyance and telepathy.  The sinister Ancient device called the Tesserah also sat in the library, bubbling and percolating in evil greens and purples like a slowly-building pressure-cooker bomb.  Ged meant to also study it with clairvoyance and telepathy, hoping to develop some kind of control over the doomsday device’s malevolence.

“Now, who among you do we generally agree is the most powerful telepath?” Ged asked.

Billy looked at Sara.  Sara looked at Hassan.  Hassan looked at Junior.  Junior looked back at Sara.  Nobody looked at Gyro.  And Phoenix refused to look up from the floor.

“Any of us can interact with the book,” said Billy finally.

“You know that we are not really talking about the book,” said Ged.  “That… thing… that is what we need to safely probe and understand better.  We know it is telepathic.  We also know it is both evil and extremely dangerous.”

“Junior is the one that can talk to artificial minds with artificial intelligence.”  Billy looked at Junior apologetically after saying it.

“It defends itself against me too powerfully,” said Junior.  “I can’t get past the wall of pain.  It thinks in color, mostly green and black.  But that’s all I can tell you so far.”

“I tried to probe it, and it started telling me how it was going to take over my mind and make me kill others, especially those I love,” said Sara, shaking her head.

“Gyro was able to help me get past the wall of pain by manipulating the hydrogen atoms in the device,” confessed Phoenix.  “But it immediately took hold of my pyro power.  It would’ve used my fire force on everybody if Hassan hadn’t used his telepathy to yank me out of the Tesserah again.  I suppose I owe him my life.”

“Hassan is the most powerful telepath among all of us,” said Billy.

“But what if the Tesserah takes over his mind?  We would all be doomed,” said Phoenix.

“That’s my worry too,” confessed Hassan.  “It’s looking for ways to defeat us and destroy us all.”

“My clairvoyance and Phoenix’s clairvoyance have both seen the Tesserah using Hassan to slay us all,” said Billy.  “I can definitely handle the book.  I can find the answers you need there.  But I am no match for the thing.”

“Hard as it is for me to say this, I can’t handle the thing either.  I don’t even think I should be near it when it is being studied.”  Phoenix looked morosely at the floor again.

“I think we have to work together,” suggested Sara.  “Alone none of us can defeat it.  But Phoenix and Gyro together were able to briefly get in using combined powers the thing wasn’t prepared for.”

“I’m pretty sure I can be of help to whoever leads the effort,” said Junior.  “But I’m not a potential leader of the effort either.”

Hassan looked squarely at the bubbling Tesserah and then turned his gaze towards Ged.  “I think it has to be me that takes the lead.  But I will definitely need Junior, Sara, and possibly Gyro to help.  And anything Billy can find in the prophecy to help would be greatly appreciated.

Ged looked at the handsome, naked child standing there resolutely before him.

“Yes, Hassan.  I haven’t read very far in the book and understood hardly any of it, but I believe you are the one the book says can defeat the monster of ultimate destruction… or whatever the damned thing really is.”  Ged reached out and clapped the willfully nude boy on the shoulder and smiled at him.  And he also felt the boy enter his mind to verify that he was not lying as he said it.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 144 (revised)

Canto 144 – Raising the Walls

Outpost was abuzz with activity.  The airless world had only limited defense from attack, but that was swiftly changing.  The primary protection had always been the secret of its location.  As an airless world, the surface could easily be lasered or bombarded with no atmosphere to interfere with the destructive force. 

But now a new technology had arisen from an unexpected source.  Tron had ordered the mirror fields raised, hoping that some laser fire could be reflected into the surrounding darkness.  This, by itself would’ve been very little help from the orbital bombardments that Admiral Tang’s military space fleets were capable of.  But his little Peri Space-Elf friend, Hassan, had invented nanite armor that could adjust instantly into whatever weapon or defense system the wearer could command.  And he had recruited the silicon-based alien lifeform known as the Lazerstone Collective to wear this incredible morphing armor as the Lazerstone Marines.

Lazerstone then raised a million alien troops from the harmonic stones the planet Outpost was amply blessed with.  They practiced relentlessly with the new armor, when the original Lazerstone suggested they use more of the harmonic stone to raise and lower mirror-defense walls for protection against beam weapons and diamond force dissipation shields against all physical and nuclear attacks using the nanite technology to create the walls.

