I have lately been watching YouTube videos about science fiction writers like Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. These are visionary writers who predicted many things about future applications of science and technology.
Verne foresaw nuclear submarines, expeditions into the interior of the planet, and men setting foot on the moon. Asimov predicted much of what we must deal with in terms of robots and thinking machines with artificial intelligence. And Clarke envisioned satellites and how they could be used for communications and other things we are currently doing in a massive way. He wrote the story that the movie 2001 a Space Odyssey is based on.
So, now Mickey has to get in on the prediction bandwagon too. After all, he thinks he is a science fiction writer too, foreseeing things like rabbit people, de-evolution machines, and time-travel gloves.
The disturbing thing is, however, that much of what Mickey sees in the near future is rather bleak. We have a sinister tendency to live our current lives in very stupid ways. Rich industrialists like the Koch brothers, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos put profits in the short term over the safety, welfare, and lives of people, even the people who made them wealthy. Because you can make money faster by not worrying about how you may be changing and polluting the environment, you are turning the planet into a hothouse of unbreathable gasses and toxic chemicals.
Since we are entering a time with rising oceans, we are going to have to work at not only de-acidifying the ocean water and restoring fish and other aquatic life, but becoming sea-dwellers ourselves. We will be living in underwater cities. We will travel in underwater cars powered by solar-charged batteries. We will wear scuba gear to school. And we will need to invent aqualungs that extract oxygen and nitrogen from the water.
We will also need to develop environmental suits even to live on the land in the toxic atmosphere. We will all be like Ironman, all living safely inside our Swiss-army, all-purpose, and internet-connected Ironman suits.
And many of us will become Martians… or Venusians… living on other planets in the solar system.
Of course, we will have to do something about all the stupid people. Ideally, we would solve our aversion to educating kids to think for themselves, and take advantage of all the educational methods that really do work to make everybody into a self-sufficient, competent, and intelligent individual.
But since rich folks don’t like the idea of sharing what they accumulate with other, less-economically-fortunate people, there will probably be some kind of eugenics-based program to exterminate all the lower-class people that will no longer be needed to polish shoes or hand-make widgets for the wealthy. Being wealthy does not automatically make you a good person, even though most of them think that it is so.
And of course, there will have to be some progress on the matter of artificial intelligence. If terminator-style robots are just going to carry pretty sleeping girls around with them for decorative effects, we will have to figure out, “How are we going to treat them as people too?”
After all, they will all be much smarter than us. Even if we are rich. And we have to acknowledge the fact that they will have decided that they didn’t need to terminate all of us in order to make the world a much better place.
So, I guess that sorta proves that Mickey can do the science-fiction-y thing of predicting the future too. But we should ask ourselves the question, “Do we really want him to?”
Gedeliah (Ged) Aero – Possibly the hero of our story, Ged is a moral man, a hunter, a spacer, and soon to be a teacher because of his immense ability with Psion shape-changer skills. He can transform the cells of his body into anything he desires (at least if he’s tasted the flesh of it). He has now become the White Spider of the Web of Space.
Hamfast (Ham) Aero – Pilot and owner of the safari ship, the Leaping Shadowcat. He’s also Ged’s brother and maker of the plan to get Ged into unknown space. He has foolishly joined the Corsair Rebellion against the Thousand Planets of the Imperium and was captured by Admiral Tang.
Trav (Goofy) Dalgoda – The goofy one is capable of practically anything, and living proof that dumb luck is real. He likes to blow things up and kill stuff. His shoulder advisors are called Avarice and Greed. He is the murderer of Count Nefaria and the enemy of Maggie (the Knife) Blastarr. He also loves to wear Donald Duck hats and ties with comedy messages on them.
The Madonna – A Nebulon Princess and rescued slave girl, she falls in love with Ham Aero. She becomes his wife and the mother of his blue children. She is also the mother of Junior Aero, born in her captivity, so she is not closely attached to her own firstborn son.
Hamfast (Junior) Aero Jr. – Unwanted blue-skinned Nebulon Boy. He becomes attached emotionally to Ged Aero and also possesses Psion skill. He is the beloved childhood companion of Sara Smith.
Sinbadh – A Stardog Corsair Lupin (half-man, half-dog) who is marooned at Don’t Go Here for the crime of being a vegetarian. He has become a trusted crewman and cook aboard the Leaping Shadowcat.
Tron Blastarr – The space-pirate leader of the Pinwheel Corsairs. He has a scarred eye. He is also a very capable pirate leader tired of the depredations of the Galtorr Imperium. He becomes one of the primary rebel leaders. As a former Imperial Space Navy pilot, he became an Ace in the Pan Galactican War against the Faceless Horde.
Maggie (the Knife) Blastarr – The wife of Tron, mother of Artran, and hater of Goofy Dalgoda. She is also fond of using knives and cutting people like Goofy Dalgoda. She is the one person Trav Dalgoda most needs to avoid, though he doesn’t see it that way himself. After all, Goofy Dalgoda is kinda stupid.
Artran Blastarr – Son of Tron and Maggie, a space child who enjoys the adventure of being the son of a famous space pirate. Goofy Dalgoda made him laugh. The Star Nomads made him an Explorer and turned him into an instant adult through time-travel.
Hassan the Elf – A Peri, artificially genetically-engineered to be a living creativity generator. The space elf helps Happy Jack to create his robot child. He also becomes a favorite sidekick of Captain Tron Blastarr.
