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Stardusters… Canto 52


Canto Fifty-Two – In the Flower Garden

Shalar was amazed at the tadpoles’ reactions to Harmony Castille when they saw she had come to rescue them.  First Davalon and Tanith had hugged her and kissed her and then obediently put on clothing as Harmony directed, so that they might cover their sinful and shameful nakedness in the sight of God and everybody.  Then Menolly and George Jetson had done exactly the same when Harmony and Shalar wandered into the Arboretum to find them.  Only Brekka whined.

“I like being naked with my friends and family,” Brekka complained.  “You haven’t made Sizzahl get dressed!”  Brekka was lounging on a large leaf of a plant that seemed almost animated, and seemed to be cradling her like a loved one.

“I can’t get dressed,” said Sizzahl.  “I no longer have any clothing in the whole complex that fits me.  My clothing was destroyed by scabbies and the soldiers Gohmurt brought with him when he slew my father.”

The Galtorrian Makkhain was looking rather perturbed when Sizzahl mentioned her father’s death again.  At least, that was what Shalar thought as she looked at his inscrutable lizard-face.

“I will use my sewing skills to make you some, child,” Harmony said.  “We don’t want to have your soul lost to Christ either.”

Sizzahl frowned.  “I feel a lot the way Brekka does, human.  I have gone without clothing long enough that it doesn’t feel natural anymore.”

“How it feels is not the point,” seethed Harmony.  “Christian souls can’t be saved if they are still in a state of unforgiven sin just as naked Adam and naked Eve were.”

“I don’t see how your silly Earther superstitions apply to me,” Sizzahl replied heatedly.

“They apply to anyone whose soul I can save through Christian love and concern.  That is how you recognize a Christian… by their love.  Race, sex, creed… or species… makes no difference.  I love everyone and want everyone to be saved in Christ.  I can beat that notion into stubborn heads if necessary.”

“I think I see now what makes a church lady such a formidable warrior on your world,” interjected Makkhain.  “You have a single-mindedness of purpose that brooks no argument.  All great leaders can bend the masses to a single, over-riding purpose.”

Harmony looked at him with doubting eyes.  Shalar knew the old church lady, turned beautiful young woman, had no idea what the Galtorrian was talking about.  Harmony didn’t realize he was, in his own lizardy way, complimenting her.

Alden and Gracie Morrell had finished dressing themselves, and Gracie offered, “I can help you with the sewing, Harmony.”

“It isn’t really necessary,” Shalar pointed out.  “Studpopper is carrying a portable material synthesizer.  We can make clothing with any fibrous material you can gather.  There are lot of things in the rubble around here that will transform into cloth.”

“You can make clothing out of rubble?” Makkhain asked, surprised.

“Of course,” said Studpopper, putting the small portable synthesizer down on the potting bench where numerous withered flowers in flower pots were arranged.

“Two bad you can’t make food.  You could save a lot of Galtorrians.”

“Oh, we can make food.  If we round up all those dead scabbies, bones and all, and the dead plants, that will give us enough organic molecules to make good food for years.”

“Lester has volunteered to make plant shoots and runners for food too,” offered Brekka.  “George and Menolly were supposed to tell you all of that.”

“Who is Lester?” asked Shalar.

“My friend the man-eating plant,” said Brekka with a huge grin.

“We will definitely be making a lot of food, Makkhain,” said Shalar.  “And we will freely share it with your people if it will help your planet.”

“It really won’t make a difference,” said Makkhain.  “The atmosphere of Galtorr Prime is degrading at an alarming rate.  Soon we won’t have any air to breathe.”

“This Bio-Dome and the five thousand other sites that my father helped set up have working air-scrubbers that will convert the carbon dioxide and poisons into carbon blocks and trees,” said Sizzahl.  “My instruments have been showing that they are winning the air war since you war-guys destroyed all the factories and energy-making facilities.  We will have a fully restored atmosphere in five years.”