 It was an amazingly effective defensive weapon.  The original Lazerstone could raise and lower walls to counter the practice attacks of ace pilots Elvis the Cruel and Apache Scout.  He did this with the skill and style of a master pianist playing the best of Mozart on the piano.

“I’m beginning to feel like we have a chance to win when Tang shows up,” said Tron.

“It is looking good on the defensive side, I have to admit,” said Admiral King Killer.  “But whether or not we can get the space forces coordinated and capable of fighting is another problem all together.”

“What’s the problem, King?”

“Well, we have all these dinosaur-shaped starships built with the Ancient technology that Frieda provided from the new shipyards in Don’t Go Here.  And they’re massively powerful, but the rookies flying them are practically hopeless as pilots, let alone space warriors.”

“What about the Nebulons and the Lupin corsairs?”

“They can be a bit of a hassle too.  The Space Smurfs have those living space-whale cruisers, and other space-fish-shaped crafts that are actual creatures too.  And they don’t cotton too well to the giant dinosaur-looking things they have to fly near.  The poor Nebulons have had to deal with some of their spaceships having complete panic attacks.”

“And the Lupins?”

“Effective fighters in small packs against solitary vessels, but completely chaotic when you try to get them to coordinate with other non-Lupin fleets.”

“We are old veteran star fighters, you and I, King.  We get out there in the glorious heat of battle, we can defeat any enemy that rises against us.  Just like the old days.”

“In the old days we had nothing to lose.  We fought every battle like we would be killed to the last man.  And we did get our behinds licked by the Faceless Horde before we left Pan Galactican space.”

“Yeah, well…  There was too much we just didn’t know about that enemy.  You know we killed a lot more of them than we ever thought we did.  They were just evaporating when they died.”

“Yeah, there’s that.  But this could be the final battle this time.  And we might not live to have a next one.”

“Don’t worry, my friend.  It may be the end.  But we’ll give them a fight they won’t soon regret… err, I mean, forget!”

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 148

Canto 148 – Of Rocks and Men

The hills of Outpost had come alive with construction projects.  The Lazerstone collective had found enough harmonic crystals to form ten million new rock men.  They all looked like the original Lazerstone, but once separated from their original, they quickly developed personalities and intelligences uniquely their own.  Lazerstone himself explained that the content of the native Outpost crystal, various minerals and odd bits of elements, made each crystal man different from the rest, just as snowflakes are unique from each other.  The result was a vast and capable workforce who could build spaceships and defense installations in an airless environment without complaint.  They were also highly capable of manipulating the planet’s rock formations to construct what was needed for defense.

“It is unbelievable!” swore Tron, “these rock men may have saved us from Tang and his Imperial Fleet!  Arkin, I can never repay you for this.”

“I am lucky to be alive and glad to be able to help in this fight,” declared Cloudstalker. 

“You got that right!” added the head of Ace Campfield bitterly. The head of the deadly bounty hunter and skilled assassin was all that remained of the Mechanoid menace.

“Shut up, Ace,” said Cloudstalker.

Tron, Arkin, Hassan the Elf, and the head of Ace Campfield were watching the intensive creation of defense facilities from the edge of the transparent dome that covered Tron’s pirate city. 

Tron’s scarred face drew up in a sneer.  He looked at the still-living Mechanoid head. “I don’t know why you keep that thing around.” 

“He was someone to talk to on the trip here.  Besides, I may be able to learn something about the enemy from him.”

“Yeah,” growled the head, “When the stars all go out.”

“If it were me, I would drop-kick that thing out onto the surface.  He can talk to himself for a thousand years.  How do you know he’s not secretly broadcasting everything he sees or hears to Admiral Tang?”

“Well, I guess that’s why I only kept the talking part.  It’s small enough to scan completely and inside out.”

 The head fell into grim silence.

 “These rock men fit my armors perfectly,” said Hassan.  “They will be a formidable fighting force.”

Arkin looked at the Peri intently, really noticing him for the first time.  He marveled at the clever way the little child-like man had redesigned his artificial leg to operate like a Swiss Army Knife, with forty-two extra pop-out devices including a mini drink mixer for martinis.  He also noticed how charming the creature was for being a genetically manipulated freak.

“You are quite an arms designer,” Arkin said to the elf.