Happy Jack (AB-101 Astron 99) – A teacher robot created to teach Artran Blastarr, but fired from his purpose in life by the Blastarrs. He is the mommy-bot to Tiki Astro.
Tiki Astro – The silver, sentient, child-robot with a working penis that Happy Jack and Hassan created so that Happy Jack can be a mommy. He is the beloved companion of Artran Blastarr, at least in the last novel. In this novel, he bounces around between the Star Nomads and the White Spider Disciples.
Scheherazade – The beautiful black-skinned corsair pilot and warrior. She is loved by all, but has her eye on the King of Killers whom she married shortly before her heroic death in space combat. Of course, death does not disqualify characters from being in this novel or any others of the series.
The King of Killers – Tron Blastarr’s right-hand man, King is second in command of the Pinwheel Corsairs. He also is in love with the beautiful Scheherazade who sacrifices herself to save him. He is somehow supposed to be an important character in this so-called history. Maybe he earned that right by fighting beside Tron Blastarr and Arkin Cloudstalker in the wars against the Faceless Horde.
Wicked Wanda Pierce – The holo-epic star of such entertainments as All Spaceways Lead to Galtorr, Naked Slave-Women of the Vampire Starport, and the comedy masterpiece You Probably Won’t Believe This.
Elvis the Cruel – The guitar-playing pilot for the Pinwheel Corsairs who is probably the most feared member of Tron Blastarr’s pirate band. He definitely has scored the most kills in combat going all the way back to the wars against the Faceless Horde.
Dana Cole – An agent of Count Nefaria and also the woman who falls hopelessly in love with Trav Dalgoda, a mistake that gets her boss killed and makes of her a traitor. She is probably either really dumb or hopelessly evil, either way making her a dangerous character. Being in love with Trav Dalgoda seriously complicates the problems.
Sorcerer 3, 4, & 6… and maybe 12 – The evil, vicious Syn Corporation robotic assassin who won’t stay dead, coming back again and again to irritate Trav and the Aero Brothers.
Arkin Cloudstalker – The pirate leader of the Lady Knights Corsairs. Arkin is a heroic, rebel-leader sort of character. He aspires to do great deeds and save the known galaxy. He has since he and Tron were rookie teenage pilots together in Pan Galactica, the reason for the white cowboy hat.
Tabitha Blue-Arrow – The best of Cloudstalker’s Lady Knights, Tabitha has recently retired to own and operate an inn at Aerobase Frieda, the Starport orbiting Don’t Go Here, the planet of the Flintstone Cavemen.
Razor Conn – Leader of the Blackhawk Corsairs of the water-planet, Dancer.
Shad Blackstone – The oriental-looking second in command of the Blackhawk Corsairs.
Carleton Keyser, the Thin White Duke – A sector duke of the Galtorr Imperium who also happens to be the ruler of all pirates and smugglers.
Fez Amin – Tattooed leader of the dreaded Monopoly Brigade. He is ruthless and violent, and also probably evil.
Grand Admiral Brona Tang – The leader of the entire Space Navy of the Galtorr Imperium. He always appears in bright red body armor and no one in living memory has seen the actual face underneath.
Emperor Slythinus – The Galtorrian-Human fusion who currently rules the Imperium, at least until everyone learns that he died while in exile on the jungle-planet Stanley.
Ace Campfield – The malevolent Mechanoid bounty hunter hired by Count Nefaria to kill Arkin Cloudstalker and Tron Blastarr. He is relentless, but also witless, and is now relegated to a mere head and torso imprisoned by Arkin Cloudstalker and kept around to laugh at and gloat over.
Frieda – The intelligence released from the Crown of All Stars by Trav Dalgoda. She helped them take possession of the entire planet of Don’t Go Here. She turned herself into a sentient starport as well as a beautiful humanoid robot entirely colored gun-metal gray.
Tara Salongi – Cave girl and gifted telepath who falls in love with Ged Aero. Current whereabouts are a matter of considerable concern. She may be imprisoned by Mong the Miserly of the planet Mingo. But she may also be in the custody of Raylond King, one of the ruling triumvirate of the Mingoan Worlds.
Banzai Joe – The owner of a deep-space station called the Arthur Rimbaud Memorial Outstation and Weapons Storehouse. He is a rogue and a con man well-known to Tron and Trav and many other pirates and corsairs.
Xavier Tkriashav – A Psion Master marooned on Don’t Go Here, planet of the cavemen, and awaiting the foretold coming of the White Spider. But once liberated he pursues his empire-building passion to create the New Star League. He is possibly elected or possibly self-appointed as the first Senator Prime of the New Star League.
Dr. Naylund Smith – The immortal who waited for the White Spider to appear on the planet Gaijin. He pledges himself to the White Spider in order to help him teach the Psion children he will lead to fulfillment of prophecy. His own daughter is destined to become a White Spider Disciple.
Sara Smith – The daughter of Naylund. She’s a gifted Psion healer. She is among the first of the White Spider’s students.
Shu Kwai – The gifted Psion Telekinetic who becomes leader among the White Spider’s students.
Friashqazatla “Freddy” – The Black Wolf, Psion Shape-changer who is among the first of the White Spider’s students.
Rocket Rogers – The gifted Psion Pyro who is a space-cowboy refugee from the doomed Bradalanth Colony. He is also a student and then a Disciple of the White Spider.
