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Aeroquest… Canto 31

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Canto 31 – Gaijin

      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 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 he 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.

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“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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Aeroquest… Adagio 7

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Adagio 7 – The Planet of the White Spider

      The planet Gaijin would prove to be the closest thing to home for Ged Aero since he and his brother left the planet Questor.  It was a singularly beautiful world.  A water world orbiting the star known as the Old Yellow Man.  It had sixteen continents all roughly the size of India on old Earth.  The ample oceans of the world teamed with sea life.  Like many places where the Ancients left their imprint, there was a substantial population of Cetaceans; dolphins, porpoises, and whales that were genetically identical to those of Earth.  The most common form, the Emerald Dolphins, had a language and a sort of non-tool-using culture based on the sharing of stories, songs, religion, and poetry.  They interacted with the native humanoids very little.  It is a shame that the dolphins didn’t care to be the dominant life form on the planet.  Their way of life was far less disease-like and virulent than the that of the eventual dominators.

The Gaijinese were themselves an artificially melded race.  They once had been purely a race called the Sylvani, inhabitants of the star lanes since before the memory of any living race.  They had been willowy humanoids with long, silky white hair and lemon yellow skin.  They were very intelligent and relatively long-lived, reaching ages of 500 Earth years and up.   Such racial goodness is supposed to be a star marked on the celestial score-card of existence. They had, however, run afoul of another pre-Earther space-faring race called the Tellerons.  The Tellerons of the planet Telleri were green-skinned amphibian humanoids, hairless, and possessing a single shark-like fin sprouting from the apex of their skulls.  They would do their best to undo Sylvani goodness.  The Tellerons had conquered and enslaved the gentle Sylvani before they met the first Earthers in space.  It is probable that most of the Telleron technology that Earthers stole in turn in order to become a space-faring race was originally created by the noble Sylvani.  The Tellerons, however, used the technology to colonize and conquer rather than study other worlds.  It seemed only fair in the long run that they would be displaced from their dominance of the Orion Spur by the combination of the primate Earthers and the reptilian Galtorrians who were both worse and more violently ruthless.

When humans conquered the star lanes held by the Telleron Star Empire, the suddenly freed Sylvani disappeared from known space.  On the idyllic world of Gaijin, Japanese Earthers and Sylvani met and fell in love with each other’s complex and poetic cultures developed separately.  The dually settled world of Gaijin eventually evolved into one culture made of equal parts of both.  Because the two races were entirely compatible, the people themselves changed from two races into only one.  They became very Japanese-ritual-oriented and very yellow in color.

So it was when Ged Aero dropped out of interstellar space into the unspoiled star system of the Old Yellow Man, he found a complex and peaceful world that had long awaited his coming to reach outward for greatness.

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Aeroquest… Canto 30

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Canto 27 – Worlds of the White Spider

      It is said that life in space exists on a spider’s web of invisible star lanes.  A photon drive can propel a starship only through certain well-defined mathematical probability arrays to a new location in geometrically-and-gravitically-folded space.  They work basically by popping in and out of reality, though you can only precisely describe the physics of it in mathematical terms.  So, of course, there are those who claim that if space is filled with spider webs, then God himself must be the Great Spider who spins it all.

The Megadeath roared into orbit around the bright blue planet that filled the life zone of a star listed on the charts as The Old Yellow Man.  It had been identified as a habitable system before, but no one had dared to come this far beyond the Imperial Borders to colonize before.  At least, no one these spacers knew about.

“This is a spectacular world,” said Vince Niell.

“Yeah, man,” said Nikki Sixx.  “Like a toatally gnarly hammertime world!”

“Wha…?” answered Cold Death.

Ged chuckled at the verbal density of his crew.  You have to be happy with the pick of the litter if the dog pound only has mutts.

“What do your sensors pick up, Cold?” Tkriashav asked Cold Death.

“Wha…?” the white-skinned bone man responded.

“Your instrument panel, you thick…” grumbled Ged.

“Oh,” Death said.  “Signal from the third moon of the big gas planet, man.  Like, ancient dudes put a scout base there.  Dead zone, dude.  No life.”

“Other signs of civilization?” asked Tkriashav.

“Stellar observatory in the third orbit.  Also dead zone.  One moon around this planet.  None around the planet in the first orbit.  Also dead zones, dude.”

