Category Archives: science fiction

AeroQuest 3… Canto 83

Canto 83 – Star Nomads Revealed (The Silver Thread)

Artran Blastarr, the eight-year-old son of space pirates, and Tiki Astro, the robot-boy, stood holding hands on the docking bay floor next to the somewhat unreliable yet amazingly effective Bill the Postman (Scarpigo Snarcs in his current secret identity).

From the portal opposite, on the far side of the docking bay, three gigantic humanoid figures dressed in metallic armor of some kind emerged.

“Who… who are those?” gasped Artran.

“Those are Star Nomads.  If I don’t miss my best guess, it is the Black Knight, the Dark Traveler, and the Magnificent Wanderer,” said Bill.

They slowly approached, each a massive figure in armor that completely covered their entire bodies, completely obscuring even their faces, no matter what race or configuration they actually represented.  The Black Knight was all in gleaming black armor with a razor-edged hook for a crest on his faceless helmet.  The Dark Traveler was all decked out in metallic green armor.  And the Magnificent Wanderer, as Bill pointed out, was armored entirely in gleaming silver.

Drawing close enough to speak, the Magnificent Wanderer’s voice boomed out like a thunderclap on a rainy planet.  “So, you have brought us the chosen one, Scarpigo Snarcs.”

“Yes, oh Magnificent One.  But please refrain from using my real name in front of those who might not be stupid enough to misremember it.”

“I will never fully understand why demi-humans like this one insist on their comic prevarications the way this one does,” said the Dark Traveler.

“Indeed,” said the Wanderer.  The Black Knight remained silent.

“Who is this chosen one?” asked Tiki Astro meekly.

“The human child born on the planet known as Outpost.”  The Traveler nodded at Artran.

“Me?” squeaked Artran.

“Of course, you,” said the Wanderer.  “We need an authentic discoverer of worlds for our purpose.”

“…And you know the boy thinks that’s the silliest thing he ever heard,” said Bill.

“Of course, he does.  We pulled him out of the time stream well before he was ready to set foot on his first planet.  Who better to use for the purpose, than the one fated to it?”

“Yes, you are right,” admitted Bill quickly.  “You are always right.”  Bill rolled his eyes when the Wanderer’s featureless face was turned away.

“So, Tiki and I are supposed to be here?  This wasn’t just an accident?”

“The robotic child-construct is fated to be elsewhere.  You alone are the chosen one, Artran Blastarr.”  The Wanderer pointed his armored finger at Artran’s breastbone.

“No!  I won’t go anywhere without my friend Tiki!”  Artran began to leak emotion-induced wetness from his childish eyes.  Of course, the Star Nomads would never give in to any such emotional nonsense.

“The Metaloid boy belongs to the White Spider,” said the Black Knight in what can only be described as a dark black voice.  “He must be there when the critical time comes.  The universe decrees it.”

“You can count on me,” said Bill, not actually adding, “because I must be some sort of human abacus.”

“You are not actually human,” said the Wanderer, apparently answering Scarpigo’s thoughts.

“What if I don’t agree to go to this White Spider?” asked Tiki.

“Then we invoke protocol alpha in your programming,” said the Wanderer.

“Oh.  Sorry, Artran.  I have to be going.  It’s a robot thing.”

By this time Artran was beside himself with misery.  “Bye, Tiki.  I love you.”

The real boy and the robot boy briefly hugged before Bill (Scarpigo) the Postman led Tiki Astro back to the X-boat.

Artran looked up at the Wanderer with tear-filled eyes.

“So, are you gonna eat me now?” he said in a fully resigned voice.

“We no longer consume food of any sort.  We will now take you to civilized planets that you will learn about and then give to the newly-formed alliance that is to become the New Star League.”

“Oh.  Okay.”