“Okay,” said Makkhain, “but we can’t solve the disease problem that turns us into scabbies.”

“That one is no problem,” said Sizzahl with a shrug.  “Any Galtorrian who is still alive is immune.  All the people susceptible to the virus have already succumbed to it.  I saw that in the genes we used to make the Human/Galtorrian fusions.  We have the same gene to battle the disease that the Tellerons and Humans have, otherwise we would be scabbies already.”

The old warrior seemed somehow deeply shaken by what he had just learned, which didn’t really make sense to Shalar.  It sounded to her like the evidence proved that Galtorr Prime and its people would survive after all.

“We… we can still save the planet!” gasped the old warrior.  “I… I have made a very grave mistake!”

All the others looked at Makkhain in wonder.  All but Brekka.  Shalar noticed the little naked tadpole had cuddled up against the plant-thing called Lester and fallen asleep.


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Stardusters… Canto 51


Canto Fifty-One – On the Operations Deck of the Star Ship Bone Head

The forty-two Galtorrian soldiers stood at parade rest.  Tedhkruhz in his ghastly purple robes stood quietly watching as two more soldiers led Farbick, Starbright, Stabharh, and Bahbahr out into the operations deck in manacles.

“Ah, Bahbahr, my friend, we meet again… but for the last time,” said Tedhkruhz in an oily voice that was so oily you could lubricate six Earther car engines with the vowels alone.

“You have won…  I don’t deny it,” said a defeated Bahbahr with tears still rolling down his fat cheeks.

“Yes.  I have won.  And as the victor, it is my privilege to execute you now.”

Bahbahr hung his fat head and cried more freely.

“You know, it is my prerogative as his security chief,” said Stabharh, “to be executed before my master.”

“Oh, yes.  We will be quite happy to oblige,” said Tedhkruhz while swinging the gun around to point at Stabharh.

“Wait a minute,” said Stabharh.  “It is my prerogative.  Doesn’t that mean that I can also choose to not be executed first?”

“Well, now, maybe you have a point there, Stabharh,” said Tedhkruhz, leaking more oil out of his corrupted personality.  “What do you think men?  Do we let the security lizard make that particularly disloyal sort of choice?”

“Of course not, sir,” replied a junior officer.  “Execute him first.”

“Even though Stabharh is scrawny with far less meat on his bones?” wheedled Tedhkruhz.  “Remember, Bahbahr alone has enough bulk to feed us all for a few days before we have to kill and eat anybody else.”

“Okay, Farbick, help me out here,” said Stabharh.  “Surely there is something in all of that which you can use to start something brewing.”

Farbick was surprised.  Stabharh was throwing the figurative basketball to him now?  What did the lizard man expect him to do?  Talk the oily Grandpa Munster-lizard into killing himself?

“I, uh…”

“Surely you can point out to these warriors that Tedhkruhz once had a crew of hundreds aboard his flag ship, the Bone Head.  And then you could ask them what happened to all the rest?  Why are there only forty-four of them left?”

“Yes, what did happen to all the rest?” asked Farbick nervously.

“Some of them died in battle…” said a young warrior.

“And we ate them after they died,” said another lizard warrior.

“And we ate some of the rest because we were starving,” said a third.

“But who picked the ones to be eaten?” asked Farbick, beginning to form a plan.  “Did they volunteer?”

“Of course not,” answered another lizard-warrior.  “Tedhkruhz always selected them.”

The Senator’s dimpled smile had disappeared completely.  He grabbed a warrior’s weapon and fired a shot directly into Bahbahr’s head.  “I truly believe that that is enough thinking for one day.  You troopers do not want to tax your brains over-much.   Look at all the meat we now have.”

“Let’s cook him immediately,” said a lizard-warrior in an ugly hat that Farbick assumed must be a cook’s hat.

“Yes, let’s,” said Tedhkruhz, smiling again.  “And put the three prisoners back in the pit until the meat runs out.  No sense in letting anything spoil before we get to it.”