Hassan smiled an extra-broad smile and looked a bit sheepish as he answered, “I don’t really like weapons, you know.  The Peris believe that every story, no matter how much adventure and risk it has in it, should be about love.  All life is a page in the Great Story.  I don’t object to making things that might save someone in battle or prevent a serious injury.”

“Hmm.  I see.  I don’t know how necessary the defensive part will be to Lazerstone soldiers.  They are pretty much impervious to harm as it is,” said Arkin.

“Well, the armor allows the wearer to fly and protect against plasma bolts,” said Hassan.

Arkin nodded.  That was a very good thing for his side in the upcoming battle.  He was glad this creative little goober was on their side.  The elf was not a great warrior or anything, but he was a good little man to have on your side.  Arkin couldn’t help but feel something paternal towards this child-like little man.  He was reminded of his own son, Devon, growing up away from his father on the distant planet Arriseah.  It could easily all end very badly.  Even with the help of these crystal soldiers, Admiral Tang had the resources and strategic genius to wipe out all of these pirates.  He knew he could die here and never see his family again.  That had never stopped a good idea before, though.  He meant to see this through, no matter what the cost.  He smiled at the brooding head of the assassin, Ace Campfield.

“We are gonna win this, Tron,” said Arkin.  “I know we will.”

“I wish I could have your optimism,” Tron answered.  “Any realist will tell you, we are probably doomed.”

“We can’t fail,” said Hassan simply.  “The good guys always win.  The creator made it so.”

Arkin nodded as he looked at the elf.  It was the way he had always felt put into words.  Let Admiral Tang come soon!  He wanted to see how this would play out.

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AeroQuest 5… Adagio 22

Adagio 22 – Outpost Demographics Analyzed by a Genius

I, Googol Marou, am the most qualified person in the universe to break down for you the basic facts about Tron Blastarr’s pirate-base home world.  If you want a basic genius-level analysis, you naturally turn to the scientist who invented a telescope that could visually reconstruct events of the past gathered from planets viewed from my little telescope at sometimes thousands of light years of distance, thus looking thousands of light years into the past.  And of course, I had twelve years of exile to work with in compiling the data from our little corner of the Orion Spur of the Sagittarius  Spiral Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.

You see, Outpost was an airless planet on the frontier of the Galtorrian Imperium.  It was unique in that it had been settled entirely by disgruntled privateers from the Coreward War with the Faceless Horde in the two short years between the end of the Horde War and the beginning of the fulfillment of the Prophecy of Shan, heralding the beginning of The White Spider’s new web of interstellar civilization.

I bet you can’t read that paragraph aloud at high lip speed.  At least not without breaking a tooth.  I dare you to try it.

The planetary system went from a world of zero population and zero Medium-Class Earthlike worlds to twenty billion intelligent beings and over 450,000,000 space fish of various species in only five standard planetary years (gauged from the orbits of both Earth and Galtorr Prime, two very similar Goldilocks-zone worlds of the Imperium.)

It began with the surviving members of the Pinwheel Corsairs, Tron’s highly successful space force of warships.  They built the initial installations for crew habitats, a starport, and shipyards.  They were soon joined by many other survivors of the Horde War, looking for someplace to be after being thoroughly beaten and betrayed by both the Faceless Horde and Admiral Tang’s Imperial Space Navy.

Outpost had its own source of hydrogen fuel in the two gas-giant planets in the system, each of which had multiple moons.  Then they stole an Ancient artifact made so long ago that we couldn’t even determine if the Ancients were actual people, or maybe sentient mushrooms battling to fill the universe with mold spores… but sentient mold spores, that made life everywhere.  (Okay, I admit it.  That is all just a conspiracy theory.)  But the Crown of Stars could do something really Ancient science-y.  And then Trav Dalgoda stole it. 

Tron and Maggie tracked the Goof down to a new planet recently liberated and reclaimed by the Aero Brothers.  And the Goofy one had, in the meantime, discovered another Ancient thingy called the Hammer of God.  This thing could build whatever you could think of (as long as you were telepathic enough to tell the Hammer what you were thinking of.)  The Hammer could make whole cities instantly using nanobots and sentient energy beams.  And so, Tron and his people used it to build cities all over Outpost

And so, the pirates of Outpost needed people to come live in their new cities.  They found Lupin space pirates willing to live on Outpost in return for help with their rotten spaceships.  They also found massive flotillas of Nebulon space whales, living spaceships that breed on gas giants and contain cities full of little blue Nebulons.  Although they were unwilling to live on Outpost itself.  Instead, they wanted to live with their space whales and other space fish around the gas giants with their various moons and plenty of space for the breeding of even more space fish.