“What about the planet below us?” asked Ged, beginning to grow impatient with the brain-dead zombie stoner at the sensor panel.  “Are there people or signs of civilization on this planet?”

“Whoa… Like two billion people.  Not human, man.  Humanoid, but definitely not human.”  Cold death shook his green Mohawk hair-do like a horse shakes flies off its mane.  He was definitely not human either.

“Vince?  Do you think you can land safely?” asked Ged.

“Yeah, boss man.  I can put her down on a dime.  I’ve never had such a sweet girl under my control before.  Yeah, baby!”

Ged ground a frustrated fist into his temple.  He knew there was something important about this mission because of Tkriashav’s damnable clairvoyance, but he felt he needed to know what.  Was it something for his own good?  Or something for the greater good that would mean sacrificing his own life?  He wanted to be able to make those choices himself.

“Cold Death?  I’m gonna hate myself for having to ask this, but do you find any signs of a starport down there?”

“Wha…?”

“A landing field!  A flat patch!  A place to put down where we don’t go CRASH!  BOOM! And blow up!”

“Oh, yeah, man.  Major city with walls, flat all around, dude.  Gnarly!”

“You see it, Vince?” asked Ged.

“I’m swoopin’, Daddy-o!”

“Ugh!  What does that mean?”

Ged looked at Xavier Tkriashav.  Tkriashav merely shrugged.

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Aeroquest… Canto 29


Aeroquest banner xCanto 29 – Games with Bread and Cheese

      Ham and his little crew were taken to one of Oasis City’s finest inns.  It was a quiet little place called The White Sands.  The name was appropriate for the dry little desert world of White Palm.  The inn had a cozy restaurant and pub attached.  Having eaten Sinbadh’s stew, the crew of the Leaping Shadowcat opted for drinks.  Ham ordered a Questorian Ale, while the Madonna found a Nebulonin Root Beer on the back of the menu, and Sinbadh ordered an infamous Pan Galactican Gargle-Blaster, not knowing what it was or how it cleaned out both your sinuses and your bowels.

“You are most welcome to anything on the menu,” said the fawning gray-plated metalloid waiter.  “I understand it is all being paid for by Count Nefaria himself.”

“It is…?”  Ham was stunned.

“Yes, by means of his new heir, Count Tron.”

“Oh.”

Tron and a man with a handlebar moustache appeared from the back hallway.  Tron nodded to Ham and came straight to the copperwood table where the three crewmen of the Leaping Shadowcat sat quaffing their various brews.  Or, in Sinbadh’s case, quaffing, choking, and sneezing them.

“May we sit?” asked Tron.

“Who’s your friend?” asked Ham as innocently as he could muster.

“This is Han Ferrari, Duke of the planet Coventry.  Duke, this is Ham Aero, the safari master and explorer I told you about.”

Duke Ferrari shook Ham’s hand firmly.  “Ah, Mr. Aero.  I’ve heard of your brother Ged.  I understand he’s something of a crusader along the Imperial Rim.”

“Yes,” said Ham suspiciously.  “What are you doing so far from home, your lordship?”

“Being rescued from kidnappers by Captain Tron, it would appear.  I am also a leader of the militant opposition in the Galtorrian Imperial Court.  Emperor Slythinus has apparently tried to do away with me by recruiting Count Nefaria to do his dirty work.”

“What are you here at my table for, Tron?” asked Ham nervously.  “I know Goofy is probably dead by now.  Will you take it out on me, too?”

“Now, Hamfast,” said Tron with a smile, “I bear you no ill will.  Trav Dalgoda is fine.  I have the Crown of Stars and the so-called Orb of Essence as well.  I even now own the planet of White Palm.  I couldn’t be happier.”

“The Galtorr Imperium won’t claim the planet for themselves now that Nefaria is dead or in prison?” asked Ham.  Purple gargle-blaster ooze was leaking out of Sinbadh’s mouth and nose.  His eyes were rolling back in his head and the Madonna was trying desperately to help him.  Ham tried to concentrate on Tron and the Duke.

“I am declaring independence from the Imperium,” said Tron with a satisfied smile.  “Arkin Cloudstalker and I will use our corsair fleets to defend this place.  Let Admiral Tang try and retake it!”

“You’d take on the whole Imperial Fleet?”