The lizard warriors dragged the no-longer blubbering mound of carcass that had been Bahbahr away.  He was obviously headed to the cook pots.

“That didn’t go like I thought,” said Stabharh to Farbick as the soldiers grabbed the manacles of all three prisoners.

“What were you actually thinking?” asked Farbick.  But before the small lizard-man could answer, Farbick noticed Tedhkruhz looking at him.  The Grandpa Munster grin was definitely gone.  And was that a look of fear in his eyes?  Fear as he looked at Farbick?


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Stardusters… Canto 50


Canto Fifty – The Control Center of the Bio-Dome

Davalon was surprised to see Sizzahl enter the control center with a large Galtorrian warrior.  Tanith noticed the intruder immediately too and shot Dav a worried glance.  But he had no idea what to tell Tanith.  Sizzahl was not worried by the lizard man’s presence at all, so he couldn’t be an enemy, could he?  Davalon shook his head slightly to tell Tanith he had no ideas.

“Davalon?  Tanith?” said Sizzahl with a beaming smile, “This is my uncle, Senator Makkhain.  My parents and I thought he had been killed by Tedhkruhz’s forces over a year ago.  He has been fighting with the resistance.”

“Tellerons?” said Makkhain skeptically.  “Please tell me you are not making Galtorrian frog-fusions too.  I don’t need grand nieces and grand nephews who are part Space Toads!”

“You have no right to use insulting language like that,” said Tanith in a quiet voice.  “We are a more technologically advance race than you are, and we have never invaded your miserable planet before.”

“Before now, you mean,” said Makkhain.  “I tracked a landing party of Telleron invaders coming this way.  They are lead by an Earther warrior the like of which I have never seen before.  She is ruthless and efficient and cut down an entire wave of angry and agitated scabbies.”

“Earther warrior?” asked Davalon.  “We didn’t bring anyone like that with us.”

“Blond woman with big muscles in her arms and a very authoritative voice?”

“Harmony Castille?” Tanith wondered aloud.

“She’s not a warrior,” said Davalon.  “She’s what the Earthers call a church lady.”

“Earther armies must tremble at the mention of church ladies,” said Makkhain, shaking his scaly head in a way that looked to Davalon like pure admiration.  “We could’ve really used her in the war against Tedhkruhz and Rekhpahree.  We finally defeated and killed Rekhpahree, but I am the only survivor of that battle.  Your church lady has not lost a single man during a very long and impressive march from their landing site and their initial battle with the scabbies.”

“They’ve come to rescue us,” suggested Tanith.  “We are saved.”

“If they are invaders,” said Makkhain dangerously, “perhaps I need to use you as hostages.  In fact, maybe I should kill you and use your bodies to dissuade them from invading further.”

“No,” said Sizzahl.  “These Tellerons are my friends.  They are the first friends I have had since Gohmurt killed my father.   I would sooner die by their hands than have to fight them!”

“Sizzahl?  You understand… it is not my way to go down without a fight.”

“We are not invading,” said Davalon.  “We only need a place to live until we can figure out how to get back to Barnard’s Star.  We were trying to help Sizzahl save your world.”

“Our world is doomed,” said Makkhain.  “We have let evil people do whatever they want for too long in the name of greed and self-interest.  If only we had gone to war sooner as I had suggested in the Senate, maybe the warlords who have destroyed our ecosphere and our world would not have been so devastating.  Now all we can do is hunt down the enemies we have left and wait for death to find us… either on the battlefield, or in some forsaken laboratory like this where scientists tried in vain to solve our problems by magic.”

“Maybe your mistake was in not trusting in the Lord your God,” said an entirely new voice.  Davalon and Tanith both turned to see Harmony Castille pointing her skortch pistol at Makkhain’s head.  The church lady was both confident-looking and formidable.  Shalar and the Telleron troops were behind her.  Dav felt as if the day were saved… at long last.