And then Arkin Cloudstalker not only brought his Lady Knights with their White Sword Corsairs to Outpost but also the weird alien Lazerstone who was made of intelligent rocks.  And there was a wealth of psionic crystals in the sands of Outpost that Lazerstone could turn into numerous clone copies of himself, complete with a hive mind.  Millions of Lazerstones came to life on Outpost and started wearing the special armored suits invented by Tron’s boy sidekick, Hassan the Space Elf of Djinnistan.

And so, that is the crucial insight into the reasons why Outpost was the key to the war between the New Star League and Admiral Tang’s Galtorr Imperium.

A Nebulon pilot

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 147

Canto 147 – The Dilemma of Tiki Astro

Tiki Astro, the robot boy, sat at the control console of the Ancient Red Dragon Space Craft.  As a synthetic, computerized being, he was really the only one who could take over the monitoring of the Dragon’s travels when Junior Aero slept.  Tiki didn’t have the Psionic ability to read mechanized minds that Junior had, but his computing powers in his psychotronic brain were almost the equal of Junior’s Psion ability to read computer minds via telepathy.

The panel in front of Tiki was a complex sea of buttons, lights, levers and a myriad of labels and warnings written in an indecipherable Ancient script that nobody alive in the present universe could read.  Tiki was trying to decipher it in the back of his computerized brain, as he had for a month now.  While doing so, he could also look out through the Dragon’s eyes, the bridge of the space craft actually being inside the head of the Dragon, and see the passing stars as the Dragon leaped through jump space into the interior of the Imperium.

“So, Metal Head, how’s it going?” asked Phoenix as he walked onto the bridge.

“My head is not made mostly of metal.  Synthetic flesh is composed of elements like…”

“Save the lecture, Tiki.  I know what you are.  You are the robot trying to be a real boy.”

“Unlike the other boys on this ship, I am only a little over two years old.  Three if you count the day my head was activated as my original birthday.”

“Yeah.  We are all very different on this flight crew.  It makes it all the harder to figure things out.”

“What things?” Tiki asked the flame-haired boy.

“Well, a lot of things are on my mind.  I mean, who among us Disciples of the White Spider should be the leader after Sensei Ged Aero?”

“I always assumed it was between Junior Aero and Sara Smith.  They are the first two students of the Dojo.”  Tiki looked at Phoenix with expressionless eyes.

“Don’t look at me like that.  I know it is wrong to be jealous of anyone.  But…”

“But you were a leader rather than a follower when you were a student of the Black Spider.”

“Well, yeah…  I mean, I was trained by them to be a tactical leader and the commander during combat.”

“And you don’t want to turn over leadership to telepaths and healers?”

“It isn’t just Junior and Sara.  I acknowledge that they are my equals in many ways.  But there is also the Gaijinese boy, Shu Kwai.  He knows how to lead from the front.  And his telekinesis is almost as powerful as my pyrokinesis.  And when it comes to telepathy, no one among us can keep Hassan Parker out of our heads if he wants to take over our minds.  How am I supposed to handle that?”

“What kind of answer are you asking me for?”

“If it came to a fight over who’s in command, would you, as a rational robot, be on my side?”

“Sensei Ged Aero is in charge of this mission.”

“But if something were to happen to him…”

“If it did, we would be in serious trouble already.  I would follow the leader with the best plan for whatever the situation is.  Maybe you.  But also, maybe not you.”

“That’s the kind of answer I expected, Metal Head.  But if it came down to it, and the mission was on the line, I would certainly pay attention to who you choose to follow.  I know you calculate the odds better than anyone else can.”

“That’s what happens when you make a pocket computer like me into an almost-real boy.”

The conversation ended there, but Phoenix continued studying the stars ahead as he continued to stand behind Tiki and look out the Dragon’s eyes at what was coming into view.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 146

Canto 146 – Robo-Alliances

Smoky Hardretter was adding the final touches to the image on the 3-D display of a Mechanoid-control device.  It was essential that they get things right.  If they were going to establish control over the planet Mingo, Smoky and his ally Raylond King, two thirds of the ruling triumvirate of the local star cluster, would have to develop a stronger Mechanoid army than the one already controlled by the third triumvir, Evil Emperor Mong the Maniacal.