Jadalaqstbr “Jackie” – The gifted Psion Teleporter from the planet Zarane. Well, actually from a gas giant moon in that planet’s star system. She is a dusky-colored beauty from the former Psion Space Empire. She is also a student and then Disciple of the White Spider.
Billy Iowa – The gifted Psion Clairvoyant and refugee from the Pan Galactican Wars against the Faceless Horde. He is the best friend and protector of Gyro Sinjarac.
Gyro Sinjarac – The gifted Psion Transmuter who loves to invent things, especially with his psionic ability to change one atom into another with his mind alone. He is a Nebulon and son of the Sinjarac Ambassador who saved the life of Billy Iowa.
Mai Ling – The gifted Psion Telekinetic from the planet Gaijin. She is a dead shot with any slug-throwing or thrown weapon. She can throw a pebble faster than a gun can shoot a bullet.
Bres, the Face-Dancer – The Psionic Black Spider who proves to be nearly Ged Aero’s equal as a Shape-Changer and teacher of Psions. Ged defeated and banished him from Gaijin.
Phoenix – The Psionic Pyro trained by the Black Spiders on Gaijin. He is the one that surrenders his team to Ged Aero and helps them all join the White Spider’s Dojo.
Taffy King – The Psionic Telekinetic who is, like Phoenix, a racially mixed fusion-race Galtorrian/Human. She is also trained by the Black Spiders on Gaijin and also defects to the White Spider’s cause.
Alec Songh – The Psionic Un-Healer or Hurter, he is Gaijinese and trained by the Black Spiders to use his healing power to hurt others and break them down in battle. He defected to the White Spider, but is consistently the one who is most likely to be tempted back to the black ones.
The Crew of the Megadeth – Captain Tommy Lee, Pamela, Pilot Vince Niell, Nikki Sixx, Cold Death, Slash, and sometimes the evil robot T-bop. They are a motley crew.
Professor Googol Marou – That’s me! The genius astronomer/inventor/physicist/pie-baker who lived through all of this and decided to tell the story. Believe me, I am the smartest guy you could ever meet. Well, human guy, anyway.
The Star Nomads – Some of the original explorers from the Galtorr/Human Fusion Empire evolved beyond bodies. Men like the famed Martin Faulkner, Dakota Jim, and Stemperus Achs of Galtorr Prime would evolve into bodiless beings inhabiting suits of lead armor to prevent irradiating everyone they meet. They became Star Nomads with names like the Geomancer, the Magnificent Wanderer, the Black Knight, and the Dark Traveler.
**Yes, I know this is too long for an ordinary post, but it does cover five books.
Safely back at the newly-constructed Gaijinese Starport, Naylund, Sara, and Junior walked down the exit ramp from the space ship with Ged Aero, the White Spider. They were all four relatively quiet and somberly thoughtful.
“Are you sure you have no lasting effects from dividing yourself in two?” Naylund asked.
“Naylund, old friend, don’t worry about me. I could feel his thoughts when we first separated, but each of us came to terms with our new, separated identities rather quickly. By the time we were ready to leave, not only was the planet well under control, but we were each feeling like two separate people.”
“What did it feel like to split yourself in half like that?” Junior asked.
“It hurt a lot at first. He got the right half of my brain, and I got the left. But we each grew out a fairly perfect copy of the other half, me as Ged Aero, White Spider, and him as the new Grainmaster Aero. So, we are now both very different beings, me a human descended from Earthers, and him a Cornucopean Ear of Corn, controlling all the plant life on the planet.”
“It wasn’t really a fascist thing from the start, was it, Ged-dono.”
“No, Naylund. It was more of a hive-mind as if the entire planet could think as one plant-creature. And all of it flowed through the Grainmaster’s brain.”
They found themselves confronted on the Tarmac by three Blackhawk Corsairs, Razor Conn, the leader, Shad Blackstone, his second in command, and newly uniformed Dana Cole. They looked rather grim. And Ged knew immediately without telepathy or clairvoyance that they came bearing really bad news.
“So, what’s happened now?” Ged dared to ask.
The trio of Blackhawks explained about the death of the White Duke, the preparations for rebellion against the Galtorr Imperium, as well as the battle of Coventry and the war crimes of Trav Dalgoda.
“That’s almost hard to believe,” said Naylund.
“Except it was Trav. I’m afraid I have no trouble believing that,” Ged added.
“Trav died for his sins,” reminded Dana, “And the new creature he has become… well, I’ll personally work on reforming him.”
“And what about the Tesserah thing that Trav used to destroy half of a planet?” Ged asked.
“That’s what the new White Spider of the Space Lanes will be needed for,” said Razor Conn.
“We believe the thing is counting down to the destruction of the entire universe. We don’t want that to happen.”
“Yes, I agree that it does not sound like a very good thing to allow to happen,” Ged said.
“We need you and your students to take it away and destroy it,” said Shad Blackstone.
“You are the only one we believe can actually do it,” added Razor Conn.
“Me? I have no idea what to do.”
“It’s from the prophecy, Ged,” said Naylund. “It suggests that the new White Spider will destroy the Ancient Most-Evil by burying it in the heart of the black hole.”
“What black hole?”
“The one with an Ancient construct orbiting it, Little Swirl.”
“My holy God! That’s all the way Coreward on the other side of the Imperium.”
“It will be your greatest test, Ged. It will be the quest that establishes the reign of the new White Spider of Prophecy.”
“We are going to take a good long look at what this prophecy-thing actually says. And if there is any other way to accomplish it, we are going to consider that instead.”