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Stardusters… Canto 49


Canto Forty-Nine – The Prison Pit of the Bone Head

The darkness was so complete that Farbick felt completely blind.  He could feel the warm slumbering body of Starbright cuddled up against him.  He could hear the blubbering of the deposed lizard overlord, Bahbahr.  He could also hear the whispery breathing of Stabharh somewhere quite near.

“Are you awake, Stabharh?”

“Of course.  My job has always been Bahbahr’s security.  I am not about to sleep if I am on the brink of failure.  There has to be a way out of this.”

“I wish I could believe as you do.”

“You don’t think you can overcome the present situation?”

“Of course I don’t.  The Telleron people are usually lost whenever they face a difficult situation like this.  We are inbred and sort of stupid.”

“What?  You outsmarted Bahbahr!”

“He hasn’t been outsmarted before?”

There was a long cold silence.  Then Stabharh said, “The reason Bahbahr is an overlord and one of the most powerful people on the planet is his ability to always be right and always make a profit.  The men at the top of our meritocracy are always the most capable.”

“How does he always manage to be right?”

“I enforce his will.  I remove those who see things differently.”

“And yet, he would eat you before he allowed himself to starve to death.”

“Yes.  It is my function to preserve and aid him.”

“Including dying for his benefit?”


“Are you certain he is worth that sort of obedience?”

“What do you mean?”

“It seems to me that your overlord’s greed and lack of concern for his fellow Galtorrians is what is causing your society to break down, and your planet to be destroyed.  His desire to beat his enemies has caused everything to go wrong.

“So, he has been relying on you to make him right and make him profitable.  He would be wrong and broke without you.  Has the ultimate result benefitted you, or made your life better?  Especially if he ends up eating you?”

Again things went unnaturally quiet.  The silence seemed endless to Farbick.

“Are you suggesting I should’ve done more for myself and less for Bahbahr?”

“I just think your boss should’ve cared more about his people, especially you, and less about his own comforts and desires.”

“I agree with you that your people are pointless and stupid… compared to the intelligence of the Zeta Reticulans they are babbling idiots.  But I think you have accurately described the failures of our people.  We are not stupid, but greedy.  We are not incompetent… but we are too ambitious and selfish, and we overlook potential problems to get what we want as quickly as possible.”

“Do you think Senator Tedhkruhz has the same failings as Bahbahr?”

“He rose to power by telling everyone, Bahbahr included, what they wanted to hear.  Whenever the opportunity came up for Tedhkruhz to betray some other powerful overlord or ruler, he stabbed them in the heart and destroyed them.  He thought he had beaten us before when he bombarded Gundahl, but I got Bahbahr safely away and saved him until now.”

“How loyal do you think Tedhkruhz’s men are?”

“As loyal as me.”

“Are you going to back Bahbahr all the way to the death?”  Farbick asked pointedly.

Again a long silence followed.

“Do you think Tedhkruhz’s minions might rebel against him?” Stabharh asked.

“I don’t know.  I think it would be in their own best interests.  But how could we do anything about it?”

“We need you to talk to them the way you are talking to me now.  Your ability to make sense… well… I think you are not stupid or incompetent.  I think if Tedhkruhz were smarter, he’d be deathly afraid of you.”



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Stardusters… Canto 48


Canto Forty-Eight – The Moon Gundahl

The Telleron mother ship loomed large in the sky over the moon base as Golden Wings 27 and 42 sat down upon the bombed and pitted tarmac.  The bright red space kite trailed outward from the mother ship’s top antenna, being blown by solar wind from Galtorr’s sun.

“Xiar, we are down,” said Biznap’s voice over the radio channel.

“We are down too, Commander,” Xiar replied.

“What do you want me to do now?”

“Well, you left them here with no way off, right?” Xiar asked.

“Yes.  They had weapons of their own available.  Farbick may not have succeeded in taking control with Telleron tech.  If that’s the case, then we may be fired upon when we enter.”