“Ray, what are we going to do if we can’t overcome Mong’s superior control mechanisms?”

The handsome young Raylond and his beautiful young wife, Tara Salongi, stepped in from the nursery.

“We just got little Amanda to sleep, Smoky.  You have to discuss quietly.”  Tara’s stern look gave him no room to raise his voice in protest.

“Mong is such a weak-willed ruler.  There has to be a way to overcome his advantage.”  Ray’s jaw was set in a grim line.

“You haven’t really taken him on directly, Ray.  He’s tougher in conflict than he seems when he’s drinking coffee or participating in the mechanical-dance ritual.  And he was the one out of the three of us responsible for the defenses of the entire star cluster.”

“Oh, I am aware of that.  And it only got worse when we tried to force him to join the New Star League with us.  He went directly to Sir Saurol to report us and get Admiral Tang to replace and recall us.”

“Um, guys…”  Tara indicated the man-shaped thing listening to their conversation while leaning against the door post.

“Interesting…  I seem to be here at just the right time to hear exactly what I needed to hear.”

“Who are you?  And what do you want?” Smoky asked.

“He’s the synthezoid robot known as Sorcerer.   He’s a bad guy, and you need to shoot him in the head before he can do his robot thing.” Tara was glaring commandingly again.

“Wait!  I’m not the early model.  I’m Sorcerer 27.  New and improved.  And I’m the solution to the problem you were just talking about.”

“You want to help us revolt against the Imperium?” asked Raylond.

“I’m tired of being shot in the head before I can perform my miraculous functions.  I need to be on the winning side for a change.”

“What can you do for us?” asked Tara suspiciously.

“I possess access to Syn Corporation AI control systems.  I can turn your Rot Warrior Zombie Soldiers into reanimated beings who can think creatively and independently, even as well as they did when they were living beings.”

“Why would you help us?” asked Smoky.

“You will reward me with sole control of the planet Zadukar that orbits the Lonely Star in the far corner of the cluster.”

“That miserable hot rock with methane for an atmosphere?” asked Raylond.

“You have a deal!” declared Smoky.

“Yes, but the prince is probably long dead.  And, besides, Slythinus himself was probably killed on Stanley,” said Sorcerer.

“Why do you want it?” asked Raylond.

“I just want to be a ruler among the good guys for once,” he said with an evil robotic smile.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 145

Canto 145 – Senators and Senate Stuff

The biggest debate in the arguing about forming the New Star League had been about which planet was the best place to host the capitol of the newly formed multi-star government.  The idea had formed around the planet Don’t Go Here, which was entirely too provincial and had never had a space-faring tech level before.  In spite of its sentient orbiting space port, the Ancient construct known as Frieda, retrieved from the device made by the Ancients called the Crown of Stars, it was determined that the planetary system was simply not equipped to be an interstellar capitol.

Tron Blastarr, leader of the pirate space forces establishing the new union of solar systems, wanted his home base of Outpost to be the new capitol, but the main inhabited planet, Outpost itself, was an airless rock with no room for much beyond Nebulon colonies and military installations.

Xavier Tkriashav, the political leader who had brought all the worlds of the Psion exiles and the Lupin pirate hordes into the union wanted his home world of Zarane to be the capitol.  But that world did not really have a central enough location to work well.

So, the leaders, meeting on the centralized world of Gaijin with its hybrid Gaijinese people and relatively high tech level, decided to build the new capitol in the city of Kiro on the planet Gaijin

Tkriashav and the bald immortal Dr. Naylund Smith both retired to the Gaijinese tea garden behind Dr. Smith’s house with their cups of steaming white-stork tea.

“Well, Dr. Smith, it seems that everybody got what they wanted in the meeting.  The constitution is practically written already.”

“Yes, you, it seems, got the choicest position, making yourself Senator Prime.”

The turbaned Zaranian smiled.  “You will be my Number Two, so you will succeed me if anything happens.”

“Yes, but it was not a looked-for opportunity.  I have other matters that urgently demand my time.”  Dr. Smith stared into his cup of tea.

“But you are an immortal.  Surely if anyone has all the time they will ever need to do anything, it is you.”