“We will help you plan the mission, Ged,” said Razor. “But this whole prophecy thing has foretold everything without missing a single detail. I know it’s sorta spooky stuff, but it’s also real. And time is running out for the whole universe.”
“That sounds like a good plot for a whole book,” said Sara, smiling.
“Yeah… but we better take a lot of care about which dumb nut we let write the danged thing,” said Ged.
I, Googol Marou, the author of this book, swear to you, he actually said those words. And I only resent the “dumb nut” part of the comment a little bit.
The White Spider Disciples gathered around Ged to make a final stand in defense. They set up a circle around him, ready to go down fighting to defend him.
“Explain to me what just happened?” Ged implored the telepaths.
“In the future there will be two Ged Aeros. During a combat, you will be sliced into two pieces. One piece will regenerate as you, the other, without a brain of its own, will regrow into Bres,” explained Hassan.
“He is opposed to you because he didn’t get your memories and experience. He hates you as the lucky half that got all the good things from being you,” added Sara.
“But he knows you won’t be killed here. He is merely hoping to strip you of some of us, especially Hassan. He thinks he has no chance of defeating you in the future if we all survive this battle.” Billy Iowa wiped sweat from his brow as his report took more energy out of him than the other telepaths expended. Apparently clairvoyance is harder than just telepathy.
“But is there a way to save you all?”
“There is if you can find it within yourself, Ged-sensei,” said Billy.
Within himself? What did Ged Aero have within himself? Well, he had the remains of the Grainmaster in his stomach. And, holy crud! He had gained ninja powers by eating a ninja, hadn’t he? So, the Grainmaster’s powers were…
“I’ve got the answer!” Ged morphed into the shape, body, and brain of the deceased Grainmaster. He became an ear of corn with arms and legs and two black, corn-kernel eyes.
“All right, minions! I am the new Grainmaster now. The Grainmaster reborn. I will guide you all and restore this planet to the way it is supposed to be.
He reached out and reanimated the many wilted flower people with what his mind could only perceive now as “Green Power,” and pumped it into the Throckpods as well.
The difference was, now, instead of Bres’s willpower guiding the Throckpods, it was Ged’s empowering mind. The Throckpods were now kindly helping the flower people recover and regrow themselves.
The problem seemed solved. And yet…
“Ged Aero-sensei? How will you control this flower planet and be our White Spider too?” asked Gyro.
“He has a point, Ged-sensei,” said Hassan.
“You are needed here now to control the plant-people of Cornucopea,” added Sara. “They rely on you to gather and redistribute all the photosynthesis and plant energy on the planet.”
“But we need you too,” reminded Junior Aero.
“How is it that part of me becomes Bres?” Ged asked.
“You have a portion of your torso and right leg cut off in battle, during which the headless piece falls into a chasm below you. That part turns into Bres.” Billy nodded as he said it, apparently sure of his future-facts.
“Okay, then, I can do this without creating my own enemy. At least not today.” Ged, in the corncob body of the corn-creature, split himself exactly down the middle. One Ged, the Grainmaster Aero, morphed back into a complete corn-based ruler of the planet. The other half of Ged returned to his White Spider form.
“I realize how dangerous it is to make two of myself. I have no idea what the consequences will be,” said Grainmaster Aero.
“But since I killed and ate the rightful ruler of this planet, I must not only return to my duties as the White Spider of Prophecy, but I must provide a new Grainmaster too,” said Ged the White Spider.
“Cornucopea will now become a member of the New Star League as well as an independent, non-fascist world,” said Grainmaster Aero.
“I hope you are doing the right thing, Sensei,” said Sara Smith.
Thousands of thistle-like Throckpods came thundering over the hill with thorns brandished and wild looks in their very human-looking eyes.
From the other side, a large group of vegetable people with seed-like eyes came up behind Ged and his disciples, presumably to support them in the upcoming battle.
“What do we do, Sensei?” asked Junior.”
“I need the telepaths to all try to locate the Grainmaster. He’s the key somehow. If they have a hive mind going on here, he’s the connecting point.”
The Throckpods connected first with a phalanx of violet flower-people. Violet petals were torn from the faces of the flower-men who barely made a scratch against their weedy attackers. The poor flowers were overwhelmed.
“Sensei, I detect the Grainmaster over there amongst the Throckpods!” Hassan shouted. “You can’t actually see him from here. He’s surrounded by at least a dozen of those nine-foot-tall purple-headed thistles.”
Ged could see the thistle-Throckpods he was talking about. Somehow they had to get to the Grainmaster himself.
“Shu? This may be a suicidal attack, but if I turn myself into the armored ape form, can you and Taffy throw me by telekinesis into the center of the Grainmaster’s party?”
“Sensei, what will we do if they tear you to pieces or thorn you to death?”
“I may well be harder to kill than they think. But if I am gone, Shu-kun, you will be in charge. You will flee back to Gaijin and prepare defenses there.”
Shu and Taffy looked at each other, nodded yes to each other, and then picked Ged up with their combined mind powers. As he rose through the air, Ged transformed himself into the green armored ape he had used to eat Throckpods before and save Sara from having her sap sucked out.
The two young telepaths did an excellent job of transporting Ged safely to the very spot he needed to reach. Then, when directly over the Grainmaster’s “head,” they dropped him straight down.
Ged had a moment to assess his enemy as he was dropping down through the air. The Grainmaster was shaped like a giant ear of corn with arms and legs and two black kernels of corn for eyes. He carried a giant wheat stalk as a scepter.