“Do they have any of our skortch weapons?”

“No.  I do believe Farbick would never teach them how to rebuild the ones we destroyed, even if they tortured both Starbright and himself to death.”

Xiar nodded at the comm panel.  Yes, he did believe that Farbick was capable of that kind of heroism that you saw every Saturday on Earther-television Jungle Jim movies.  He had seen it in action during the failed invasion of Earth.

“You lead an assault team, then, and my men will follow.  We’ll link up when you’ve secured the base.”  Xiar heard a low whistle of discontent from the other end after giving that command, but he didn’t care.  This risking your life thing they kept doing for no visible gains really had to stop somewhere.  And he was still the Captain, wasn’t he?  Who better to give the orders and bring up the rear?

Out the front viewing screen, Xiar saw a flood of Tellerons come boiling out of Golden Wing 27 with skortch pistols raised high.

Commander Biznap waved a weapon in Xiar’s direction.  The fool was leading from the front.  How could he be doing that?  Didn’t he care if he lived or died?  In their last invasion, more Tellerons skortched themselves than killed their supposed enemies.  Of course, that turned out to be a good thing for everybody but Corebait and Sleez.  They had all benefitted from contact with the Earther primates.  But Galtorrians were different… weren’t they?

Biznap was rushing the front doors when the doors suddenly opened and some actual Galtorrians walked out.  They were all small.  Many of them were wearing short pants.  They looked like… children.

“Captain?” said Biznap through the communicator.  “They are not offering any resistance.  In fact, they want to give us this base.”


“They say that Farbick told them if they gave the moon and this base to us, we would feed them with our material synthesizers.  They will give us this entire world to live on if we are willing to feed them.  They are all children.”

Xiar’s mind raced back to the troubles given them by Earther children… the stolen Golden Wing, the tadpole rebellion, the changes made to how Tellerons treated each other…

“Do we feed them, sir?”

“YES!  Our problem of being homeless is solved!  We can live here.  How is Farbick doing?”

Biznap took a moment to talk to these unexpected children.  He didn’t appear to react well to what he was told in answer.

“Xiar, Farbick and Starbright are gone.  These kids say that Senator Tedhkruhz came and took them, along with the two Galtorrian overlords.”

“Oh, no.”  Xiar was truly saddened by the news.  Farbick was supposed to be an inferior yellow-skinned Fmoog.  Green-skinned Tellerons were supposed to hate them for their inferior skills and buffoonery   But he liked Farbick.  Farbick was soft-spoken and as competent as any Telleron he had ever known.  And he realized for the first time that he had never admitted that to himself before.  But that would change… if only he could get Farbick back.



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Stardusters… Canto 47


Canto Forty-Seven – In the Flower Garden

“Don’t get too near that old plant again, Brekka,” warned George Jetson.  He shuddered with the memory of it scooping her up in the mouth-like blossom and nearly munching her to pieces as it had done to the scabby.

“Silly boy, the man-eating plant is now my friend.  He… or she… or it… is calling to me, telling me it will never harm me again.  In fact, it wants to help me and protect me.”

As the emerald-green girl tadpole walked closer to the huge blossom, the plant seemed to be smiling with flower-petal lips.  George looked at Menolly.  Menolly looked back and shrugged her bare shoulders.  She appeared to be creeped out by the carnivorous flower as much as George was.

Brekka stopped, naked and defenseless, directly under the giant blossom that was grinning at her.  She reached up with her left hand.

The blossom lowered to her.

“Oh, no!” gasped George and Menolly together.

But the blossom stopped an inch above her hand and let her stroke it… her… or him… under what could’ve been a chin, but definitely had the look of sepals.

“That’s a good boy, Lester… er, good girl… er, well… that’s good anyway.  You aren’t going to hurt anyone ever again, are you?”

The plant pursed its “lips”.