“I go on living practically no matter what happens to my body, it is true.  But my precious daughter is not immortal.  Even now, Sara is with Ged Aero on a mission she may not return alive from.”

“But she’s only one of how many children you have sired over your three-thousand-year-plus lifetime?”

“She may be only one of many, but they are all gone now in the well of time, and I vowed that her mother would be the very last woman I ever loved and then outlived.  That kind of loss is taxing to the soul.”

 “Yes, the sentiment is certainly understandable.  But it is a great thing we are undertaking.  Never before have so many different sentient species come together to form an interstellar planetary alliance.  We have always been ruled in the past by the members of the Earther Human Race and the  Human-Galtorrian Fusion Race.  But now there are the Molluscan M’uduai Race, the Japanese/Sylvani Race we are now calling the Gaijinese, the Psion Race of Zarane and her sister worlds of the Old Psion Empire, the Pale Humans of the Geonee Race, the deep-space Nebulon Race, the Lupins, and the Dion Saurian People, as well as all the Genetically Altered Races of the Faulkner Genetics Worlds.”

“An impressive list to be sure.  But can they hold together as one people with common interests in this new government?”

“I don’t see why you would doubt it?”

“Maybe because of the endless warring and race-hatred of the many human races.  You know how the Imperium is.  Zombie like Mechanoids, dead bodies brought back to life artificially are the backbone of their armies, space marines, space navy, and special forces.  The ruling elite see all alien races as expendable and exploitable.  They don’t even treat Dions and M’uduai as worthy of being called people.  And they enslave and exterminate Nebulons and Lupins.”

“Yes, and we are not them.  We are not Imperials.  We will hold ourselves to a higher standard.”

“You have no idea how often I have heard that same sort of pronouncement come out of the mouths of well-meaning world rulers and empire builders.  It almost never goes the way they see it in their glorious visions.”

“It will be different this time.  The Prophecy of Xhan says it will be so.”

“I too have studied the prophecy, Xavier.  I have also studied much too much history firsthand to have your confidence.”

The younger man smiled and softly slapped the old immortal on the back.  “Fear not.  There is much in the Prophecy of the White Spider yet to be realized.  We are making history.  But it is history that is foretold and will certainly come true.”

“It will if Ged Aero succeeds in his quest.  And it will if the space forces on our side can get it all together to fight off evil old Admiral Tang, and the darker forces behind him.  You would be wise to prepare for at least some parts of your prophecy not to come true in the way you are expecting.”

There was no doubting that Dr. Smith had a point.  And even Xavier’s clairvoyant Psion abilities couldn’t remove the darker clouds from among all the cumulus constructs of the possibilities that lay ahead.

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AeroQuest 5… Scherzo 14

Scherzo 14 – Spaceheart Joins the Space Opera

She was the size and shape of a blond-haired human girl of about fourteen years of age.  She wore one of those tech-level 25 armored space bikinis, and Dr. Hooey had to admit she looked pretty appealing in it.

“So, they issued you that armored bikini instead of the usual Time Knight’s eccentric, colorful costume?”

“Oh, yes, by my special request,” said the girl.  “It’s fully functional as a space suit, putting atmosphere around me inside an electromagnetic bubble that will also shield me from radiation, lasers, micro-meteors, blades, microwaves, nuclear blasts, and even slug-thrower bullets.”

“Ahem, yes…”  Hooey wasn’t sure whether he should be harsh with his evaluation, or just charmed with her natural enthusiasm.  Her enthusiasm alone was of a kind that could defeat space criminals, evade alien attacks, and charm world leaders.  And that happy grin could certainly kill a grizzly bear at thirty paces.  “Prepared for practically anything, aren’t we?”

“Well, being prepared is the key to everything you have accomplished Dr. Hooey.  I studied you carefully while I was in the academy.  You more than any other Time Knight we discussed.  I prayed to the Seven Goddesses of the Pleiades that I would be chosen to be your companion on this next journey through time.”

“Ahem… your name is Spaceheart, I believe?”

“Yes.  That is definitely my preferred moniker of the moment.”

“I suppose I can’t just call you Becky or Alice or something?”

“No, please.  I like Spaceheart.  It is a cool pulp-fiction sort of science-fictiony name.”

Hooey almost said, “Ahem” again, but he was running out, so he decided to save the last few for later.