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AeroQuest 3… Adagio 14

Adagio 14 – The Battle of Farwind (the Blood-red Thread)

It was amazing to me how few casualties actually occurred in the capture of a planet like Farwind by a handful of commandos led by a traitor.  The Battle of Farwind cost the Imperial Defense Force one traitorous commando commander, six unwilling Imperial loyalists, and fifty-two insanely-programmed Mechanoids.  Our side lost no one at all.  Ninety-two percent of the Imperial forces on the planet switched sides, preferring the command of the charismatic and humble Duke Han Ferrari to the iron-fisted rule of the maniacal Mechanoid Admiral Brona Tang.

Duke Ferrari quickly established a temporarily-appointed government of both like-minded intellectuals and professionals, and highly intelligent and motivated members of the political opposition.  Massive elections were planned and were quickly carried out, but Ferrari rode a wave of popular acclaim into office where they would’ve made him Emperor if he chose, just as George Washington of Earth and Toakenn Ailiannaim of Samothrace had done before him.  He took the office of Farwind Executive Prime, and made the popular alien entertainer William Bugbright his Executive Second.  Bugbright was not a human-born entertainer of aliens, mind you, but a Kritiian, an insectoid alien, that had the head of a giant praying mantis, four chitinous arms, and could play two ukuleles at once while singing popular human songs in a particularly humorous off-key voice.  It is little wonder he was the most popular living entertainer on holographic videos since the Galtorrians first discovered I Love Lucy reruns being broadcast on old-time television signals from the nearby planet Earth.  Galtorrians, and even Galtorrian-human fusions, as you probably already know, love the comedy stylings of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz more than anything else ever used for entertainment on a thousand worlds.  Incidentally, did you know that the first Galtorrians to land on Earth were surprised to learn that everything on the planet was not colored only in black and white and shades of gray?  They knew about movies and television on their own, but they never actually discovered black and white.  Choosing an entertainer as Executive Second was probably the canniest move that Duke Ferrari made in selecting his new rebel government.  The Galtorrians and the Galtorrian-Human fusions were all enthralled and easily swayed by entertainers, especially those who could handle humor well.  Teachers would never have conquered the Galtorrian Imperium if it hadn’t been for that one factor, humor, and the power of those who are funny.

So, you can see, the conquest of the planet Farwind was easily one of the most confoundingly absurd and easy conquests in recorded history.  It was more amazing than Cortez conquering the Aztec civilization because Cortez lost men and had no visible sense of humor in any form that I can see, and I have been there via time machine, though only to watch from the bushes.

The author of this expert analysis.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 82

Canto 82 – Siege of the Seadome (the Blood-red Thread)

Ham Aero was chafing in the wrist cuffs.  He’d been stripped of his yellow and blue combat armor, as had Ferrari and myself.  We all lay on the hard metal floor of the seadome brig.  Ham was working at the cuffs, seemingly knowing how to break free in a Houdini-esque fashion.  He twisted them back and forth, rolling his knuckles over in a very interesting fashion.  I have never seen such a form of double-jointedness before.

“I am supposed to execute all three of you,” the black-suited commander was saying.  “I know I am supposed to, but I can’t see killing someone like you, Duke Ferrari.”

“Why don’t you let me go, then, soldier?” said Duke Ferrari in his oiliest political voice.  He almost seemed sympathetic to our captor and potential executioner.

“Admiral Tang has personally ordered your immediate execution.  What will I do?”

At that moment, the Commander of the commando team we came with came in with two armed guards.  He still wore his armor and seemed remarkably fit compared to the wear and tear that showed on the rest of us.

“Why haven’t you killed them yet?” he asked of the Black Commander.

“I had to confirm that the orders were not a mistake,” said Blackie. 

“Nonsense.  You know what the Admiral wants.  Just do it!”

“I called Planet Mingo Command to confirm the order before I do it.  I don’t want to kill the former ruler who did the most to help my people in his lifetime.”  The Black Commander took off his helmet to reveal a snake-eyed Human-Galtorrian face.  He was of the fusion race that dominated the Imperium.