“Well, yes, I suppose you can eat all of those scabby thingies that you want.  That wouldn’t bother me a bit.”

The plant rubbed leaves together to get an actual chirping sort of sound.

“Oh, really?”

“What did he say?” Menolly asked Brekka.

“He says he… or… she can provide cuttings and runners to make baby plants that we can eat.  She says she… or… it can process carbon out of the air with photosynthesis and make plenty of food for us…  It says it… or he… um, can feed the whole Bio-dome if we want it to.”

“That’s good…” said George, “but if the plant is our friend now, wouldn’t that be eating our friend?”

“Lester says the plants on his… er… her world do it all the time… eat each other, I mean.”

“That will help with some of the food shortage problem, won’t it?” asked Menolly.

“Sure,” said Brekka.

“Maybe we should go talk it over with Sizzahl?” suggested George.  He really wanted to get himself and the girls away from the creepy plant-monster.

“You and Menolly go,” Brekka said.  “I want to stay here and play with Lester.”

“Are you sure that’s safe?”

“Lester can’t eat Tellerons without getting really, really sick.  So he will never again try to eat one of us… er, she won’t.  As long as we keep Sizzahl and the Morrells away from it… er, him.  Geez, the boy-girl thing is really confusing.”

So, George seized the opportunity to get away.  He dragged Menolly with him.  Brekka seemed happier with Lester anyway, and George was thinking… well, maybe he and Menolly could try some more… kissing.


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Stardusters… Canto 46


Canto Forty-Six – Outside the Bio-Dome

Harmony led her troops up to the front door of the Bio-Dome.  They waited quietly for her to signal the next step.

“Shalar?  This is the only mostly-intact building in the entire area.  Do you think this could be where they went?”

“If they are still alive, this looks like the kind of shelter they might be drawn to.”

Harmony went forward to the entryway and peered in.

“Oh, my goodness!  All their clothing and equipment is piled in there.  Their weapons too.  If they are still in there, they are naked and unarmed!”

Shalar adjusted her own breath-mask to reassure herself.  “If they are not still in there… or if the air in there is the same as it is out here… then they are already dead.”

“No!  Not my children!  We will enter here and go find them!”

Suddenly the metal man with a handful of spinning blades appeared on the ledge above the door.  His hand-blades whirred menacingly.

“Men!  Catch it in a crossfire like I taught you and take it out.”

The Telleron soldiers knew better than to disobey Harmony.  Four took the left flank and two went right.  The crossing skortch beams fried the machine man, and quickly reduced it to dust and vapor.  Shalar shuddered at the realization of how ruthless and efficient Earther humans truly were.  Her semi-incompetent Telleron soldiers were displaying an unusually high amount of self-discipline and military know-how which they had learned entirely on this mission by following the old Sunday-school teacher’s battle commands.

“That was impressive,” Shalar remarked.

“Of course it was,” said Harmony.  “Now let’s get inside.”

The Telleron soldiers filed in using the precise order and the sweeping-for-enemies maneuver that Harmony had taught them on the way to the Bio-Dome.  The soldiers secured the entryway and the hall beyond while Harmony and Shalar went through the pile of belongings that had belonged to the tadpoles and the Morrells.  Shalar noted all the items on her computerized notepad.   The inventory suggested that everything the tadpoles had taken with them from the crash scene was present.

“They were all here, Harmony,” Shalar said.  “And they don’t have anything with them wherever they’ve gone.”

“We will take all this gear with us so that the young scamps won’t be gadding about naked.   Why they took everything off here is a mystery.  But in my experience with human kids, it usually involves hormones and misbehavior.  We not only have to save their little lives, but save them from sin as well.”

“Sin, Harmony?”

“Well, it’s complicated.  But running around a dying planet stark naked can’t be pleasing behavior to a loving but righteous God.”

“Oh, of course… that.”

Shalar looked down the dark hallway.  She was worried about the children.  The mystery only seemed to deepen and the peril looked increasingly worse.



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