“So, one of the main jobs of the time-travel companion is the keeping of order inside the time-ship.”

Spaceheart looked around at the mess inside the Star Wars.  She shuddered.  Wires were hanging from the dark space where the ceiling allegedly was supposed to be.  Burnt panels covered the control console with melted buttons, charred thing-a-majiggs, and a grossly detached doodle-ma-whoop.  You couldn’t make the chronometric time jumps without a re-attached doodle-ma-whoop.  And you would need to replace every single thing-a-majigg in order to prevent the Time Knights inside the ship from prematurely aging or turning back into babies.  A glitch in either direction could pop you out of existence without warning.

“It got damaged a bit with that last mission, huh?”

“Oh, yes.  It actually killed me, so that I had to reboot myself with an entirely new and better-looking reincarnation.”

“But, the Lizard Lady was successful before she died?”

“Well, technically…  Um, she’s not actually dead yet at this time… er, the relative dimension in time and space she currently inhabits.”

“Oh, that’s interesting…”

“Yes, um… she’s in position to help us win the battle at Outpost.  So, our job is mainly to correct whatever goes wrong with the ancient device that Ged Aero is trying to send to another universe.”-

“I guess I better get started on the clean-up and repair procedures.”

“Ahem… yes, I didn’t mean to use up that one, but if you don’t mind… I would like to pull up a lawn chair and watch you work.  Um, you are going to wear that armored bikini, right?”

“Um, yes…?”

“Can I take pictures too?”

Spaceheart smiled at the dirty old man who turned younger again.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 144

Canto 144 – Digging In

Outpost was abuzz with activity.  The airless world had only limited defense from attack.  The primary protection had always been the secret of its location.  As an airless world, the surface could easily be lasered or bombarded with no atmosphere to interfere with the destructive force.  Tron had ordered the mirror fields raised, hoping that some laser fire could be reflected into the surrounding darkness.  He knew, however, that the only hope he had was in his fleet.  If they could somehow use the dinosaur-shaped starships made with Ancient technology to destroy enough of Admiral Tang’s fleet to make him feel the losses were no longer worthwhile, then maybe the ground-side installations could survive intact.

There were still very talented corsairs able to fly fighting ships.  Elvis the Cruel and Apache Scout were both peerless star warriors.  But Tron had to believe that Admiral Tang had a few potent killers left to his name too.  There was every chance that the situation was hopeless and would end in a massacre.

Still, there were a few unknowns on Tron Blastarr’s side.  The crazy alien starship known as the Megadeath was the most agile killing machine that Tron had ever seen.  The goofball rock-and-roll crew that flew it for Trav Dalgoda was now very adept at handling the alien thing, and Tron had kept them to help in his mad last stand.  They were not smart enough to be scared of the upcoming battle.  He was able to send his son onward to Don’t Go Here, the planet where the newly formed New Star League gathered its forces.  So, hopefully, Artran would be safe and carry on the Blastarr name long after Tron and Maggie’s bones littered the airless sands of Outpost.  

“Boss,” said Hassan the Elf, breaking Tron’s train of thought, “I have made something that I think might be of help.”

Tron looked at the child-like Peri and the invention he was now holding up.  “A suit of armor?”

“Yes, boss.  A special kind of suit of armor.  It is made up of nanites.”

“What?  Nanites?”

“Yes, microscopic robots that share a command pulse and can reform themselves into any sort of armor that might be needed.”

Tron looked quizzically at the bluish suit of nanite armor.  “How do you make it work?” 

“Well… for instance, if you want it to form an anti-grav pack on the back, you just say, “FLIGHTPACK.”  The suit rearranged itself at Hassan’s command and an anti-gravity flight pack instantly took shape on the back side of the armor’s breastplate.

“Does it have weapons?”

“FUSIONGUN!” said the elf with a grin.  A man-portable fusion generator and discharge barrel formed on the pauldron.

“That’s really good, Elf.  That will help.  But one isn’t going to be enough to save us.”  He grinned sadly at the small Peri Space Elf originally from the planet Djinnistan.

“Oh, that’s the best part,” said the Peri.  “Nanites can replicate themselves from raw metal ore.  Since the planet is mostly metal and crystal, we can set them to making a million copies of themselves in an hour.  You have to specify the number, though.  We wouldn’t want the little buggers transforming the entire planet.”