“He won’t have to,” said Duke Ferrari.  “The Imperium is tied up with both a border war with the Nebulons and another unification war with my planet and the planet Farwind.  They can’t spare enough of the fleet to defeat two corsair fleets.”

“And I’ve seen your setup at Don’t Go Here,” said Tron.  “You have a large ground-bound population depending on you and Ged for release into the stars.  I know because I’ve added to it myself on occasion.”

“So, what’s your point?”

“Don’t try to hornswoggle me, boy.  You are a nominal ruler of a high-population world beyond Imperial reach.  I know you came here to kill me and rescue Goofy Dalgoda and win back the Crown of Stars, but you are in a position to commit your new planet to an alliance with my new planet.  We can help each other.”

“You want to go into planetary government?”

“We can’t screw it up any worse than the Emperor and his cronies.  And besides, I want to throw in with Duke Ferrari here and help his interplanetary civil war.  I want to see an end to the Imperium.  You know, pirate is just another word for freedom fighter in many ports.”

“And you expect me to go along with your plans because you know where to find our planet and you have all the forces you need to take it from me and my brother?”

“I expect you to talk it over with Ged Aero and have the two of you on my side.  You both know it’s the right thing to do.  I’m not the criminal you think I am.  I know Ged sees things the way they really are.  You tell him my plan and see if he doesn’t agree.”

“Ged went further into the unknown.  I don’t know where he is or when he’ll be back.  I only know he will meet me at Don’t Go Here sometime in the future.”

Tron’s sudden anger was all the uglier because of the scar he wore through one eye.  He was about to start shouting when the Madonna diffused everything.

“We say with you, Tron.  Nebulonin, human, cave men, all one side…”

“You have a pretty accent, Sweetness,” said Tron, calming down instantly, “but what the heck do you mean?”

“She says we agree,” said Ham.  “You are right.  I know Ged would want to help you.  My planet and yours, then.  Two new worlds in a new alliance.  The only question is… what will we do next?”

Over ale and good, hot pretzels with cheese from Coventry, in front of a roaring hearth-fire, the fate of the Imperial Rim was altered once and for all time.

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Aeroquest… Canto 28

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Canto 28 – Rock and Roll Starship

      The Megadeath was the only available starship left in four Parsecs of space in any direction from Don’t Go Here.  Ged didn’t want to travel in a Trav Dalgoda concept, but left with no choice, he trusted Frieda’s demonstrated skills as a shipwright and spacecraft designer.  He could use it to travel if only he could recruit a space crew.  He needed a pilot, an engineer, and a navigator who knew how to figure coordinates from Xavier Tkriashav’s memories of nearby systems in unknown space.

The finding of a crew proved quite difficult.  All they had was a pool of marooned talent left by Lupin corsairs, mostly the dregs of the spaceways.  Tkriashav had a telepathic network set up on the planet, and there were some primitive crystal radios.  Otherwise, the planet was bound together by a word-of-mouth commo system.

All they could find was a rather motley crew.  Vince Niell was the only pilot to apply for the job.  He was a merchant pilot who’d lost his final ship to Lupins in the Mingo star system.  He wore mirrored sunglasses even in the dark.  He had a leather flight jacket which he wore over his Fredsuit.  He signed on for a pair of pants, some underwear, and a baseball cap from Ged’s own wardrobe.  He wanted Ged’s brown fedora, but that hat was non-negotiable, being needed always on Ged’s own head.

Nikki Sixx was a guitar-playing engineer with bright red hair that he wore long down to his waist.  He had his own hand-made electric guitar and broadcast speakers even though he had no generator to make electricity for them.  He had blue ovals tattooed around each eye, and he had skulls tattooed on his bare chest.  He wore Bam-Bam shorts and also carried a medium-sized stone-caster.  He signed on to keep the engines purring on the promise that he would be allowed to play guitar whenever he had free time.

The third crewman was the hardest to find, and easily the one Ged would’ve most preferred to replace.  He gave his name as Cold Death.  He was a white-skinned near-human with skin that looked like snow and was surprisingly chilly to the touch.  It was like shaking hands with a snowman.  He had strange black triangles tattooed around his eyes and wore a neon green Mohawk for a hairstyle.  He also had two ivory fangs like Dracula in his mouth.  He, too, was unnaturally attached to a guitar.  He, too, was willing to sign on for a chance to play Heavy-Metal Rock-and-Roll.