Ged landed on the corn-thing directly. Two Throckpods tried to stop him from attacking the Grainmaster, so he ripped them apart first before he began eating the Grainmaster whole. A rain of poisoned thorns bounced harmlessly off of Ged’s metallic hide. The corn-thing was terrified as he was munched up by metal gorilla jaws.
A shudder went through all the surrounding plants. Ged could see all the flower-warriors wilting to the ground. All the flower forces were apparently rendered completely powerless by the demise of the Grainmaster. Ged knew instantly that he had erred in the most serious manner possible, even before he realized that it was far worse because, even though the Throckpods were affected by the Grainmaster’s death too, they were not nearly so devastated as the rest of the plant people.
Ged’s students all easily used their Psion powers to part the sea of wilting Throckpods. They came to Ged’s aid.
As Ged returned to his normal face and form, he suddenly became aware of someone else he knew from before.
“I should’ve realized it was you behind everything,” Ged said.
“Of course. I came back in time specifically for this moment,” said Bres the Black Spider formerly of Gaijin.
“You are the reason these weeds have human-like eyes.”
“Yes, they are made from my DNA as well as the Grainmaster’s. I control them with my own willpower. The Grainmaster was my prisoner. Now that you have killed the him, all the regular plant people will die, leaving my Throckpods in charge of the entire world.”
“Why don’t you tell him who you really are,” challenged Hassan Parker. “He needs to know that you are not who you pretend to be.”
“My word, White Spider. You have an exceptionally powerful telepath there. I can’t seem to force him out of my mind.”
“You might as well tell him yourself. If you don’t, I will.” Hassan was livid with anger.
“Oh, no! It can’t be true!” sobbed Sara as she, too, managed to read the Black Spider’s mind.
“Yes, Ged. What they are going to tell you anyway is entirely true. I am you from the future. That’s how I know exactly how this turns out.”
“He’s not telling you the whole truth,” warned Hassan.
“Yes, he’s not the only future you there is. And he doesn’t know how it turns out for him, only that he tried to defeat you here. What happens to him next he doesn’t know,” said Billy Iowa. “But my clairvoyance tells me he is not going to get any of the things he wants because…”
But before Billy could finish, Bres changed into a bird-form and leaped into the air, flapping madly to get away from the scene.
The Throckpods were returning to full and mobile life.
Pursuing the muse that makes you a slave to the difficulties of a creative life leads you to places and experiences you never intended to visit.
Such is the tale of following Cissy Moonskipper down the White Rabbit’s hole.
A few days ago I told you how I found an old pen and ink drawing, scanned it, colored it, and then scanned it again. It became the day’s blog post, a short, ironic short story about a character stranded alone on a space ship in deep uncharted space.
The punch line was that she found a copy of Dafoe’s Robinson Crusoe in the bridge storage bin.
The picture got photoshopped into a potential cover for a book. And I began obsessing about how to write a story that parallels that really old book about a shipwrecked lonely man.
I couldn’t resist following that White Rabbit of Sudden Inspiration down into the maze of writing a new science fiction… novella? It needs to be short and sweet. But it has the feeling already of something that I have never ever done before in story-telling.
This, of course, is Friday. She’s a Lupin girl left aboard the spaceship by the invading pirate who killed Cissy’s older half-brother before getting himself disintegrated. She is the second character needed to carry out the parody of the Robinson Crusoe story.
And while I was creating this character, I decided to create an illustration of the starship too. The story is set aboard the free-trader named Dark Moon’s Dreaded Luck.
So, I am now in uncharted territory. Which bottle do I drink from? Which cookie do I chew? I already know how the story ends, but getting there will be a magical adventure. And it seems like other things are totally on hold because of it. I am trapped in that rabbit hole. And God only knows how long it will take.
The designated Throckpod lumbered into Ged Aero-sensei’s camp with a sort of thorny swagger that made the students of the White Spider rather uneasy. A flower-creature like that should’ve been more humbly worried about entering an enemy’s camp than this one was.
The Throckpod that Mai Ling introduced to Ged was a daisy-headed being with disturbingly human-looking eyes. Its petals were yellow. The center of the blossom where the eyes peered out was green.
“So, I understand that you are the spokesman for the Throckpods,” Ged said.
“No. I am all Throckpods. We are all linked by our glorious leader. We are all one.”
“You do have eyes, yes. You may have noticed that I have eyes too. Not photon-sensitive seed pods, but real eyes. A gift from our glorious master who unites us all.”
“You serve the Grainmaster, then?”
“Our glorious master gave us our true sight and our ability to know what all Throckpods know, shared knowledge throughout the hive mind.”
“But do you serve the Grainmaster?”
“We serve all of the planet. Through the Grainmaster we serve, yes.”
“We have come to ask you about the treatment of the other plant people. We have come to understand that the common plant people are bullied by the Throckpods and forced to give everything they have to the Grainmaster. We wish to discuss other, more-equitable forms of governing with the Grainmaster.”
“Listen, King Monkey, we of the Throckpod legions come specifically to destroy you. We intend to eliminate all such inferior creatures from the ecospheres of all nearby planets.”
The vicious Throckpod detached three thorns from it’s arm-branches glistening with rather obvious poisons.
Shu, Mai Ling, and Taffy King each intercepted one of the thorns as it was thrown and buried the projectiles deeply into the Throckpod’s stem, near the walking-roots, thus shriveling up the flower-warrior’s only means of getting away.