“Amazing,” sighed Tron.  “If only I had a million commandos to fill them with.”

At that moment Maggie came trotting up to him with a handheld communicator.  “The call is for you,” she said, looking grim.  “Arkin Cloudstalker has finally found his way back to this system.  And that Lazerstone rock-guy is with him. Admiral Tang is sure to follow.”

“Yes.  Sure to follow,” said Tron automatically, still gazing at the grinning elf and his newest invention.

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AeroQuest 5… Canto 143

Canto 143 – Morning Aboard the Starship Aboard the Starship

 I couldn’t help but fixate on the things Admiral Tang had bragged about knowing from the future during his villain speech in a previous episode.  Apparently, he had outwitted and killed a Time Knight at some point, and he had specifically told us that I was going to survive this adventure while poor Ham Aero was doomed to die in the upcoming battle for the planet Outpost.

I was sipping on my cup of designer coffee, my own special concoction called Isaac Newton’s Favorite Cup of Joe.  And I was staring out of the front viewport of the Leaping Shadowcat at the guards in the cavernous docking bay of Admiral Tang’s flagship, Bregohelma.  The Lupin child who served as cabin boy came out of the crews’ quarters completely naked and rubbing at his doglike eyes.  Of course, the boy’s shameless nudity didn’t bother me since Lupins are covered in wolf-fur and don’t really need clothing to cover up relentlessly white, pock-marked skin and rolls of fat the way I do.

“Professor Marou, do you think the Imperials will just execute me or toss me out into space?” Sahleck asked.

“Well, if they are frugal, they will toss you out into space.  It costs less.”


The destroyed look on his puppylike face reminded me that maybe a strictly logical answer to the question wasn’t the kind of answer he needed to hear.

“But don’t go planning on dying yet.  Time is a relative dimension in space and, as such is totally malleable.”

He looked at me as if he wanted to ask another question, but didn’t really understand what I had just told him.

“You know that there are Time Knights constantly meddling with what they think happened in the past to correct the outcome to some sort of plan created in the distant future…”

“Oh, yes…” Sahleck stammered.

“And since Tang says he killed one of those Time Knights, we know for certain that somebody is out there working on solutions to the problems we are now facing.”

“So, maybe they won’t kill everybody but you?”

“Oh, you all are probably going to die.  Tang seems to know what will happen with information gleaned from the Time Knights themselves.  But nothing is ever certain.  Maybe I get killed too.”

That didn’t seem to help much.

Ham Aero wandered in drinking his own morning beverage, probably potent liquor of some sort.

“Sahleck?  You are out of uniform, boy.  You know that the job of steward aboard a starship is critical to staying alive in space.”

“Yes, Ham.  I know I am supposed to scrub floors, maintain the air quality, and do whatever the cook asks me to do, but we are almost all going to die.  So, what’s the point?”

“We are not giving up, my boy.  What we are blessed with is lots of time, and the freedom to plan without worrying about being overheard.  Tang doesn’t know it, but this ship is shielded from telepaths.  Ged had me do that back when he was first dealing with becoming a Psion.  So, we don’t have to just sit back and wait for death.  We can plan and carry out our own rescue and escape.  And I am not ready to die myself, knowing now that I am going to be a father for the first time.”

That made Sahleck smile.

“So, you have an idea about how to do it?” I asked.

“Not yet.  But we have more collective smarts than they do.  How many of their crew are rot warriors?  Skeletons with robotic life? Nearly mindless undead things?”

“Mechanoids and reanimated dead folks make up at least 75 percent of all Imperial Navy personnel.  You know this well, Ham.”

“Sure, but my point is… We have you.  You are one of the smartest living humans in the entire Orion Spur of the Milky Way.”

Now, I know, of course, when I am being flattered in order to manipulate me.  But he was not wrong.  Duke Ferrari was on board, and he carried considerable political significance, and potentially leadership ability.    And Ham’s young Nebulon wife knew a lot of secrets only formerly enslaved aliens really knew about.  Ham himself was a canny strategist and ship-board leader.  He knew how to solve the problems of living mostly in space aboard a starship.  And he was not wrong about me being smarter than practically everyone else in the universe.  (Not bragging, just an irrefutable fact.)

“Yes, you are right, Ham.  We are not helpless.  We do have an intelligence advantage over our enemies.  And we will think of some way out of this situation.”

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