Ged’s only comfort with this crew was the fact that they came cheap.  He didn’t have any Imperial coins or electronic credit-exchangers to pay them with anyway.  But the music gave him headaches.

Before leaving, Ged helped Tara use the Hammer of God to build a downport on the surface of the planet.  All Tara had to do was take Ged’s blueprints and descriptions, picture them in her imagination, and then telepathically download them into the Hammer.  The device shot a stream of purple energy into the dirt at the construction site, turning the silica and clay into a pool of microscopic nanobots that made her mental image grow into reality before the startled eyes of the cave men of Don’t Go Here.

Plans were made for housing and high-rises to enhance the economy of Bedrock and the planet Don’t Go Here.  A shuttle system was built to help Tara get starship building supplies up to Frieda and farmers up to the grange station.  Ged promised many that he would come back soon to begin training spacers to man the space ships they would build.  The Hammer of God allowed them to boost the planet from a quasi-stone-age to the space age in next to no time, Flintstones into Jetsons, so to speak.  Of course, Ged had promised a lot of commitment on the part of both his brother and himself.

Finally they were prepared to leave Don’t Go Here in the hands of Tara and her father, Bam-Bam.  Ged, Tkriashav, and little Junior Aero would head out with the crew of the Megadeath to visit Tkriashav’s world and the system of prophecy.  As Ged said a final, difficult goodbye to the beautiful teenager, Tara Salongi, he never imagined that he wouldn’t be back to see her again within the year.  He never imagined a lot of things that would make the memory of that one goodbye one of his greatest regrets.

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Aeroquest… Canto 27

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Canto 27 – Blue Eggs and Ham

      The Leaping Shadowcat pulled into the orbit of White Palm just as the last explosions on the periphery of the battle site were dying out.  Sinbadh sat next to Ham in the copilot chair.

“So, Bucko, what be Questor like?  I have ne’er been in that there port.”

“It’s deep in the Imperial Interior, in the Phaetus Cluster with the systems of Phaetus, Xerxes, Perch, and the Talosian Systems I, II, and III.”

“Kinda the suburbs to Galtorr Prime?”

“Yeah, kinda.”

“Do it be easy livin’ there?”

“Yes, but…  Well, the Galtorrians house many of their slaves there.  Freaks, Unhumans, Mechanoids, Metalloids, all the basic slave races are housed in the ghettos of Questor.   It was oppressive growing up there and seeing all that injustice.”

“Me, I never had the chance to see the like.  My people were forever hunted out there beyond the borders, movin’ an’ hidin’, movin’ and hidin’.”

“You had it good.  When I was twelve, I had a friend who was a Mechanoid.   He was only ten when they reanimated him.  He would’ve never been able to grow up had he…  At school they caught me talking to him when he was supposed to be mucking out sewers.  They whipped me for talking to a slave.  They shut him down and scrapped him.  I found out, though, that he was still a person, just like me.  He told me all about his memories of his early life.  He remembered when he was still alive.  He felt love and fear just like we do.  I vowed after that that I would change the galaxy some day.  I wanted them to be treated the same as we are.”

“Ged feel the same?”

“He’s worse than me.  He’s careful and doesn’t get into trouble as much as I do, but he cares passionately about justice and morality.  He’s already done more to help the oppressed than I ever dared to even dream of.”

“Good man, that Ged.”

“You’ve no idea.  He’d give his life for an ideal.  He’d sacrifice himself to help you and me, too.”

It was then that the Madonna brought them lunch.  It was made of blue eggs from the starchickens of the planet Arriseah. They smelled foul and were served next to greasy slabs of fried bacon.  The meal was not healthy, but the planet-bound peoples of the Imperium believed the meal had the effect of a love potion.

“Madonna, my girl,” said Ham shaking his head, “I do not like blue eggs and bacon.”

The Madonna looked at him confused.  She wore a revealing flesh-wrap that effectively showed off her girlish blue figure.  Being a neotynous Nebulon, she had the physique of a fourteen-year-old human girl, even though she was a Nebulon woman of nearly thirty years in age.  Nebulons were child-like even when they achieved advanced age.

“I…  I read about your world… foods of love…”

Ham’s expression turned from one of disgust to one of sympathy.  He had grown fond of this Nebulon Princess.  He didn’t want to hurt her in any way.