“What happened to your loyalty?” Duke Ferrari asked the yellow and blue Commander.  “I thought you were on our side?”

“I am.  I don’t want his people to claim that you made a mess of things with your little rebellion.  The people idolize you, but they don’t realize what is actually good for them.  A government of a space empire cannot be a democracy.  You have to have order to maintain the rule over so many worlds.”

“Save me from military intellectuals!” moaned Ferrari.

“Give me the fusion gun, Commander,” said our former friend.  “I will take responsibility for their deaths.”

“Ruts rowing on here?” said the metallic voice of a mechanoid mutt, possibly a Great Dane.

I looked at Ham.  He had his hands free, ready to grab a gun and fight for our lives against impossible odds.

“Commander Doo!”  The two commanders stiffly saluted in utter surprise.  “What are your orders, sir?” said Commander Blackie.

“I rahnt rorder!  Rese men are under the protection of Rord Rayrond King!  Roo will not harm them!”

“What?  Lord Doo!  We have to kill them.  They are a danger to the Imperium.”

The snake-eyed commander seemed visibly relieved.  It was as if this message from the dog’s mouth was exactly what he wanted to hear.

“Will you release us, then?” asked Duke Ferrari.

“Res!” said the mechanoid dog.  “Roo are free.  Rord King rahnts it that way.”

“I protest!” cried our commando friend, our false friend.

“You’re a weasel,” said Blackie.  His slug-thrower gave off a quick blast, piercing the traitor in the chest plate of his armor.  As he slumped dead to the floor, Ham began freeing us from our cuffs.  The Black Commander helped.

“We are grateful,” said Duke Ferrari.  How can we repay you?”

The dog-mechanoid looked at us with artificial eyes, creepy eyes.  “Roo rill rule Farwind as risely as roo took care of riss sector before.  Re are all allies now.” It didn’t seem right to be set free by a mechanical talking dog, at least, not without a set of meddling kids to go with him, but I was in no mood to question our good fortune.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 81

Canto 81 – Mong the Miser-like (The Midnight Blue Thread)

Tara Salongi stood next to the conference table in the reception room of the main hall.  She wore a diaphanous blue gown that, with its see-through fabric, was quite revealing of her newly-healed feminine form.  In fact, it was the kind of dress that, if this story were a Japanese anime, it would be called fan service.  But, of course, it was no more so than the fur bikini she had worn for most of her old life back on Don’t Go Here.

At that moment, Emperor Mong, who had summoned Tara, entered through the double-door entrance.

“Ah, the beautiful sorceress Tara Salongi, I believe,” said the sinister looking bald man with the goatee that came to a sharp point under his chin.

“Yes, I am here.  What do you want of me?”

“I am told that Wormheart Toadsucker, Admiral Tang’s left-hand sycophant, delivered you here by giving you over to Lord Dark Doo.”

“That is correct, if I know who you are talking about.”

“But the question is, my Lady, why weren’t the admiral’s specific orders carried out?”

“What do you mean?”

“Yes… whatever do you mean, Mong?” said Raylond, appearing from behind a curtain on Tara’s right.

“Excuse me, Lord King.  I do not believe it is business you were supposed to know anything about.”

“Am I not one of the ruling triumvirate of this star system with it’s multiple inhabited worlds?”

“Yes, that is so.  But the Admiral…”

“Wait a moment… do you mean Admiral Tang started a business in secret that he didn’t want me or Lord Hardretter to learn anything about?”

“That is correct… er, I mean… It was a local matter from another star system that the Admiral wishes to control… for Imperial security reasons.”

“So, tell me, what is the Admiral’s specific plan involving Tara, whom I consider to be under my protection for now?”

“Um, well…  Lord King, the fact is… this woman is a dangerous Psion.  The Admiral captured her at great personal risk to himself.”

“I am aware that she is a Psion.  But we have the proper shielding capability available to us, do we not?”