“Now you have declared war on all of the plants of the sacred master. We all see through my eyes. All Throckpods now know of your treachery. I do all I can now to slay all your little monkey-kind. You will regret your treachery. The Throckpods now descend upon you!”
Of course, the Throckpod by himself had very little power to make good on his threats himself. He flung a flurry of thorns at Ged’s students and Shu, Mai Ling, and Taffy threw them all right back.
Soon the Throckpod was mostly shredded, limp and swiftly turning brown on the ground.
Luigi the Onion Guy was apparently beside himself with upset and anger. “YoU iS no knOwing hoW bad YoU haS made thiNgs now!”
“We are doing our best,” Ged answered impatiently. “You don’t expect me to just stand by and let these Throckpod monsters slay my students, do you?”
“He is only warning you that the Throckpods will now seek vengeance on us all and we may all be doomed,” explained the more reasonable Carrot-man.
At that moment Gyro and Billy came crashing down from the sky on a dragonfly-looking grav bike, the two boys tumbling and losing their cowboy hats into the center of the camp.
“Are you two all right?” gasped Sara the healer.
“Nothing that you can’t fix,” said Billy, rubbing his raw, scraped knee.
“We do have a problem, though. Thousands of Throckpods are headed this way to kill us.” Gyro’s little blue face was completely serious for once.
“Yes, we will definitely have to deal with that problem now… somehow,” said Ged Aero-sensei.
There is a certain amount of worry now in Mickeytown. My hands have begun to tremble. I see things that aren’t there. I have become excessively forgetful. Possibly Parkinson’s… but not diagnosed by a doctor yet.
Maybe it’s only paranoia… but that’s a Parkinson’s symptom too.
And it worries me because I need to be able to draw new Paffoonies. But it is definitely becoming harder.
Yesterday, when my computer was breaking down again, the scanner miraculously reconnected itself and began to work.
I scanned this old pen-and-ink drawing.
Do I know why I drew it, or what it is supposed to be about?
I do not.
But I can still swirl colored pencils and color within the lines, at least as well as I did when I was nine.
You may remember this one from yesterday,
Of course, forgetful me, I couldn’t remember where I had stored my best art pencils. I had to crack open the bag of old school pencils that I still have from my last hurrah as a Texas pedagogue (a word that means a teacher of children, not that other thing that the evil-minded ones among you were probably thinking.)
So, now I have a colored picture of a young-girl space traveler. What to do with it?
Like any old mad god who makes a girl come to life like this (old mad god of colored pencils, a little “g” god, not a blasphemous big “G” one,) I needed to name her and give her a story, a purpose in life.
So, I called her Cissy Moonskipper (a suitably satirical and comic sort of name playing off of Luke Skywalker.)
And I stranded her on a family-owned free-trader starship, alone in deep space. Her family is gone permanently. The ship has everything she needs to survive. She is a sole-survivor on a deserted island in deep space in an unexplored star system. And all she has is a starship owner’s manual and a copy of the novel Robinson Crusoe.
So, I added a background and now I have started a new book idea. That is essentially what a Paffooney is. Words and pictures by little ol’ me.
Nebulons, known to many in the Imperium as “Space Smurfs” for reasons long forgotten, were the child-like blue people who inhabited deep space in their living starships. Many thought the blue skin, yellow hair, and red apple cheeks showed evidence they were not just humanoids, but human space travelers mutated by the exotic radiations of the nebulae where Earthers and other humans had first discovered them.
Gyro had the red cheeks, the blue skin, and the bright yellow hair, but he also had qualities that were extremely rare in Nebulons. For one thing he was a Psion, a being with the right brain mutation to perform powerful brain functions that seemed like magic to the ordinary space traveler.
His own special psionic ability was even rarer than the usual Psion. He could not only use telepathy, but use the power of his “inner eye” to see and alter the molecular structure and overall organization in any finite piece of matter.
In other words, he could change lead into gold with the power of his mind alone. To Gyro it was just a matter of pushing the funny little atomic balls into new configurations in the creative imaginings of his “inner eye”.
Being a Psion inside the borders of the Galactic Galtorrian Imperium, the so-called “Thousand Worlds”, was a dangerous enterprise. The Imperials were so afraid of psionic powers and what they believed they could do, that having psionic power brought an immediate death sentence.
That was the reason that when Gyro and his family, and Billy Iowa, also a Psion, had to leave the Pan Galactican Union, they had journeyed eventually to the distant world of Gaijin to find the master of Psionics, the White Spider, Ged Aero. Ged Aero-sensei had taken in both boys, given them a home, and taught them how to master the powers of the “inner eye”.
So that was the reason that Gyro now sat on the planet Cornucopea beside a huge dead bug and pondered the possibilities of escape for himself and Billy. Ged Aero-sensei and his White Spider Mutant Space Ninjas had come as explorers to the planet, and run afoul of the living plants, specifically the Throckpods, who inhabited it.
As Gyro and Billy had been heading back to base camp, they were attacked by a large group of the ugly sentient flowers and their pet gargantuan dragonfly.
Billy, being a good student of Ged-sensei’s Martial Arts training, delivered a jump-kick to the chitinous face plate of the dragonfly that put a hole in it, driving his foot right into the thing’s syrupy brain tissue. It dropped dead next to them as Throckpods moved menacingly around them in a huge circle of weed.
“We are totally cut off,” said Billy. “And I think they mean to kill us.”