“You don’t need to feed me Aphrodisiacs.  I love you without that.”

The Madonna smiled at him shyly.

“Well, says I,” said Sinbadh, “I better get to the galley and make this right.”  He took the eggs and bacon and headed out of the cockpit.  “I’ll make ye some of me best honey-plant stew.  I got a case of honey-plant roots on board for just such an occasion.  They can make ye fall in love too… with me cookin’, o’ course.”

The Madonna sat down in the copilot chair.  On the view screen, a large Pinwheel Corsair showed up.  Its weapons were visibly armed and ready to fire.

“Unknown vessel!” came a voice over the commo, “prepare to be boarded.”

“Negative, corsair.  You don’t need to board us.  We are friends of Captain Tron.  Radio him that Ham Aero is here to help.”

“Ham Aero?  Is Ged with you?”

“No.”

“Oh, okay.  Don’t make any foolish moves.  We’ll escort you down to the planet.”

Together the two spacecraft rolled to the left and inserted themselves into the atmosphere of White Palm.

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Aeroquest… Nocturne One

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Nocturne One – The King and the Dark Beauty

    The infamous King of Killers was watching as Sheherazade ran out of the caverns calling for Doctor Blake.  His sour face was smudged with oil and soot from his daring rescue of the beautiful female pirate.  No one knew how much his heart ached for her.  Seven years he had watched her flirt with Elvis, Blue Death, and even Ensign Pavel.   Seven years of wishing and hoping and planning which had all come to naught.  Sooner or later one or both of them would die in combat.  Probably sooner now that Tron had made the horrible mistake of taking up with Goofy Dalgoda again.  The Goofer was a pure Jonah, poison to the corsair band.

Sheherazade found the puny little doctor by his ATV.  The scrawny medico was patching up war wounds.  He could prevent scars with Imperial medical tech, but no pirate would forgo a chance for a real battle scar.  Patching was all he was allowed to do.  Blake was both a doctor of medicine and a top notch combat pilot, but in King’s studied opinion, he was a prissy little nerd, with luminous lady’s eyes and a pencil thin… moustache.

The doctor rushed down the tunnel as soon as Sheherry relayed the order from Tron.  He was gone from view in a flash.  Not so with Sheherry.  She lingered, slouching alluringly.  The brass bikini she wore covered only the ends of ample bosoms and the areas critical to earn a PG-13 rating.  Was she conscious of the effect she had on men?  Surely she must know.

“Thanks for what you did today,” she said without looking in King’s direction.

“You know I didn’t want to lose a good pilot.  I may need you to cover my butt next time.”

“Don’t worry, King.  You have a pretty butt.  I would never let anything happen to it.”  She looked him square in the eyes and smiled evilly.

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King Killer blushed.  He hoped the soot kept the red from showing.  He was not the sort known for blushing.

Sheherazade straightened herself up to her full, beautiful height and walked over to him with the slink of a leopard in her own jungle domain.

“You have orders from… erm, the boss?” he said with an uncustomary stumble.

“Maybe, but other matters have been weighing on my mind too.”

“Like what?”

“Like why you stare at me constantly but never say anything.  Like why you blush when you hear me say dirty words.  King, you are a man of action.  You are cool under fire and unshakable.  What is it about me that shakes you up?”

“Well, I, uh…”

“Could it be that you love me, but are just afraid to say the words out loud?”

“No, erm… I mean…”

She laughed.  She ran her ebony hand along the line of his jaw, and then kissed him on the lips.  It lasted longer than he would have ever expected.

“After what you did today,” she said, looking him steadily in the eye, “I realize that your feelings are no longer just an amusing detail for me.  I need you as much as you need me.  I’ve been watching how much Maggie and Tron love each other.  I need that too.  And, I know, it’s you, King.  You are the one for me.”

“What about Elvis?” asked King in his hard, cool combat voice.

“The man’s a pig.  I could never love him the way I do you.  Don’t tell me I’m wrong about you.  I’ll die if you shoot me out of the air now.”

Something changed for the first time in King’s life.  He cracked his first real smile.  He kissed her again.

“The Captain can marry us, you know.”

“Yes,” she said.  “I already asked Tron to do it for us at about twenty hundred hours this evening.”

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