“Um, yes… but the Admiral wanted to ship her to the planet Djinnistan where Dr. Havir Bloodlust could possibly use his genetics skill to transfer her unique abilities into a suitable Mechanoid or even a controlled genetic Freak.”

“No sir.  I will not have it, sir.  She is under my protection.  Lord Hardretter and I have discussed ways to use her here on our worlds to better life for all of us.”

“Ah, but since Lord Hardretter isn’t here now, and I have the Admiral’s proxy vote in the matter…”

“Ah, but I am here, Mong.”  Smoky Hardretter, the teenage ruler of the system’s manufacturing worlds, stepped out from behind the curtain on Tara’s left.

“Lord Hardretter?  Uh, are you suggesting you are siding against me and Admiral Tang with Lord King?”

“That is exactly what I am suggesting.  We have use for the cooperative and lovely Psion, and two thirds of the ruling triumvirate can overrule even the Imperial Grand Admiral.”

 “So, maybe you should go back to playing with your rot warriors and tin men, Emperor Mong, and leave us to the business most beneficial to the Imperium,” said Raylond King.

Mong, white in the face and obviously frustrated, stormed out of the room.

“Thank you, Lord King.  And thank you too, Lord Hardretter,” said Tara.

“Think nothing of it,” they both said simultaneaously.

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AeroQuest Illustrations in Pen & Ink

I have been drawing these mock-Star-Wars science-fiction-heroes for thirty years. Some of these are that old. Some of them are new this year. All of them illustrate the adventures that started as a science-fiction-role-playing game and became the series of novels called AeroQuest.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 80

Canto 80 – Jungle Darkness and Damnthings (The Green Thread)

Running and sweating in the jungle darkness had begun to get very old.

“Climb a tree!” ordered King, pounding down the jungle path behind Hooey and Culver.  The damnthing, a huge, smelly pig-dog sort of predator, was close on their heels and all three men were beginning to tire.

A large, gnarled tree loomed straight ahead.  King leaped and caught its lower branches, swinging himself up into the lower branches like Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan on steroids.  Dr. Hooey imitated him to the very best of his ability, meaning he was as graceful as a hundred pounds of chopped liver being flung through the air by a baboon that had drunk three too many cups of coffee.  The good doctor managed to lodge himself on a branch just above the apex of the damnthing’s leap, though he was hanging upside down by one knee hooked over the branch.

“Help me!  I’m the expendable one!” cried Willie Culver as he missed the branches and tumbled butt first into the undergrowth.

“Dang it!” swore King Killer, “I told you that we were ALL going to make it!”  He leaped down from the branch that held him directly in front of Willie Culver.  “You do not have permission to die right now!” he swore.

            Unfortunately, directly behind King, the snorting damnthing lumbered up and came to a gum-gnashing, teeth-grinding halt so close that its spittle ran down into the back of King’s collar.

            “Oh, Gawd…” prayed Willie.  The pale expendable sidekick scrambled out from under King and used his fingernails to claw his way up the side of a foul-smelling babuti tree.  Babutis were an exotic form of alien tree that existed on several jungle planets which sprouted gorgeous orange and yellow flowers, but smelled so bad they made your eyes water like raging rivers.  The damnthing moved first to grab Willie, but the smell wrinkled its big pignose and resulted in the damnthing turning its attention to the Corsair King of Killing.

King, partly frozen in place by the vague hope that the thing’s vision was based on movement like he’d seen in an ancient Earther video about a dinosaur park, and partly winding up his interior springs for the leap of his life, slowly turned his head to stare right down the slavering gullet of the huge, nasty pig-dog thingy. 

“King, old buddy, you can’t die here either, you know,” admonished Hooey from his upside-down perch.

“I’m working on it,” said King.  His legs were taut with stored energy, ready to leap.  He vaulted forward at the same instant that the damnthing struck with its big-piggy chompers.  The beast growled.  King screamed.  Big pig teeth pierced the flesh of his shoulder.