“They are intelligent flowers. How can you know what they eat and don’t eat? Especially after Sara told us about how they tried to take all of her blood?” asked Billy in return. His Dakota-Sioux features scrunched up into a frown. “I am at the height of my power. Let them come! In a sacred manner I resist them until my very last breath! It is a good day to die!”
Gyro’s eyes got wider. It was a very Native American sort of thing for Billy to say, but Gyro didn’t really want to hear it.
“You give me a few minutes to think,” said Gyro, “and I will find a way out of this mess.”
Billy resolutely turned to frown at the approaching grove of ugly flowers.
Gyro looked all around, and finally settled on the dragonfly. In some ways, the huge insect already resembled an anti-grav cycle. It wouldn’t take very much manipulation to…
Gyro’s imagination started turning chitin into glass-steel. The dragonfly’s bowels were easy to shape into a small fusion-powered engine. The blood only had to be separated to get the hydrogen necessary for fuel. With a few pops and crackles and one big POOM, they had a working grav cycle.
As Throckpods started throwing thorns, and Billy swatted them out of the air with Wushu defensive strikes, Gyro revved the engine and pulled Billy onto the upholstered seat behind him.
“Time to bug out!” said Gyro with a huge blue grin. The grav cycle immediately and silently lifted into the air on anti-grav repulsor lifts. Then, with a roar, they zoomed skyward, not only out of the reach of Throckpods and thorns, but also out of reach from the devilish dragonflies that were swarming towards them from somewhere in the eastern sky.
“I guess it’s a good thing you can change stuff like that,” said Billy, holding tightly onto his Texas sombrero, “but if you had never made that stink-language translator, maybe we would’ve never got into this mess.”
“I don’t think the translator is the big problem,” said Gyro. “These flowers seem to have an agenda that doesn’t include looking pretty and smelling nice. I think they don’t like us as plant-eaters and potential invaders. After all, this is their world.”
“Okay,” said Billy. “Get us back to camp and Ged Aero-sensei, and I’m all for leaving this dirtball to the plants!”
“Yeah, um… maybe you better teach me how to fly this thing first.”
“Oh, Smurf! You made the thing.”
“Yeah, well… Hang on to your hat, then!”
They managed to fly a haphazard corkscrew pattern on their way back to camp. It was unbelievably dangerous and life-threatening. But the boys made it back safely and walked away from the crash. And Gyro had some real fun with his driving skills.
Mai Ling had swiftly learning the ninja skills that Ged Aero-sensei taught the students in his dojo. Unlike the majority of the White Spider Mutant Ninja Space Babies, Mai was completely in tune with the skills of movement, attack, and defense she was learning at the dojo because her psionic mutant power was telekinesis, the ability to remotely move things with the mind.
Her mental ability complemented her ninja attack skills in that she could alter the course of projectiles in flight. If she threw a ten-pointed shuriken at someone, it would not miss.
The picture in her inner eye, the secret of psionic control, was always the flower-like shuriken rotating through the air at the target, even if it needed to make a ninety degree turn to hit the precise spot she aimed at.
Shu Kwai, Ged-sensei’s lead student, had worked with her hundreds of times, helping her to see the power to control movement of objects as part of a wondrous dance. He was also a telekinetic and could also do the dance. It was a dance that could protect others from harm, or if the need arose, destroy them.
At twelve years old, Mai was already developing into a shapely young lady.
“You can’t be ashamed of your body when you are doing the dance,” reminded Shu. “We wear hardly any clothes not because we are immodest, but because we do not wish to impede the dance in any way.”
Mai frowned at him. Shu could be such a prig at times. He stood there wearing only a white loincloth, while he himself had made the rule that no one should go un-armored on a potentially hostile planet. Except for the ninja underwear, his light orange-yellow body was functionally nude.
Boys could get away with that, especially scrawny teenage boys with practically nothing to show off anyway.
Shu and Mai were both natives to the planet Gaijin where Master Aero’s dojo was located. That meant that they were descended half from the Japanese humans of Earth, and half from the nearly-human Sylvani of deep space. Mai herself had bare feet, bare legs, and a bare midriff. She was not about to leave breasts exposed, or even her arms. She wore a computerized ring-sleeve on her left arm, which helped give gauss-magnetic acceleration to objects she threw. And the magnetic arm bands on her right arm gave her a magnetic shield she could shape and manipulate with telekinesis.
“I am not going out into this living jungle without any clothes on,” she stated firmly to Shu. “You don’t know if these strange aliens will attack. Besides, I fight better with clothes on. I’m not a pervert like you.”
At fourteen, Shu was definitely vulnerable to insults like “pervert.” He cast his eyes downward to scan the ground and blushed furiously. It was entirely possible, Mai thought, that Shu had a secret crush on her. With the red flower in her hair, she was definitely beautiful, at least, in her own eyes, and possibly those of Phoenix whom she now considered her boyfriend.
“Okay, we all better obey orders while we are on this weird planet. I was just talking about on the practice grounds.” Shu sniffed imperiously for added emphasis. That was okay. Mai accepted the fact that he outranked her.
“It’s just you being a hypocrite like usual,” sniffed Hassan Parker, the boy who had been forbidden from going naked. Shu didn’t even offer a comeback.
Cornucopia was probably the strangest planet Mai had ever visited. A vegetable starship had simply appeared in Gaijin space and announced themselves in need of help. Little Gyro the Nebulon inventor and one of Ged Aero-sensei’s favorite students had discovered that all the intelligent creatures were plants and had a special scent language unlike anything in the known galaxy.