“Aaargh!”

“Oh, no!”

“King!  My gawd!”

Just as it seemed that the damnthing would devour the King, a sudden flesh-colored flash came blazing out of the canopy on a sort of bungee vine.  It was a relatively small boy wearing nothing but some furry animal skins tied around his delicate parts.  He grabbed on to King with a grip of steel, and then the bungee pulled them both back up into the canopy, ripping King’s flesh out of the very mouth of death and dismemberment.

            The damnthing, stunned in its piggy surprise, blinked twice, and abruptly walked away into the jungle.

“What was that?” asked Willie, clinging to the bark of his smelly tree.

“That would have to be Randy the Jungle Boy,” said Hooey, without missing a beat.  “He’s not the only weird character we are about to meet in this jungle.”

“You knew what was going to happen?”

“Well, some of it.  I read about it in Googol Marou’s book, which I read in the future.  Of course, the timeline has been altered again, so I can’t predict anything with certainty.”

“Why?  What’s changed?”

“You were supposed to be the pig-dog’s lunch.  So, I guess you have to write your own destiny from here on, Willie Culver.”

Willie’s eyes grew round with sudden fearful gratitude to King Killer.  And it would only take another chapter or two for his heart to actually start beating again.

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AeroQuest 3… Canto 79

Canto 79 – Riding the Magic Carpet (The Blue Thread)

Arkin Cloudstalker and his six Lazerstone companions returned to their little scout ship at the downport.   One of the Lazerstones carried the angry head and torso of the bounty hunter, Ace Campfield.

“I don’t know how we are going to fit seven of us in this little two-man scout ship,” complained Arkin.  “It’s barely supplied well enough for two.”

“You forget that the Lazerstone collective are not humanoids.  We don’t eat food.  We don’t breathe atmosphere.  We don’t even sleep.  Besides, I can’t leave any of my kind on a non-resonant rock like this one.  We must all go with you to a better source of crystal.”

“You aren’t going to leave me here with no arms or legs, either, are you?” complained Campfield.  “And I make eight if you are counting me.”

“Seven and a half,” corrected Arkin.

“We could completely destroy him,” recommended the Lazerstone carrying the mechanoid

“He could prove useful yet, especially if we re-program him,” said Arkin.

“Well, the machine-man is right, then.  If he counts, he makes too many.”

As they reached the berth of their star ship, Cloudstalker was surprised to see the woman he knew as the Black Fly standing there in her full black body suit with one of the Snarcs Brothers, the one called Cinco Snarcs.

“What?  What are you doing here?  And didn’t the Snarcs idiots strand us when they disappeared from Hyde Park without warning?”

“We is not abandoning you, boss,” said big-nosed Cinco Snarcs.  “Sir Emerald Man with his greeny wishes came and snorkeled us all away to sell fish-skin socks in anudder time and place.”

“He means the Snarcs brothers had to be in another time and place for the White Duke’s purposes, so a Time Knight whisked them away.”  The black fly pulled off her black mask as she spoke, a beautiful fall of auburn hair revealing a beauty that Arkin had not thought possible.  She was a lovely lady of about his own age.

“So, you two are here to help cram us all into a little scout ship we were left with by fleeing Snarcses?”  Arkin’s voice sounded far more cross than he had intended.

“We don’t do the sardini thingy with space men, no,” assured Cinco Snarcs.

“We have a patrol corvette called the Magic Carpet,” said Black Fly.

“So, we will all fit on your Magic Carpet?”

“It can handle up to sixty troops and a crew of four.”

“Good.  We need to return to Tron’s base at Outpost as quickly as we can.”

“Ah, yes.  But only after one further stop.  We must also visit a planet called Djinnistan.”

“What will we find there, genies?”

“Djinn, Peris, and Afrits, yes.”  Something about the Black Fly’s charming smile bothered Arkin just a bit. 

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