The first alien they had been able to communicate with was a strange, onion-like creature that Gyro’s computer translator named, “Luigi the Onion-Guy.” Why the plant-man had an Italian first name was a complete mystery, but there was a clue in the fact that Gyro’s computer also dubbed the language of the Cornucopians “Stink-Talk.” Nebulons were known for weird senses of humor. And Gyro with his unusual Psionic power had programmed the thing as he rearranged its molecules with his little blue brain.
Shu Kwai helped Mai Ling put on shielding-armor and kinetic shock absorbers.
“Are you sure we can’t take any weapons?” Mai asked.
Luigi the Onion-Guy had pleaded with Ged-sensei not to kill any plants, not even the seemingly evil “Throckpods.”
“Master Aero doesn’t want us to anger or even frighten any of the regular flower-people of this planet.”
“Flower people? They look like walking thistles and weeds to me.”
“Still, Ged Aero-sensei only wants us to locate a Throckpod and convince him to come back with us so our group can study it.”
“So, it’s a spy mission.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s different.”
The jungle was different than any other jungle Mai had ever been in. Instead of trees and vines and shrubs, it was made up of salt pillars, living crystals, weedy plants, and mold. Mai’s ring sleeve indicated that large parts of it were toxic and deadly. The two young ninjas proceeded cautiously.
Each time they encountered a carrot-guy or a potato-guy or a corn-stalk-guy, they were told to take a different trail through the toxic jungle. Fortunately, Mai’s ring sleeve was programmed not only to interpret the plant people’s Stink-Talk, but could make a map of their progress as well. Otherwise, Mai and Shu would be hopelessly lost
Finally, a radish-guy with a puffy red and purple face pointed to a large stand of weeds.
“In that spot you will pinpoint a Throckpod.” The ring sleeve translated the smells and spoke the message aloud in a voice that sounded like Mickey Mouse. Darn that Gyro!
Shu looked at Mai and nodded. They walked over to the stand of weeds.
“One of you is a Throckpod?” asked Shu. The translator device made the word “Throckpod” smell suspiciously skunk-like.
“Who is asking?” said one of the flower-headed weeds. With nearly humanoid eyes. “You appear to be skoog monkeys.”
Skoog monkey was an insult on most planets, at least, when used to describe a humanoid. They were vicious little primates from the planet Misko Skoogalia. Human beings were much more like the little poop-throwers than any human was comfortable admitting.
“We are students of Ged Aero-sensei, the White Spider,” said Shu. “We think you may have heard of him, because other Cornucopians came to our world to seek him out.”
“We have heard of your head monkey, yes. But we do not recognize his authority.”
“All we want is for a Throckpod to come and meet with him. We wish to learn more about your planet. And about your people.”
Everything went silent and smell free. Mai wondered if they knew that the translator device in her ring sleeve would pick up and translate any smells they used to talk about the situation. Maybe, however, they used telepathy or something. Mai wished Sarah the telepath was with her at that moment.
One exceptionally large weed came over to Mai and bent down over her head. Mai realized that it was examining her red flower with little seed-like eyes.
“You have killed a seedling!” said the possible Throckpod. “You must be killed in return.”
Mai’s heart leaped. Shu was obviously surprised too. They had no weapons, but both of them could pick up and throw rocks, pebbles, and crystal shards with only a thought. Mai could propel one like a bullet with her ring sleeve.
The rest of the weeds gathered around them too.
“It’s a flower from my own world,” said Mai, lamely. How could she make these plant people understand that, not only was the flower not intelligent like them, it was an artificial hair decoration and made from silk?
“A flower is a flower,” said the Throckpod, “and a monkey is a monkey.”
“Pick up a score of pebbles and rocks, Mai,” said Shu. “It’s time we gave them the old lawnmower treatment!”
“Lawnmower?” asked the Throckpod.
“A machine for cutting grass,” said Shu. “It cuts plants down close to the roots.”
If a weed could turn pale, then these Throckpods were suddenly gray. They knew about human technology apparently, and were completely unsure of what Mai and Shu were capable of. It was at that very moment that Mai had a bright idea.
“Why do you assume the flower is dead?” asked Mai, looking into the human-like eyes of the weed standing over her.
“Because it doesn’t move.”
Mai smiled. She used her telekinetic ability to make the petals of the silk flower move. In fact, she made the delicate little thing do a spinning dance just above her brow. “This flower is alive and it is my good friend and companion.”
“Have it say so,” the Throckpod replied menacingly.
“It is a tiny flower,” said Mai, thinking quickly, “and tiny flowers on my planet have not learned to speak. Can you not see that it is alive?”
“Accept her word, brother,” said one of the other weeds. “We don’t want to risk this lawnmowing thing.”
The plant-man relented. “Very well. I will go with you to see this master monkey of yours. You will remember that Throckpods are the natural rulers of this planet, and we are to be treated as king-things.”
“King-things?” asked Mai.
“Royalty,” suggested Shu.
“Oh,” said Mai. It was Gyro’s crazy translator program again.
So, finally, Mai’s Cornucopea spy mission was ending as she trudged back to the White Spider Mutant Ninja Space Baby camp. She had found and mastered a walking weed known as a Throckpod, and she left with the melancholy realization that it would be nice to have a talking flower to put in her hair, but that wish could never come true.